Feminist Media Matters For All Of Us

Me during our last feminism class Photo credit to Ileana Jimenz
“I want to see women in positions of power.”
(photo credit to Ileana Jimenez)

I need feminism because I need hope in this world of outrageous injustices. Taking the Fierce and Fabulous : Feminist Writers, Artists, and Activists class this past trimester of  my junior year has really opened my mind, and made me think about the kind of person I want want be, and if I can get there.

We have learned so much in this class that I was previously not exposed to, such as acid burning in Pakistan, commercial sexual exploitation of children, and also issues that I have experienced and are more local to me such as slut shaming, street harassment, and the exploitation of women in the media.

These issues hit home in many ways, and many people in the class have new passions in discussing these issues.

Feminism class on a trip to the Brooklyn Museum Photo credit to Ileana Jimenez
Our feminism class on a trip to see Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party” at the Brooklyn Museum.
(Photo credit to Ileana Jimenez)

In this class, everyone has developed a new way of seeing things through a feminist lens. We are more aware of injustices, and see the larger implications and roots of issues that surround us. The feminist fight is not nearly over, and it brings me hope to see new voices join in solidarity for whatever feminist cause they feel most passionate about.

There are so many issues to be tackled, but I am becoming increasingly scared at how corporations and products are institutionalizing misogyny.  As a 17 year old girl living in New York City in the 21st century, I am exposed to many more messages about who I should be than previously imaginable.

In class, we watched the  documentary Miss Representation that literally changed my world. This film had an impact on me because I related to the narrator Jennifer Siebel Newsom. She is an actress and activist- which is truly my dream life! What resonated with me was her story as an actress, and when she noticed that she was increasingly being cast as the same kind of female character. She was seeing the power in her roles diminish, as the characters become more stereotypical and less outspoken compared to their male counterparts. This is a very real example of how the media controls women, both in the way they are being written, and later how women watching feel about their place in the world.

There has been a loss of diverse female characters, which limits the aspirations of girls and women. Many girls will want to be the people or women that look like them on television or in a film, so if the only thing they find is a damsel in distress who is waiting to be saved by a prince, there is no motivation for these girls to live up to their potential and seize the future they are capable of attaining. In addition, when a woman is featured in an action movie, the men are often surprised when she is as good as they are. These women are always wearing tight, revealing clothing, and are considered to be some sort of sex toy who can fulfill both men’s infatuation with violence and hot women.

Hollywood and advertising is run by men, for men. By running ads where women become the product, or have their faces or bodies manipulated so you can’t see their face, objectifies women. Objectifying women is the first step in justifying violence against women.

Media and television are also extremely heteronormative, and the consequence of not having any sort of queer representation in the media makes young people believe that to be queer or LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) is not normal, further perpetuating cycles of oppression.

So why don’t we write different movies, change things so it’s more equal? That’s pretty hard when women only own 5.8% of all television stations and 6% of radio stations. In the near future, I hope the government will start regulating media, because everyone consumes these poisonous messages everyday. With the increase of the sexualization of women in the media there has been a rise in depression in women, eating disorders, and violence against women.

This class gives us the tools to create our own media, to create our own idea of beauty, our own art, and to weigh our values differently. The youth of today don’t need to succumb to these messages from patriarchal media. We can use the tools of the 21st century, harness our ideas and power and create, create, create!

We need role models (and need to be role models!) who represent strength, intelligence, determination. We need to model how to be powerful women. (My role model is Denaris Targaryen from Game of Thrones) My aspirations to be an actress have faltered a bit, but if I were to be involved in the media world, you can count on me to be a feminist voice, which I have this class to thank for.

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