You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

“You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Everyone knows the media is in every part of our lives. Recent statistics show that teenagers consume up to 10 hours PER DAY of media. That includes music, television, radio, Internet, etc. What’s even more interesting is the power the media has in shaping the messages we see. Advertising, reality television, news broadcasts, you name it, all have the power to frame messages that make you, the consumer, more apt to believe, buy or internalize.

So what happens when these teenagers that consume so much media, are only exposed to a limited number of roles, stereotypes and definitions of what they can be? Specific to young girls, what does it say for our society that girls are exposed to unlimited amounts of reality television where the women are fighting, spitting on each other, openly having sex with their male counterparts, yet, often can’t name one woman senator or representative? What are the effects of this perpetual regurgitating of limited models of femininity?

“Miss Representation” – a documentary about the inequality of women in the media addresses this very issue. It focuses on the limited roles available to women in the media, the metaphorical boxes the media like to put women in and the effects this can have on young girls. It discusses how limited, positive examples of strong women in media can disrupt a young girls construction of identity. It even covers how young boys are socialized in specific ways that hinder their full emotional and behavioral growth. I would recommend this film to anyone interested in this topic.

Watch the trailer here:

From the film’s website: “In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.”

While explaining the film to Jason, he (politely) asked me last night “when will it be enough? what will it take for women to say ‘we’ve succeeded?'” And I don’t think I know the answer. But I think education about these statistics and the inequalities that exist is the first step. I think for me, success will be when women do not feel limited in any opportunities they want to pursue, nor feel judged for their actions. But that’s easy to say. How can we put it in action?

What do you think? Do you think the media incorrectly portrays women? And how would like to see it resolved?