Thursday, March 22, 2012

Media and Women: Parents Can Join Big Cause


Trying to make a difference in the media's overwhelmingly negative portrayal of women, and how it affects our kids, is just too big an issue for me to tackle. It feels overwhelming. Thankfully there are organizations that are focusing on the issue, organizing support to make changes, and offering advice on how individuals band together to work for change - both in publicly and in the home. There is certainly strength in numbers.


  1. Miss Representation.org. The film Miss Representation "exposes how American youth are being sold the concept that women and girls’ value lies in their youth, beauty and sexuality." As a social movement, the organization is organizing "a call-to-action campaign that seeks to empower women and girls to challenge limiting media labels in order to realize their potential." The blog on the site is an ongoing discussion how individuals can counteract offensive images and portrayal of women. For example, the group organized some powerful online protests of offensive Super Bowl ads, and I look forward to taking part next year.
  2. Common Sense Media offers tips for parents to help girls grow a healthy body image in spite of the media's overwhelming obsession with women as sexual objects. 
  3. Girl Scout's HealthyMEdia Commission "will bring together media leaders and subject related experts to create a blueprint of recommendations for promoting positive media images." The commission offers these compelling reasons to care about the subject:
  • Most 8- to 18-year-olds spend upwards of 10 hours a day engaging with media. (Kaiser 2009)
  • In family films and television, male characters outweigh female characters nearly 3:1 and 5:1 in background or group scenes; only 27 percent of the speaking characters are female. (GDIGM)
  • More than half of girls (55 percent) admit they diet to lose weight; 31 percent admit to starving themselves or refusing to eat as a strategy to lose weight.  (GSRI)
  • Sexualized messages and images of girls and women result in boys’ developing unrealistic and unhealthy expectations of girls’ and women’s physical appearance. (GDIGM) 
Just as we guard our kids' exposure to TV and movie violence, parents need to be aware of the messages our kids get about women, ideal beauty and sexuality through media. Be mindful of questionable programming before we expose our families. And reinforce the notions of health over sexuality, intellect over youth and beauty. We are our kids' primary advocates, teachers and role models.


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