Women’s Worth(lessness) in the Media

A woman’s worth is based on her looks. This is a statement that the media subconsciously and consciously feeds to our brains. In the eyes of society, a pretty woman is a more valuable woman. From watching documentaries like Miss Representation and Gloria: In Her Own Words and reading articles from Ms. Magazine, I have come to realize that the ideas of worth and beauty that we internalize from the media aren’t facts that we should use to shame ourselves but rather proof that we as a society need to change.

In movies and television women are sexualized. It may seem as though this is only present in movies made for a more mature audience, but in G rated movies, women are just as likely to be wearing revealing clothing. For example, in Peter Pan, Tinkerbell wears an extremely short dress. Since she is a cartoon character, we might not think of her clothing as “revealing,” but children are already getting these ideas of beauty ingrained into their minds by seeing these images in cartoons such as the one below.

Tinker Bell as she is portrayed in the Disney Movie
Image Credit: Disney Hadas http://www.disneylatino.com/

Unlike  the empowering magazine, Ms. Magazine,  many magazines directed towards women such as Cosmopolitan have titles or blurbs of articles on the cover that do not help to get rid of the idea that women’s looks determine their value.

Some of Cosmopolitan’s cover titles include, “Lose weight while you eat,” “The surprising trait 80% of men find sexy,” “Shrink your inner thighs,” “What he wants to see during sex,” and  “Sexy party dresses.”All of these cover titles that we read or glance at everyday are related to beauty or to pleasing a man.

In the film Gloria: In Her Own Words, Gloria Steinem says, “women show power by getting men to fall in love with us.” The only “real role” for women is to vie for the attention of a man, make him happy, and reproduce. A woman’s physical looks are the only real resource to fulfill this, and therefore are what determines a woman’s value.

In the film, Miss Representation, comedian Margaret Cho shares a story about how she was told she had to lose weight to secure a role. It seems very common that women are told they need to lose weight to get a role; we certainly see the results of this expectation, as we are mostly shown extremely thin actresses on screen.

According to the documentary, Miss Representation, “By the age of seventeen, 78 percent of girls are not happy with their bodies.” Tabloids are constantly bringing attention to the slim  bodies of celebrities and emphasizing how perfect they are, while tabloids are also bringing attention to the not so “perfect” bodies and ridiculing them. In a recent issue of the National Enquirer, the cover is centered around the “best and worst beach bodies.”  This issue includes a picture of the singer/actress Selena Gomez under the category “worst beach bodies.” Under the picture is a blurb that states, “Selena Gomez might think about shedding a few pounds.”

December 3, 2012 cover of National Enquirer

As a seventeen year old girl, this is what effects me the most. These ideas start to transfer over to myself and other girls that are seeing this in the media. If an actress that I see as beautiful is being told that she needs to lose weight, then what does that make me?

This is when girls’ self-esteem diminishes and when start to think poorly about themselves based on the ideas internalized from the media.

You can see from the National Enquirer issue that the “worst” on the cover is bigger and bolded. Why do tabloids always feel the need to point out or even search for women’s flaws? And consequently, why do we as people feel the need to read these magazines even though we recognize that what these tabloids are doing is wrong? Why do we sit there and think to ourselves “Oh, she has gained a lot of weight”?

To go along with this, there are always issues of magazines that surround their main feature story around “celebrities with no makeup.” I never really understood the purpose of these types of stories but nor did I ever really question them before. I always read them. I always sat there comparing the differences between the pictures of the celebrities with and without makeup. But now I think, is the purpose to point out the flaws of these women? Are these magazines trying to prove that women are just as pretty without makeup? Or are they trying to imply that all women should wear makeup and that it should be so shocking when they don’t that magazines need to have a whole cover and article dedicated to it?

The purpose of these types of stories is still not clear to me, but they do make me question society. Female celebrities, and all women for that matter, shouldn’t have to be considered “brave” when they pose for a picture without makeup. Shouldn’t that be something that’s normal? Unfortunately, it’s not.

We live in a society filled with airbrushed magazine photos and billboards. We live in a society where even political leaders like Hillary Clinton are condemned in the media for not wearing makeup.

Women not wearing makeup shouldn’t be considered “news.” We shouldn’t feel like we have to cake our faces up with makeup and cover any little imperfection to promote our value to society.

This type of media is helping to propel society further in the wrong direction. We all need to take a step back, take our faces out of the tabloid magazines, and turn off the gossipy shows for a moment and realize that women are much more than their looks.


12 thoughts on “Women’s Worth(lessness) in the Media

  1. This article is really relatable and inspiring. I agree when you said : “Why do tabloids always feel the need to point out or even search for women’s flaws? And consequently, why do we as people feel the need to read these magazines even though we recognize that what these tabloids are doing is wrong? Why do we sit there and think to ourselves “Oh, she has gained a lot of weight”?”
    These magazines, make me think that women are never going to be fully valued – however, these magazines are aimed toward women, for women and are about women… So what does that say about us as a whole? Why do women find entertainment and enjoyment of ridiculing other women?

    Ms. Magazine and Miss Representation have helped open my mind also. We need more positive promotion in the media, rather that all the negative. Where are all the triumphs and success stories? Why aren’t they on the cover?

    Fantastic blog post, I found it very engaging.

  2. Your article was very striking, down to the title. It opened my eyes to the way everyone else sees weight and appearance and thinks that make up should be a staple in every women’s outfit. We give people this definition of beauty and expect everyone to model after it and those that don’t are isolated and ridiculed. Mainly in the media, we look to celebrities to be the ones that mostly embody the definition of beauty so any sign that they don’t is an outrage. So we hold them under a microscope and then critique them profusely.

  3. I think you did a really good job with this blog post. I particularly liked the point you made that “Tabloids are constantly bringing attention to the slim bodies of celebrities and emphasizing how perfect they are” This sentence caught my attention because I know of the huge the effect, seeing impossibly thin and perfect looking young girls, can have on women, is extremely strong for instance, as you pointed out “By the age of seventeen, 78 percent of girls are not happy with their bodies.” but one thing I had never realized, is the second part of your statement, your realization that the media and “tabloids also bring attention to the not so ‘perfect’ bodies and ridiculing them. In a recent issue of the National Enquirer, the cover is centered around the “best and worst beach bodies.” I find it amazing and scary how I was exposed to this kind of media and tabloids throughout my entire life but until you pointed it out had never come to the realization that those kinds of images also destroy a woman’s image of her worth and beauty. Great job

  4. Fabulous job! I feel like you really nailed it with the sources and evidence you chose to use. I loved how you started out talking about Tinkerbell. Who knew she was so scandalous? I liked how you talked about this common thread of what beauty is but you used so many i different things to discuss it.

    I truly cannot believe that we live in a society where front page news is beach bodies and stars without make up. It’s sad and very discouraging to women and the standards they are held to. Seriously, who cares what someones beach body looks like? We have so many problems in this world and yet we’re focusing on stupid things such as the titles you shared.

    You really nailed it! Congrats.

  5. It is alarming to realize and notice that children’s characters, such as Tinkerbell are shown wearing such minuscule amounts of clothing. It is concerning that these messages of sexualization are sent to viewers at such a young age. In addition, these messages clearly don’t seem to vanish over time as shown in the two magazines you posted, where celeberties are ridiculed for the way they look. In speaking to that you said “If an actress that I see as beautiful is being told that she needs to lose weight, then what does that make me?” You saying this is a true testament to just how the media affects young women everywhere.

  6. A really thoughtful and engaging post. I think some of the images you mentioned like Tinkerbell are really scary to think about because they are images that kids are exposed to at such a young age. When kids are exposed to hypersexualized images at such a young age, they are unconsciously taking these images in as the images of what a girl “should” look like. It is scary to think that our society is so oblivious to the mass promotion of these hypersexualized images.

  7. Your post reminds me of a combination between my and Kaitlyn’s posts talking about image and the way it’s inhibited by the media. “Some of Cosmopolitan’s cover titles include, “Lose weight while you eat,” “The surprising trait 80% of men find sexy,” “Shrink your inner thighs,” “What he wants to see during sex,” and ”Sexy party dresses.”All of these cover titles that we read or glance at everyday are related to beauty or to pleasing a man.” I used to love these magazines and I have come to see these magazines through a new lens. I agree that it’s preposterous that even the most dignified role models in politics, like Hillary Clinton can be reduced to her looks.

  8. Phoebe, you don’t understand how much I love this statement:”From watching documentaries like Miss Representation and Gloria: In Her Own Words and reading articles from Ms. Magazine, I have come to realize that the ideas of worth and beauty that we internalize from the media aren’t facts that we should use to shame ourselves but rather proof that we as a society need to change.” I like that you first said it isn’t our fault, and how we shouldn’t listen to the messages society tries to tell us about our worth. in this statement you also implied that we NEED to take steps in reforming our society, which is exactly the point I tried to make in my own post.
    I appreciate that you pointed out a children’s character, Tinker Bell, as being hyper-sexualized. It’s ridiculous that young children are exposed to the same subliminal messages that the media is sending the large remaining part of the society, meaning that they actually target anybody and everybody in this country.
    For some reason, the beginning of your post reminded me of the first two books of a series I had read in middle school: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. This series goes into the future, after much of the world is destroyed and completely exaggerates the messages media is currently sending us. In the series, from a certain age (past what is considered the”cute stage”) a young child to the age of 15 is considered an Ugly. An Ugly is basically a normal person who has had no cosmetic modifications whatsoever and tend to have to go to school, use facilities that may not be the best, and are generally miserable. This is until the age of 16, when they become a Pretty- a person who has undergone a pretty serious cosmetic procedure to make their eyes bigger, legs longer, hair shinier, etc. (Basically turning them into a uniform vision of what’s considered “attractive”). The Pretties have a lot more privileges and a lot more fun than the Uglies do. What does that say about those that don’t fit these images?
    I feel like this is a pretty accurate prediction of what could happen to our society if we don’t attempt to reform it.
    Your post was amazing! I enjoyed reading every bit of it and agreed with every single point you made. Thanks for sharing.

  9. The first sentence of this post reeled me in, after reading that I wanted to read your opinions on the matter. I really appreciated when you analyzed children’s cartoons as well. I’d watch them all the time, and I wouldn’t be able to see the already defined ideas of beauty within that animation. For some, they might feel obligated to stop watching these cartoons, but it is very hard for them, because they are quite interested in them. I would tell them that they can watch the cartoons, but just be aware of the messages, and don’t have those half naked cartoon characters affect your perception of beauty.

  10. You have said a lot here! I like how you started out your piece by first mentioning cartoons and then the real world. Examples like Tinker Bell are figures that are already teaching young girls about how to dress. Girls begin to dream to be like Tinker Bell, beautiful, blond, flawless, and with a short dress. A big issue in the media for girls is being appropriate in term of weight. Some girls are rejected off commercials or shows because some think that they are too fat. Others like Margaret Cho had to struggle and lose weight in order to get the TV role she wanted. I think it’s outrageous what National Enquire and Star magazines do, exposing celebrities because they have an unattractive body or the fact that some look awful without make-up. As much as these celebrities shouldn’t be promoting for sexiness by wearing their bikinis or wearing tons of make-up, these magazines are disrespecting them and proving that in order to be part of the media world, you do indeed, need to look beautiful. These magazines read by millions will get these messages and it is something that is ought to be stopped. Great work!

  11. It is pretty depressing when you grow up your entire life thinking that when a movie or game says is rated R for restricted or M for mature, it is because their is naked woman and violence and when it is rated PG or E that it is meant for little kids and involves funny cartoon characters going on funny adventures, and then you read this and realize that the line that distinguishes these two genres does not really exist. This image of beauty is being rooted in our heads at such an early age and you show that there are negative effects on girls. I really like that you talk about Hillary Clinton and that she was never taken seriously because people were so focused on her looks. I remember being frustrated when all that the magazines and news channels would talk about was what she was wearing or how old she looked and not what she had actually said.

  12. “I never really understood the purpose of these types of stories but nor did I ever really question them before. I always read them. I always sat there comparing the differences between the pictures of the celebrities with and without makeup.” I completely agree with this. As much as I didn’t really like these articles, and as much I knew it was sort of wrong and strange to be condemning people for an unflattering photo, or going out without caking their face in make-up, before our feminism class, I never really stopped to think, “Huh, this is really gross and demoralizing to all women, by turning them into objects to be ridiculed and scorned at. I can’t believe someone would say in an article that Selena Gomez “needed to lose a few pounds”! Not only should comments like these not be made at all, but it teaches girls who are at a healthy weight to feel uncomfortable with their bodies, and become unhealthily thin. Great job!

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