The Veiled Cycle Of Violence

For those reading this post, please be prepared for truths that are bone-chilling, intense, and catalysts for one of the most important epiphanies you need to have, especially now more than ever.

There is a vicious cycle that is growing ever more lethal to women in broad daylight, though to some of us, it may seem that it is happening only behind the scenes.  Many people go through their lives seeing this cycle but never really notice what it is. We only see the end result when it is too late.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury in women between the ages of 15 and 44, more so than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. When it comes to domestic violence “It Rarely Stops.”

Both videos linked above depict domestic violence taking its course in both public and in private. While the first video is more graphic, the second one offers an example of how domestic violence can spark up over something very minor. Keep both videos in mind because they will be tools later on for us to further take apart domestic violence and explain why it is so persistent in our lives whether we know it our not.

Now, you may be thinking, how could I not notice domestic violence if it is so prevalent? The answer is simple: keep reading.

This cycle “starts at birth,” a classmate of mine once pointed out. When someone has a boy or a girl, the gifts parents receive usually correspond to the particular sex of the baby. It would be odd if someone had a girl and you bought them a G.I Joe action figure, and conversely, if someone had a boy you probably wouldn’t buy them a Barbie.

Why is that? Because it would be weird, it wouldn’t fit, it wouldn’t make sense. Why doesn’t it make sense? Because of preconceived notions of what a girl should be and like and what a boy should be and like.

Where do we get these notions from? Two distinct and directly connected sources, media and our cultural and social contexts. These issues have been brought to light through the film Miss Representation, made by Jennifer Siebel Newsom. This film exposes the negative cycle the media creates that affects women and their emotional and even physical health.

As feminist activist and actor Jane Fonda says, “media creates consciousness.” When we watch TV, we unconciously pick up on the patterns portrayed in the many different shows and commercials we watch each day. These patterns follow us through our entire lives and they are what cause certain cycles of violence to follow.

 Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, states that, “full brain development doesn’t occur until you’re in your early twenties so the idea that kids at 8 or 10 or 15 have the same level of intellectual and emotional maturity as an adult is nuts.”

These patterns of violent and sexualized images are portrayed to kids that are in these age groups and even lower and they begin to interpret and internalize these patterns in different ways.

The hyper-sexualization of women in the media shows images of women that are only hot, sexy, or attractive. Celebrities are made to symbolize what we find attractive. Advertisements glorify models by altering their appearance with Photoshop. Once their images are “improved” by computers, it provides an even more impossible standard of what women need to look like in order to be considered attractive.

This puts all the pressure on girls because now guys and girls expect girls to look perfect at an even younger and younger age. On top of that, the girls themselves internalize these messages at a young age. If they don’t look like the altered models in magazines and television, they believe no guy will find them attractive and consequently they won’t think of themselves as attractive. Their self-confidence will be greatly affected.

Some girls will go to extreme lengths to make themselves attractive. Conditions such as anorexia, bulimia, and depression all stem from this pressure to be accepted. Since the media values external beauty, being attractive is worth something and if you’re not considered attractive, you are worth less despite one’s personality or intelligence. This isolates women and belittles them.

Age is also another isolator, as only a small percentage of women are showed on TV. Women 40 and over are rarely shown on TV. Women older than 40 start to lose confidence in themselves because now they feel like less of a woman because they have somehow “aged out” of being considered attractive.

The media’s definition of beauty is solely based on the body. The role models on television are slim and beautiful. The majority of girls on TV are put there to fight with each other and be eye candy. The few females that are politicians are even criticized on their looks. In fact, how a  female politician is dressed is often the first thing that comes up in conversation. Right away a woman’s looks upstage and overshadow the content of what she may be talking about.

As a result, our culture prioritizes being beautiful over being smart, further silencing women because they will then lean more towards looking good then speaking out.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, advertisements push this over the edge. Living in this world where beauty has become everything, the ad world has used this motif to sell their products. Women barely dressed are used as product placement or they are depicted as objects in misogynistic ways. You may often see violent images of women tied up, bloody, and hurt, all to disturb (or perhaps titillate?) the viewer and create more attention for their ad.

Violent Duncan Quinn image Photo from: Google Images ©

Little kids internalize messages through these ads. If a young boy is exposed to ads like this over time, there is a higher chance that he will commit domestic violence.

To add to the problem, we live in a victim-blaming society, we shame those who have been raped, and blame them and not their attacker. This makes it worse for the victims because they no longer speak up in situations where they are victimized, feeling that it will reflect badly on them.

That is why in the first video above when the women runs her hands over her injuries they disappear to show they’re being covered up and silenced. This traps the victim in the cycle because when they don’t speak up about their abuse the abuse continues. That’s why no matter how hard she tries to cover her injuries, she keeps bleeding and the injuries keep adding up on her body.

Victim-blaming also occurs in the second video after the man throws the girl to the ground and he says it is her fault that he hurt her.

These scenes relate to two articles I read in Ms. Magazine, which related to violence against women. In one article, titled “Misogyny and Elder Abuse,” nuns were being beaten for being activists and vocal towards problems in the church. In the other, called “Behind Closed Doors,” a Chinese proverb justifies violence against women: “Wives-if you go three days without hitting them, you’ll go crazy.” The article goes on to explain how violence against women is accepted without question.

We need to break this cycle of violence against women. We must be aware of what we’re watching AND of what the images and patterns of what we’re watching portrays. We need to analyze and critique it, and we need to speak up about it. We cannot allow the media to become a physical and mental weapon against women.

12 thoughts on “The Veiled Cycle Of Violence

  1. I love that a man wrote this. It is time for men to fight against domestic violence as well as women. It shows just how horrific it really is. I thought you were very persuasive through your words and especially the evidence to back it up. The way you intertwined the information we were given in class was fabulous. It was a way to re hear the information we were given in a concise and well supported way.

    I liked how even though you originally spoke about domestic violence you still brought in how people perceive beauty in today’s society.

    “The hyper-sexualization of women in the media shows images of women that are only hot, sexy, or attractive. Celebrities are made to symbolize what we find attractive. Advertisements glorify models by altering their appearance with Photoshop. Once their images are “improved” by computers, it provides an even more impossible standard of what women need to look like in order to be considered attractive.”

    This directly related to what I spoke about in my blog and made it so I realized how everything truly does intersect.

    You continue to impress me! Keep up the good work!

  2. WOW. the PSA on domestic violence was very powerful. what disturbed me the most was the fact that no bystanders surrounding stepped in. It is a true testament to what as a society, we need to change. The first step to stopping domestic violence and other such horrors starts with bystanders and them stepping in and bringing conflicts like this to a halt.
    Great job Noel.

  3. “The majority of girls on TV are put there to fight with each other”
    This reminded me of a part in Girls Like Us when Rachel Lloyd discusses the reasons why some sexually exploited girls are hesitant to join GEMS. One of the many reasons is that they ” internalize messages of sexism and stereotypes about women and girls”. They think “you can’t trust females, they’ll steal your man”(Lloyd, 231). These internalized messages clearly effect the lives of the girls, and instead of supporting each other off the bat, it could take longer to build that relationship.

  4. Great blog post Noel,

    I completely agree with your overall point and I could particularly relate to your point that “Many people go through their lives seeing this cycle but never really notice what it is. We only see the end result when it is too late.” I also think that by taking this feminism class we have had the privilege of being shown how to read the media and therefore be able recognize this “cycle” and figure out what it is and its effects in order to make factual changes within our community and society.

    I was also moved by the video and the way you talked about the reason for which there is domestic violence. The fact that you realized “we unconciously pick up on the patterns portrayed in the many different shows and commercials we watch each day. These patterns follow us through our entire lives and they are what cause certain cycles of violence to follow.” I think this is extremely true and I find it scary to think that privately and publicly owned television stations are dictating out general values and behaviors.

    I liked that as a boy you came to the conclusion that “the girls themselves internalize these messages at a young age… Since the media values external beauty, being attractive is worth something and if you’re not considered attractive, you are worth less despite one’s personality or intelligence.” This is an extremely big point because many people do not realize the factual effects this cycle has on girls and women.

  5. This was one incredibly powerful piece.

    I liked how you chose one matter, and you focused on that. Domestic violence is far to predominant in our society, and yet it goes unnoticed.

    The video you talked about: “It Rarely Stops” left me speechless. You elaborated on the media and the constant reoccurring theme of violence it portrays, and how it causes women to remain silent — and for men to feel as if what they are doing isn’t wrong.

    The sexualisation of women in the media is also a factor in domestic violence. When you wrote: “This puts all the pressure on girls because now guys and girls expect girls to look perfect at an even younger and younger age. On top of that, the girls themselves internalize these messages at a young age. If they don’t look like the altered models in magazines and television, they believe no guy will find them attractive and consequently they won’t think of themselves as attractive. Their self-confidence will be greatly affected.”

    Because of their little self-confidence, women might accept the abuse they receive, because they feel as if they can’t do any better.
    The media is a constant cycle of influencing, and doing. The media has too much influence on people, making them do and become horrible things.

    Your ending statement was written perfectly, and completed the piece with a message of importance.
    “We need to break this cycle of violence against women. We must be aware of what we’re watching AND of what the images and patterns of what we’re watching portrays. We need to analyze and critique it, and we need to speak up about it. We cannot allow the media to become a physical and mental weapon against women.”

    I won’t be forgetting this piece anytime soon.
    Well done.

  6. I admire the way you structured this post, almost to tell a story. You really grabbed my attention, as if you were making a public service announcement. Your post has the essence of a subway ad, with one of those digital picture links to more information and I was caught by the big bold letters: “There is a vicious cycle that is growing ever more lethal to women in broad daylight, though to some of us, it may seem that it is happening only behind the scenes. Many people go through their lives seeing this cycle but never really notice what it is. We only see the end result when it is too late.”
    As you move forward in your post you really break down the way that domestic violence happens from the very beginning, is forced by our culture and enforced by the media, all the while we are oblivious to it all. I thought the first video “It Never Really Stops,” was very striking and caught the heart of what you were saying. Then you brought it all full circle tying in all of your examples to come to a bigger analysis when you began to explain that, because of our victim-blaming society, her scars are being “covered up and silenced. This traps the victim in the cycle because when they don’t speak up about their abuse the abuse continues.”
    You’re post was very concise and clear and I liked it because the reader doesn’t have to know about domestic violence prior to reading the post; you are raising awareness!

  7. I you are really on point with this post. I think the Jane Fonda quotation you use sums it up best, “media creates consciousness”. I can honestly say I am a victim of unconsciously taking in media information and portrayals of women and having those images planted in my brain as being the image of “ideal” women. The even worse part (which you address quite a bit) is that we victimize women who do not fit this ideal image. It is sickening that the media has such a strong grasp on how women should be portrayed because it can lead to so many horrible self-conscious and mental problems for women. It also creates this double standard of not trying to be too “slutty” looking, but yet at the same time trying not to look to conservative and “boring”, making it impossible to find a proper balance.

  8. After the videos, when you ask the reader “Now, you may be thinking, how could I not notice domestic violence if it is so prevalent?” it got me thinking about a time when I was also not aware of domestic violence and did not see it as a compelling issue. It was mainly because nobody seemed to acknowledge the issue as some worth looking at or talking about and I also thought that tragedies like rape and domestic violence only happened in movies.
    The amount of truth that you speak is unbelievable when you say that the media’s use of sexualized images and false representation of women puts “all the pressure on girls.” This really sticks out to me because it makes me run through my entire life and through every girl I have met that has hid herself behind walls of makeup and desire to look like the perfect woman that were being shown in the media. It kinda hurts to think about that and then to wonder how the girls who did not fit in that criteria must have felt when they were marked as just some ugly whore. You also talk about how all of this starts at an early age which is great and troubling at the same time because now I have to go and reevaluate my life and my values. Great post Noel!

  9. Noel, I love how in your post you talked about so many different aspects instead of just focusing on one, such as how media affects female body image and how the messages media sends out about violence towards women affects the way women feel they should be treated. I appreciate you mentioned what messages media sends to boys and men as well, because it is not only about the female targeting aspect; there are two sides contributing to the still apparent misogynistic society. Great job on your post!

  10. You wrote a great introduction for your paragraph, very engaging! As many viewers would think, the video link on your blog is very disturbing. But that is what they learn about what kind of abuse girls face today. It is something that everyone should know about. Young people internalize messages about beauty through media and advertising. At a young age, kids are already realizing what it appropriate for them, such as for a boy, an action figure would be the better gift than a doll. For girls, it’s the other way around. Along with these kinds of messages introduced at such a young age, kids nowadays are surrounded by media that promotes these horrible assumptions. Because of the media today, boys are more likely to create domestic violence upon a girl. This creates more fear and danger for girls and women today. We must do something about this corrupt form the media. I thought that this sentence “We cannot allow the media to become a physical and mental weapon against women,” was a great way to end your post! Bravo!

  11. So fantastic!! I completely agree with Ruth; Break. It. Down. The way you lead from one topic to another, from domestic violence, to how it begins, to the effect of the media, and to what should be doing to change this, you set it up in such a way that the reader completely understands and sympathizes with you throughout the piece. The PSAs were absolutely horrifying, which is absolutely the point. I teared up at the first one, and when she turned away from the camera, it was heart-breaking. These are the kinds of ads and messages we should be showing to people, particularly young people around the world. There is so much we can and should be doing to help.

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