As this blog has shown, we live in a society where we are constantly bombarded by sexist and racist media. When women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (WMC), does it come as a surprise that patriarchal values and rape culture are perpetuated?
I hope this blog serves as a call to action and source for inspiration for why it is so important to fight for images and media that empower women and make our voices heard. I hope it makes people consider where their purchasing power as consumers is going. But more than that, I want to promote the absolute necessity of media literacy in the world we live in today.
In fact, not thinking critically about media messaging can be dangerous. In the US, as many as 10 million women suffer from an eating disorder (NEDA). Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (ANAD). The connection between eating disorders and the unrealistic and unhealthy body image that appears everywhere, over and over again, is indisputable. And the messaging works: by the age of 17, 78% of girls say they are unhappy with their bodies (MOTM).
While women are being increasingly sexualized and hypersexualized in ads, magazines, film, and TV, there are only 17 women in the US senate, 15 Fortune 500 Companies whose CEOs are women, 11% of prime time TV shows are directed by women, and only 8% of technology start-ups are led by women (Off the Sidelines). In a well-known psychology experiment, women were shown to perform worse than men on a math test when told that men typically did better. This effect is called stereotype threat and is attributed to the anxiety caused by fear of confirming a negative stereotype. Products like Forever 21’s “Allergic to Algebra” and JC Penney’s “Too Pretty For Homework” shirts just spread these stereotypes and certainly don’t help young women feel confident and capable.
By being aware of the power of media and examining the myriad ways media affects us and our decisions on a daily basis, we can fight against these damaging images and, most importantly, the damage they can do to our perceptions of ourselves. Today is Love Your Body Day, an event started in 1998 by The National Organization for Women to fight against unhealthy stereotypes about women and women’s bodies and to encourage women to celebrate their bodies. Today, roll your eyes at that sexist ad you pass on the subway (and snap a picture to send to us!), but also fight against the internalization of the negative body image so many of these ads are aggressively pushing on us. Do something that makes you feel great and refuse to accept how the media is portraying you.
NOW-NYC is holding our annual Love Your Body Day celebration tomorrow at 6pm. Join us if you’re in the New York area! More info here.
This post is part of the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival.