Hyper-Sexualization of Women in the Media Needs to Stop

Being “attractive” is something that is hugely glorified in today’s media. Images of scantily clad women in compromising positions fly across our television screens between each program. Advertising producers who believe that half-naked women will attract customers to their product create these images and they’re right. In today’s society, sex sells. Here’s an example:

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Two advertisements for fragrances. As you can see, the sexiness in these advertisements is unnecessary. – Photo by Terry Richardson

In the photos above, two fragrances are being advertised. As we know, the purpose of fragrances is to make us smell good, nothing more, which is why I don’t see the point of having the bottle positioned in between a woman’s legs, or positioned next to a woman blatantly showing her backside.

Commercial producers and companies should know better, but they’re still milking the fact that sex sells.

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Even a greasy burger is being sexualized. Again– it’s a burger.

What these commercial producers don’t know (or perhaps they do), is that children, including young girls are watching their adult counterparts in these advertisements.

Little girls see these over-sexualized images every day until they internalize them.

When these skinny, white, tall women strut across the television screen and magazine ads, instead of questioning the images themselves, millions of little girls question themselves as they stare in the mirror. As Audre Lorde expresses in Sister Outsider,  it is the “nightmare on your white pillow, your itch to destroy, the indestructible part of yourself.” One can only imagine how much these girls want to destroy the “indestructible” parts of themselves when they see these images.

In my high school feminism class, we watched the powerful documentary Miss Representation, which chronicles over-sexualized images of women in the media. The documentary is an eye-opener, and I recommend it to anyone who is doing research on hyper-sexualized images in the media. Ever since I’ve watched the documentary, I’ve noticed these images in most commercials on television.

Due to the media being an outlet for millions of Americans, anything seen in the media will be internalized to an extent. Young girls internalize these images because there is a lack of role models in the media. In one scene in Miss Representation, there was one instance on MSNBC during an episode of Morning Joe when Joe dismisses a thoughtful conversation (about a female politician, might I add) in order to speak about how Paris Hilton looked in her jeans walking out of a hotel.

I personally found this very disgusting. Let me say first: Paris Hilton is not a role model. That man on television sure as hell is not a role model. When girls watch or read any form of media, they should be able to see a woman who they can relate to, who they want to emulate, and one who inspires them to follow their dreams.

It has been said that in order to reverse the effects of over-sexualized images in the media, we must, as Michele Borba states: “offer our daughters female role models who feel comfortable in their own skin and don’t need to rely on Botox, breast implants, dieting, and designer labels to feel attractive.  Expose your daughter to authentic, confident women, and then tell her why you admire them. Our girls need strong, resourceful female examples to emulate.” 

If more role models were pushed into the media spotlight, then confidence would be gained for millions of girls. Their definition of happiness would change to something other than “big boobs, big ass, straight hair, etc.” The few role models that girls do have are Photoshopped in order to look like the “ideal woman.” Here’s an example below:

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A before/after photo of Madonna for her album “Hard Candy”. Photoshop changed her from the woman she is, to the woman that men want her to be. – Photo by Steven Klein

The sad thing is that these images are enforced by men. When I was younger, I had a lot of male friends and when they were asked what their ideal woman would be, most of them said “large breasts, large butt, nice teeth.” When I said “nice personality,” everyone stared at me and I immediately became the outcast of the group.

Now that I have watched documentaries such as Miss Representation, the bottom line is this: THIS NEEDS TO STOP. It’s terrible enough that women must go through it, but the fact that it’s enforced by our culture is quite saddening. Girls can be more than just a body, and these sexualized images cause them to sell themselves short. Only by working together, can we change what’s in the media.

14 thoughts on “Hyper-Sexualization of Women in the Media Needs to Stop

  1. This was blog was very well done, and I was impressed with how passionately you feel regarding the sexualisation of women in the media. Your points were hard hitting and true, and were backed up by powerful quotes and (disturbing) advertisements. I am still in shock of the perfume bottle where it is in-between the woman’s legs. Like you said, ” The purpose of fragrances is to make us smell good, nothing more,” So why the hell is the perfume bottle the woman’s vagina?!
    The ad for the burger, was just plain disturbing. A child would see that and probably think nothing of it, however the suggestive message is still there and they will learn from a young age that it is okay to make inappropriate sexualised gestures or remarks to women, because it was on an ad.
    How can people even begin to raise their children with respectable morals, when they are practically spoon fed these degrading and sexists remarks every day of their lives?
    I couldn’t agree with you more when you said “this needs to stop” and that “Only by working together, can we change what’s in the media.”
    It’s good to know that men want to help change the sexualisation of women in the media just as much as women. Thank you!

  2. This was blog was very well done, and I was impressed with how passionately you feel regarding the sexualisation of women in the media. Your points were hard hitting and true, and were backed up by powerful quotes and (disturbing) advertisements. I am still in shock of the perfume bottle where it is in-between the woman’s legs. Like you said, “The purpose of fragrances is to make us smell good, nothing more,” So why the hell is the perfume bottle the woman’s vagina?!

    The ad for the burger, was just plain disturbing. A child would see that and probably think nothing of it, however the suggestive message is still there and they will learn from a young age that it is okay to make inappropriate sexualised gestures or remarks to women, because it was on an ad.
    How can people even begin to raise their children with respectable morals, when they are practically spoon fed these degrading and sexists remarks every day of their lives?

    I couldn’t agree with you more when you said “this needs to stop” and that “Only by working together, can we change what’s in the media.”
    It’s good to know that men want to help change the sexualisation of women in the media just as much as women. Thank you!

  3. I completely agree with your assessment that “millions of little girls question themselves as they stare in the mirror” and that many of “these girls want to destroy the ‘indestructible’ parts of themselves when they see these images.”

    Hyper-sexualization in the media teaches children to analyze their own bodies and the way that they carry themselves in the world. The obvious lack of role models that you spoke about is a big contributor to this systematic oppression.

    I like your call to action at the end where you say:”THIS NEEDS TO STOP.” It’s terrible enough that women must go through it, but the fact that it’s enforced by our culture is quite saddening. Girls can be more than just a body, and these sexualized images cause them to sell themselves short. Only by working together, can we change what’s in the media”.

    People often talk about the way women and girls are impacted by the media, but they rarely talk about the way that women and girls respond to these messages. It’s true that these images create a culture that tells women that the ideal woman is one who sells herself short. Great post!

  4. Powerful introduction, “In today’s society, sex sells.” I absolutely agree and it is horrifying. Not only because the images we are faced with give young women literally fake expectations for their bodies as you say, “Little girls see these over-sexualized images every day until they internalize them.” I strongly agree that “When girls watch or read any form of media, they should be able to see a woman who they can relate to, who they want to emulate, and one who inspires them to follow their dreams.” Television should show people something, people or situations they can relate to and be touched by.

    This hyper-sexualization has a huge impact on boys as well as women and young girls. “It’s terrible enough that women must go through it, but the fact that it’s enforced by our culture is quite saddening.” I agree with this, not only because it’s incredibly scary to think that the media is dictating our society’s belief system but also because “Girls can be more than just a body, and these sexualized images cause them to sell themselves short” which leads men and women themselves to ignore the whole that is 51% of our population. More than half, females. Your blogpost really touched me and I found your thinking and critical lens on the subject are great.

  5. This ad opened my eyes to how ridiculous product placement can be. Ad companies are using these hypersexualized images on purpose to cause this controversy so the ads are shared and then more and more people see the ad and see the product. Especially the two ads at the top, neither one of these ads make me want to buy these products these ads just make me question who would agree to putting themselves out there.

  6. “Images of scantily clad women in compromising positions fly across our television screens between each program. Advertising producers who believe that half-naked women will attract customers to their product create these images and they’re right. In today’s society, sex sells.”
    The way you wrote your introduction above was very well done and made me think about how many of these sexualized advertisements I actually see in a day. We may think of them as “just advertisements” but people don’t realize how big of an effect they have on their lives and the lives of many others around them. Like you said, “Due to the media being an outlet for millions of Americans, anything seen in the media will be internalized to an extent.”

  7. “When these skinny, white, tall women strut across the television screen and magazine ads, instead of questioning the images themselves, millions of little girls question themselves as they stare in the mirror.” You said a mouth full here. If 8 year old girls are looking in the mirror questioning whether they live up to this unreachable bar that has been set by no other than a money thriving media you know we have a problem. I mean come on! 8 year old girls should be playing in the park, rolling in the mud, enjoying their childhood, NOT worrying about how they look.

    I thought you did a great job in talking about role models. When you said, “I personally found this very disgusting. Let me say first: Paris Hilton is not a role model. That man on television sure as hell is not a role model. When girls watch or read any form of media, they should be able to see a woman who they can relate to, who they want to emulate, and one who inspires them to follow their dreams.” I literally almost jumped out of my seat and screamed “AMEN”. We need more better role models for young girls, there simply aren’t enough. Even the ones out there are hidden from the eyes of 8 year olds desperate for one.

    I hope to fight this with you! Kudos on a great blog post!

  8. I thought that you hit the nail on the head when you said “Little girls see these over-sexualized images every day until they internalize them.” In this one sentence i thought you were able to really express just exactly how the media tends to effect the lives of young girls everywhere. In addition, your examples of these “over-sexualized images” were very intense. the perfume ads simply made me think to myself “really” and not to mention the Burger King ad which I though to be incredibly immature and juvenile.

  9. Wow! This was nicely written! You were very persuasive and I like your multiple use of examples! Reading your first paragraph made me want to keep reading more and more. Sadly, it is true that you wrote “Advertising producers who believe that half-naked women will attract customers to their product create these images (sexual images) and they’re right.” I completely agree with you when you question the use of sexual images in advertisement. What does the picture of a woman almost naked have to do with a bottle of perfume or a burger? You really impressed me with your example of how people photoshopped Madonna for her album cover. It amazed me how much edits there needed to be made to Madonna’s image just so that she can look attractive enough for men. So much effort is put into beautify a celebrity on their album cover when the purpose of an album is for music. The one thing that I agree with the most though is when you wrote “If more role models were pushed into the media spotlight, then confidence would be gained for millions of girls.” You also wrote, “When girls watch or read any form of media, they should be able to see a woman who they can relate to, who they want to emulate, and one who inspires them to follow their dreams.” This is what media should be surrounded with, role models! I also see this with men too. Young boys internalize messages to be tough, aggressive. In terms of bodies, boys are taught that being tall and muscular is attractive and right. This initiates the uses of bodies for advertising just as attractive women are. I see men perfumes all the time with images of half naked men, which makes no sense to me. Both young girls and boys should be receiving images of wanting to become a leader, a role model, or something that they would be proud of doing , not on appearance. This hyper-sexualization of women in the media does need to stop.

  10. This is very passionate and thoughtful post. Culture is what defines a society. The fact that our culture scrutinizes women for not being perfect in every aspect that society wants them to be is truly saddening. Especially because standards for males are so much less demanding. Society won’t care if a male politician is obese and balding, but if a woman politician is, forget it. Media sees what is on the outside and has hypnotized America into only seeing this physical lair of women,

  11. I completely agree, when you say “I personally found this very disgusting. Let me say first: Paris Hilton is not a role model. That man on television sure as hell is not a role model. When girls watch or read any form of media, they should be able to see a woman who they can relate to, who they want to emulate, and one who inspires them to follow their dreams.” I feel as though we have been robbed of our own thoughts and aspirations when we try to aspire to these ridiculous standards of a role model. Barely anything in the media is honest and the images you chose are interesting because I recognize every single one of them, which makes me think: if I didn’t have knowledge about hyper-sexualization and what it means to me as a female, would I be aspiring to be Paris Hilton?! I sure hope not!

  12. This blog post was very well-written!

    I appreciated the fact that you mentioned children, whose brains are developing at a rapid pace and who seem to imitate almost everything they hear and see. It’s crazy to think that these messages would affect people that are not yet educated enough to realize what is going on in these ads that hyper-sexualize and objectify women, yet many still try to emulate these images.

    It’s like the very young kids that know absolutely nothing about sex than what they see on television, which is almost never accurate, but they go and do it anyway because that is what they are shown. So they might not realize the emotional distress one can possibly feel after doing the deed. They might not know about the possibility of contracting an STD or HIV/AIDS. They might not even know about methods of contraception. As a result, they can get themselves into A LOT of trouble.

    It’s like the young female children-tweens-teens who try to emulate the way the women dress in music videos or young males learning the way they “should” treat women through these videos without quite knowing its significance yet. Nathaniel, you did a really great job and I really enjoyed reading your post. Keep up the good work.

  13. I was caught off guard by the fragrance ads because I had never seen that before. I have seen sexual ads for Victoria Secrets and clothes but I do not even understand how a bottle in between a women’s legs relates to a perfume ad. I was also very shocked by the MSNBC show when Joe wanted to talk about Paris Hilton. You are completely right, we do need more female role models who are intelligent and political leaders. I guess the media is really into using photoshop because I had no idea that Madonna even looked like that.

  14. Great job Nathaniel! I love that you are the kind of boy who says he wants a “nice personality”! In a world where it matters so much more for a girl to be skinny, made-up, and hyper-sexualized, rather than interesting, engaged and kind, you are the exception to the rule! The worst part for me of the hyper-sexualization of women is the fact that, as you said, very young girls are reading and looking at these ads, and internalizing the messages, often without realizing it. I went through a phase of constantly trying to look like women in the media, and I only hope that my sister is more intelligent and confident than I was! I don’t like it now when I see her reading magazines, because I want so badly for her to realize how important it is to not give in to the pressures of the media and society!

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