The Future of Feminism: Together We Can Change the Media

Why do I need feminism? Because my identity is multidimensional! (Photo Credit: Ileana Jiménez)
Why do I need feminism? Because my identity is multidimensional! (Photo Credit: Ileana Jiménez)

I’m a boy, so how does feminism relate to me?

I never thought that feminism would play such an important role in my life. After taking this high school feminism course, my eyes have been opened, and now I realize that everything in my life has to do with feminism.

Everything as close as my identity to worldwide issues such as the commercial sexual exploitation of children needs to be viewed using an intersectional lens.

Recently, I’ve been noticing the abundance of misogyny in the media. We watched two documentaries in class: Killing Us Softly 4 and Miss Representation. Both films showed the effects of the media on our collective culture and consciousness. Almost all of these ads were shocking. I think I was most shocked that I had seen some of these ads before, but I had never realized how misogynist they were. Now I’m no longer looking at ads passively because I realize that these ads really hurt women.

One of the many depictions of violence against women in advertising. (Photo Credit: Buzzfeed.com)

Like most teens, I spend much of my free time using technology. According to Miss Representation, teens spend an average of 10 hours and 45 minutes on media consumption a day! Advertisers know this, and they try to bombard teens with as many ads as they possibly can. Advertisers want to make the most profit possible, and in the United States, there are over 235.6 billion dollars a year spent on advertising. The ads portray many deleterious images of women, which are violent, sexually offensive, and demeaning. These images often can lower girls’ self-esteem. Girls with lower self esteem are more prone to eating disorders and self harm, but that’s just the beginning.

The media is powerful because it controls what we see.  We all need positive role models in our lives. Unfortunately, if the media portrays women at all, it is usually in a negative light. The media does not focus on her brains, but on her body. Even worse, it is usually a critique of her body.

One of the best examples of women being watched for their bodies and instead of their brains is Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama’s muscular arms often causes the media to obsess over her “man arms” and workout regimen. When I googled “Michelle Obama arms,” one of the first results was from Time magazine with the headline “Plastic Surgeons Say Women Want Michelle Obama Arms.”

Instead of thinking about her arms, the media should be focusing on how successful she has been. She has raised awareness for childhood obesity and is an advocate for LGBTQ rights, but the media only focuses on her body. Unfortunately,  this is a standard for media’s portrayal of women. In the media’s eyes, the value of  women is not based on her achievements, but on how she looks.

So, how does this effect me if I’m not a woman? These ads aren’t sexualizing me, so why should I care?

In Killing Us Softly 4, Jean Kilbourne discusses the subconscious way that advertisements affect us. Many people, especially boys and men, have a preconceived idea that the ads have no effect on them, but they do. The ads sell a certain kind of narrative of normalcy as they portray who we are and who we should be.

The media teaches boys and men to believe that being a man means being powerful, in control, and being smarter and better than women. This is not the way that we should be teaching boys and men how to act. We should care because these ads are generally made from a male perspective, and therefore men are the ones who need to stop creating these misogynist ads! Not only ads, but the people being hired and reporting on stories are more often than not men, and therefore there is a sexist bias in journalism. These misogynist views have been ingrained into boys’ minds at a very young age, and without education nothing changes as the boys eventually become advertisers, producers, directors, and even, reporters.

After examining many texts and films and going on trips, my views have completely shifted. Specifically, I have realized that there is still so much to be done. I know that my classmates and I will work very hard to try to make the world a better place for women everywhere. My biggest problem right now is figuring out where I can start.

My classmates and I declaring why we all need feminism. (Photo Credit Ileana Jiménez)
My classmates and I declaring why we all need feminism.
(Photo Credit Ileana Jiménez)

Recently, I have been trying to tell everyone about the feminism class. I feel extremely privileged that I am able to take this class in high school. Whenever anyone asks me about the class, I can describe the texts that we read: A History of U.S. Feminisms and Girls Like UsThey are excellent conversation starters and from there, I can discuss the reasons why I decided to take the class.

In brief, I decided to take this class because I believed that I knew everything already. On the first day of class, I was asked what I thought of when I thought of feminism. I knew that it was the fact that “women’s right are constantly being fought over by men who will never understand what it’s like to have the rights to your body taken away.”

I now understand it is so much more than that. Feminism is not just an issue about women, it is an issue about everyone.

Right now, I think the future looks bright. Dove has it’s real body campaign, which is used to portray all types of women’s beauty. It’s campaign shows the distortion of a woman’s face through an abundance of makeup and editing in Photoshop.

I hope that in the future, other companies will follow Dove’s lead in even more innovative and intersectional ways. I hope we can live in a world where girls and women can see and look up to real women in the media. We need to educate all young people to understand this is happening, so that future editors, directors, and producers can make changes in the way we portray women and all people in the media.

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