Representation of Women in Media

The human body has been mystified from the dawn of time. Their bodies are not only temples of deities up above, but also kingdoms that are to be praised through good health and body appreciation. Modern day portrayal of bodies in the media has come under heat by a lot of different feminist and womanist groups because of different gender expectations between men and woman and furthermore, between races. Media shapes how we perceive their reality and influences what we determine beauty is. However, the images that media bombards us with are a false representation of the lived experiences of people especially minorities in the United States. We all battle with their imperfections, and they are further highlighted when their role models in the media are presented as flawless sex objects. Magazine covers featuring women are often inherently sexual and downright unrealistic whether that stems from clothing choices, provocative headlines or manipulation of images to manufacture a more appealing feminine appearance. These images are everywhere we go, they are on television, in supermarkets, at bus stops, and on social media. Everyday, we subconsciously consume these images and strive to achieve these unrealistic beauty goals. We want to be lighter, thinner, taller, just like the girls in the magazines, when at the end of the day, not even the girl in the magazine looks like the girl in the magazine. This is especially damaging to groups who are not even featured in popular media, groups like people of color are often entirely left out from the narrative of beauty in this country. When they are included, they are generally objectified as a commodity, or ytheir “token” girl of color. Media representation of people of color is very limited and its limitations are pretty offensive considering there are millions of colored models, actresses and actors looking for employment. For example, why cast 16-year old white model, Ondria Hardin, for an “African Queen” shoot when models like Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell and Chanel Iman are African descendant and also mentor younger African descendant models. This idea really supports the premises of multicultural feminism. Woman of color are treated as other. Media fails to celebrate differences but rather to serves as a force to disenfranchise black faces from the big screen. For example, there has been a lot of controversy regarding movies based on real life in Africa where there have been white protagonists and black antagonists. Currently, Angelina Jolie is in talks to play the role of Cleopatra in an upcoming film. The controversy surrounding this casting choice emerges from ancient Egyptian art, we know that Cleopatra was a woman of color, yet Hollywood has whitewashed history, yet again, limiting representation for little girls who do not believe they can aspire to be queens like Cleopatra. The problem of representation is a lot more insidious than denying people of color, roles that they were born to do. The problem lies in destroying the self-efficacy of people everywhere who do not feel like they can aspire to greatness because no one who looks like them has ever accomplished such greatness. Media is an insidious force that exploits woman as a whole especially woman of color. The lack of representation and the unrealistic beauty standards that permeate their daily lives are toxic and as a society, we need to take steps to remedy these societal ills for generations to come.

According to Gamson ‘s article, a lot of the ideas that I wrote are the sentiments of our society. Popular culture constructs sexuality however it doesn’t make room for different sexualities. This is a problem because many may feel as if the media defines what is normal in our society. Our media is a representation of our ideals and if a group is not represented it could hurt the self-efficacy of the group of lead to objectifying other groups. I think the lack of representation can also hurt groups because it eliminates their narratives from the American experience and almost labels them as “other”. For example, the article mentions that media really excluded the experience of homosexuals in media for so long, this had a really terrible impact on the perception of the general public of people who are gay. People who were gay had very limited narratives in American media for a very long time. Most of the stories surround people who were gay were often based on stories of HIV.

Gamson also notes that often times when media does have representation of diverse groups, that media often objectifies the person or represents them as exotic. It’s important that the media stay away from exoticizing groups of people because it will affect the public perception of that group. For example, there was an event on campus that was put on by Vanderbilt’s chapter of the NAACP where there was a discussion about sexualizing women of color. It talked about how in media, minorities are underrepresented yet when they are represented, they are over-sexualized. They gave examples of how Black women are seen in music videos, half naked and dancing provocatively and how Asian woman are perceived as being submissive. This is a really poor attempt by the media to represent different demographics in this country. This is dangerous because for people who have no exposure to diverse groups in this country, this poor representation is the only exposure they have to these groups.

Why does media continue to whitewash Hollywood?

What’s Sex Got to do With….The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

victoria-secret-fashion-show-2003

Every year, young girls and women from all over the country wait in anticipation all Fall for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show to come around. This year it took place on Tuesday December 2nd and will air on television on December 9th. The infamous fashion show is filled with ridiculous outfits, crazy runway walks, concert performances, and stick thin models. Each model has a perfect body that is extremely skinny yet curvy, pretty hair, flawless skin—realistic right? This fashion show, while it may be fun to watch, also puts the wrong idea into the minds of young girls and women throughout the country.

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, Lexington Armory, New York, America - 07 Nov 2012

While the fashion show is extremely entertaining—not to mention that it is filled with beautiful women, it is extremely demoralizing to women. Not only is it demoralizing, but it also most definitely objectifies women and sexualizes them. It shows women all over the world, and especially young girls, that body image and appearance is all that is important for females. It does not matter if you are an intellectual—what matters is what you look like. The fashion show reinforces the widely speculated idea that men only care about the way a girl looks, but not about her personality, intelligence, or interests. Young girls already are constantly reminded of this everyday through billboards, magazines, television shows (etc…) and the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show comes around to prove that this point is true. We live in a world that currently sexualizes women ALL the time. There is a stigma in current day society that all a girl is good for are her looks. Women are constantly being sexually objectified in advertisements for clothing, perfume, or even for food. This sexualization of women in the media is a huge reason why young girls commonly develop body image issues, eating disorders, and distorted views of themselves. As a societal community we need to change this ideal and show women everywhere that looks are not all that matter—or the only thing that will get you places in life.

 

 

A New Definition of Consent

It’s no secret that sexual assault and violence on college campuses has recently become very prevalent in media and the minds of students and faculty across college campuses, as well as in the minds of the government; multiple stories and different accounts of sexual assault and rape have been in the the news, forcing attention to be drawn to this issue and for it to be addressed. Recent studies in sexual assault on college campuses across the United States reveal that one in five women report being assaulted on college campuses, which is terrifying considering in the past, cases of this have never been properly reported or given attention. Students and victims of sexual assault have begun to cry out also, bringing attention to this issue. Some of their accounts can be read in newspapers or seen on the news, as the sexual assault that took place on our very own campus here was. Time magazine even devoted an entire issue due to this problem; in this issue, multiple politicians, activists, scholars, authors, lawyers and victims shared their voice and opinions on sexual assault on college campuses and how it should be taken care of.

Two of the articles in this issue that stood out to me the most include an article called “‘My Rapist Is Still on Campus’” written by Emma Sulkowicz, a victim of rape and junior from Columbia College, and an article written by Jonathan Kalin, a student activist who formed a movement for consent called “Consent Must Be Created, Not Given.” In Sulkowicz’s article, she tells of how she was raped the very first day of her sophomore year, and she is near the end of her college life yet her rapist is still free and on campus and will graduate with her. Not only did her rapist commit an act of sexual assault on her, but also on two other girls. Sulkowicz would wake up everyday afraid to leave her room for the fear of her rapist; in the future when she looks back on her experience at Columbia, it will be defined by this. it will be defined by how she received no help from the university when she asked for it and how she will have to life with this injustice for her entire life. When Sulkowicz did reach out to the school for help, administration and the campus justice system dismissed her case and the accounts of what had happened to her.

Situations similar to Sulkowicz’s happen way too often, and are the reason for all of the recent backlash that Universities are facing today; in fact, 55 universities are under investigation by the federal government for lacking in dealing with sexual assault cases on campus properly.  Many universities figure that they can brush these cases under the rug for fear of losing prestige and credibility. This may have worked in the past, however, rape on college campuses has become so prevalent, and on some campuses more so than others, that it can no longer be ignored. In recent years, rape culture has been perpetuated due to the media, sexist mentalities, and a sense of apathy from society. Relationships displayed in movies, TV shows, and music’s lyrics lend to the idea of rape and make power based violence seem acceptable in certain situations. Whether people or conscious of it or not, these images and messages are received by people and can contribute to their mentality and beliefs on sexual assault, swaying them to become more accepting, or even apathetic.

In Kalin’s article, he speaks of his movement to recreate the definition of consent and educating people about sexual violence in hopes of preventing it. He asserts that societal norms and the expectation of what college life should be like have created an environment where sexual assault is way too prevalent always featuring repeatedly shamed survivors of assault and perpetrators who plead the crime as one of “misunderstanding.” Although the government has recently stepped in in trying to help prevention, Kalin believes it will take a lot more than just this to change the culture associated with this; in order for it to change, the definition of consent must be considered and changed. Consent is not a silent practice as it appears in many movies and TV shows. It is something that must be verbalized and discussed to ensure that there are no misunderstandings and the participants are on the same page. If consent is an assumed silent thing, then there will obviously be multiple misunderstanding and can lend to the amount of sexual assault that occur on college campuses. Kalin also asserts that consent should not be made out to be a commodity, therefore people should no longer say that consent was “given” or “got,” but rather that is was created. If consent is created, then it should be backed by full understanding on both parties involved.

The recent strides made by the government and other activist organizations have helped the this cause immensely. College campuses have created outlets and resources to aid student victims and give them an outlet for support. Organizations such as Project Safe, Green Dot, and the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center all on Vanderbilt’s campus all strive to do this. Legislation has urged and pushed for bills to be written and rewritten to aid in preventing and solving the issue of sexual assault and violence on college campuses. Today, activists are still urging people to take notice of the issue at hand and hope to cease the perpetuation of rape culture on college campuses across the culture. In order for this to happen, college students need to be well informed and educated on the issue, knowing exactly what constitutes as sexual violence.

How could Vanderbilt do a better job of educating its students on sexual assault? Should informing students on sexual assault and violence be required by all universities? How effective do you really think the programs are on Vanderbilt’s campus at aiding in the prevention of sexual assault on campus?