Media portrayals of women won’t change until we demand them to

… and that means women need to teach girls to expect better of the media

The latest Photoshopping news item to grab online attention is proof that a magazine tweaked a cover photo of Jennifer Lawrence. Rightly so, people were outraged.

Question is this: will this just die down and go away and be forgotten? It’s already been a couple of days since the story hit the ‘net and I don’t hear much talk about it anymore. People’s attention spans are short, and the next juicy item follows behind so quickly. Today, it’s all about the Duck Dynasty gay-comments issue with Phil Robertson. Tomorrow, who knows?

So, really, since human nature, at least in our 24-hour-news-cycle age, means we’ll forget most outrages in a matter of hours, will this information change anything?

Sadly, I doubt it.

Here’s what needs to happen, though: both women and men need to consciously work to keep this topic in the forefront of their minds. And they need to act. We all need to stop buying and reading the magazines that Photoshop women (which is pretty much all of them, even the health and fitness ones). Stop watching the movies and TV shows that make women secondary characters and, then, feature them only as sexual beings, as scantily-clad “pretty props” or set dressing. With the media, the only way to make a change is to vote with your pocketbook. Stop feeding the beast. And speak out, directly to each media company, and discuss with friends and family.

After years of living in a world saturated with media images portraying women as sex objects and set dressing, it’s taking a while to get older, more experienced women (and men) to realize what’s been happening. We need to keep getting the word out to them (I firmly fall into that category: at 43, I’ve been marinating in this lopsided, demeaning, and oppressive culture for decades).

At the same time, once we older people get the idea, we absolutely must teach our younger family members and friends to see the truth. The media loves the young folks: they’re the ideal demographic, so everything is skewed to their supposed tastes. So if we’re going to get a message out to the media, we must make sure the young people understand it, get it, and act on it.

It would take many, many blog posts to “prove” just how damaging this Photoshopping nonsense is to girls and women, and not only to females, but to males. It changes everyone’s expectations and core beliefs for the worse. There are plenty of resources out there that talk about this. Beauty Redefined is a great one, but there are others (check out BR’s posts related to “recognizing” what’s happening to get a good start). So this little post is just another part of the call to action. Don’t just cheer internally for Jennifer Lawrence’s ideals (not liking Photoshop, wanting to get rid of body shaming, sending a better message to young girls about image) — take a stand and do something. Write to magazines and ask that they stop Photoshopping. Stop watching movies that relegate women to sex objects. Talk about the topic with young people, both boys and girls, and keep it in the forefront.

The media won’t change without huge pressure to do so. Be part of that change. It takes one person at a time, but one person and another and another all add up. Take that first step. Hey, even reblog/post this. Let’s just bombard people with this message. Maybe someday, maybe even by the time my teen daughters are mothers of teens themselves, our culture won’t be marinating us in negative portrayals of women anymore. It could happen.

(For ideas on “resisting” negative body-image messages in the media and our culture at large, read Beauty Redefined posts related to that topic.)

AND AS AN ADDENDUM, another great resource from a woman who’s “been there, done that” when it comes to being ultra-toned. Taryn Brumfitt at Body Image Movement says this (in a blog response to fit mom Maria Kang): “I AM a health advocate. I run, I lift weights, I eat healthily but I also have a cookie with my soy latte and knock back the odd burger or yiros when I feel like it. It’s called balance. And whilst I am getting on my soap box (I’ll just be here for another minute) health is not dictated by your looks. Health is physical, emotional and spiritual and so much more that is not visible and not always obvious to others” (emphasis was added by me). She also told the Daily Mail: “If what you value is your health then you’ll treat your body like a vehicle, not an ornament.” I LOVE that.

Value your body for what it can do, not for how it looks. I think it’s pretty simple.

Beautiful life

lifeandlims View All →

I'm a book reviewer, editor, and writer with four daughters and tons of projects always keeping me hopping. I blog at Life and Lims and run the book review site Rated Reads.

2 Comments Leave a comment

    • There is no question that in terms of health, we as Americans can definitely do better. But health is quite different from looks. And the way the media are making women feel about themselves based entirely on looks is truly an important issue.

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