After our viewing films such as Killing Us Softly 4 and Miss Representation about the negative representations of women in the media, I have found myself looking at mainstream media with a more critical eye.
Now that I am noticing the problems with certain types of advertisements, I find that my new struggle is in finding ways to articulate to my friends and family why it is an issue.
We receive messages from the media that are subconscious and have more of an internal effect than we immediately realize. The purpose of branding a product is more about selling a concept than the actual product, which leads to the over-sexualizing of women and men.
When I walk down the street in New York, it is apparent that media images are getting more and more sexual and boundaries are being pushed just to see how far they can go. I noticed these things from a very early age but never really thought twice about them. Growing up, both my parents were photographers and I have been very exposed to the business of fashion. When I was younger, my mother would use me to model the flower girl dresses when she didn’t have enough of her usual models. But, of course, that didn’t last long because once you graduate childhood and the maid of honor dresses are the next thing up, the majority of the world is suddenly too large to represent the “ideal” image for women.
I remember one day when my mom was at home editing photos of women who always seemed too perfect and I noticed her creating a larger gap between the arm of a model and her waist. “It’s my job to make her look skinny,” my mom informed me, with a kind of bitter tone. After a photographer takes the photos, they are sent to the client who tells the photographer what changes to make. For this particular photo, my mother was told to slim down the already tiny model because women want to feel like that’s what they’ll look like if they buy that dress.
The part that I find most irritating is that we can’t even blame my mother or anyone in the industry for that matter. They are all brainwashed. The hyper-sexualized ads and the notion that models are “stick skinny” is what we have all come to expect. When young girls and boys are not able to see people who look like them in magazines they begin to think they are not good enough. And that’s exactly what the media wants. They want us to feel bad about ourselves so they can reward us for supporting their brainwashing tactics by giving us the gift of “fixing” ourselves.
Your eyes are too small, your butt is too big, your hair is too flat…BUT don’t worry, because we’ve got a make-up set for you, we’ve got work out strategies for you, and we’ve got overpriced hair products for you.
Phew, thanks so much, I was worried I’d be ugly forever.
In the film Miss Representation, I was exposed to some pretty shocking facts about women and young girls in the U.S. It was said that 65% of girls have or have had eating disorders and 17% have deliberately cut or injured themselves. Advertisements teach us to want to be something we are not and these are the results.
But it doesn’t stop there. Some advertisements even take it so far that they literally turn us into things we are not. This sort of portrayal of women teaches both men and women alike that women are objects and do not deserve to be treated as anything other.
It is clear that girls are even harder on other girls than boys are on girls. It’s crazy that girls are so harsh when commenting on each other’s appearances because we know each other’s pressures and should learn to be on the same team, instead of feeling in competition with each other.
Advertisements are designed to promote consumerism. This particular beer ad on the left clearly targets heterosexual men. The ad is telling the viewer that beer is manly. You want this beer. You want this woman because she practically is the beer. The emphasis is on manliness because boys are taught from early ages that it’s bad for them to be feminine and in turn, the media devalues women all together, unless it’s to hyper-sexualize women.
This problem is huge. The solution would mean having to teach people everything that has been subconsciously programmed into them. It is not something that can be solved overnight. But the first step is informing our culture as a whole. Widespread awareness is our first step. I don’t want to notice elements of misogyny in ads. I want to be proud of the way my country and world portrays its people.