Vanessa Gorman, of ABC, observed that; ‘Selfies, sexting and twerking are all part of a teen continuum that has been outraging older generations since Elvis first thrust those hips’ the comment raises the question of how media chooses to portray women within contemporary society arguably manipulating and damaging women’s bodies and in turn their self-esteem.
In a generation where ‘DoSomething’ recorded that 58% of girls feel pressured to be a certain ‘ideal weight’ while still in college and that student’s, especially women, who consume more mainstream media, place a greater importance on sexiness and overall appearance than those who do not consume as much. A statistic that can directly correlate with the fact that 95% of people suffering from diagnosed eating disorders are ranging from ages twelve to twenty five (whom a lot of media outlets direct campaigns or programs toward), with a staggering 40% of women admitting that they would consider plastic surgery in later life to mould and prolong ideal body image. Pressures on women’s bodies and their expectations seem to be on the rise even though reports recorded in 2014 that the average women’s dress size is a fourteen – a size that 94% of Daily Mail correspondents voted as ‘undesirable’ and ‘unattractive’.
It’s significant to acknowledge that not all women are susceptible to the pressures the modern day media can offer, however, men are also susceptible to the influential ideals and values enforced. Sexually degrading chart music teaches adolescents that sex is both expected and appropiate, degrading women of the choice to their own bodies rights with lyrics from currently popular rap sensation Eminem such as; ‘’I even make the b****es I rape c*m’. Glorifying rape with such excessively violent and derogatory lyrics has become increasingly acceptable and popular within youth culture, normalizing the subject and worse – normalizing and promoting rape. Richard Alleyne, Telegraph Science correspondent, found in 2009 that; ‘high exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex in popular music was independently associated with higher levels of sexual behavior. In fact, exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex was one of the strongest associations with sexual activity… These results provide further support for the need for additional research and educational intervention in this area.”. Exploitive portrayals of women by the media are not however contained to just degrading lyrics, sexually explicit advertising by main stream companies such as: American Apparel, Tom Ford and Gucci. American Apparel have been criticized numerous times concerning unnecessarily sexualized adverts, usually involving women who look under the age of consent. The Advertising Standards Authority recently banned another of their adverts explaining that; ‘the model had a youthful appearance and that some consumers were likely to regard her as being younger than 16 years of age’ the model posed sexually with her buttocks out while wearing a thong swimsuit.
Contemporary society is obsessed with the media and social networking, with the average teenager spending twenty-seven hours per week online according to the Telegraph. Statistics collected earlier this year show that use of social media has tripled since 2007 as currently four out of every five social media users log onto their accounts at least once a day.
As social networking is now ingrained in everyday life, especially those of adolescents, it substantially correlates that more access to the sites which largely portray women as sexual objects results in devastatingly low self-esteem of females and poor, unhealthy views of women passed on from media to man. Women are seemingly valued by physical appearance rather than mental capacity – Media outlets promoting artificial images of impeccable women produce feelings of inadequacy. Renee Randazzo and Kaelin Farmer recognised the media’s sexualisation of women by the media arguing ‘that the sexualisation of girls is a widespread, increasing problem and is harmful to girls (American Psychological Association, 2007)’ continuing to state that; ‘the APA’s task force on the sexualisation of girls represented the culmination of research and advocacy efforts of multiple psychologists and specialists who aimed to show sexualisation trends are harmful to girls and are associated with increased eating disorders, greater incidence of depression, and lower self-esteem’.
The media and social networking massively impact contemporary society, manipulating adolescents attitudes and norms via socialisation of media outlets however the negative impact this is having on society has not gone unnoticed. Like my peers I avidly use social networking sites and frequently choose to spend my time enjoying television, music and other forms of media. Owning accounts with many networking sites including the notorious Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – though the allure of Tinder has not yet enticed me like it has done many of my peers. I, like many girls my age, are guilty of following ‘ritualistic’ and artificial pages of models with perfect bodies, keeping up to date with celebrities such as the Kardashian’s famous for their sexual exploits and listening to sexually explicit material degrading women just because it is popular. In a society where sex sells companies have been using this an advertising ploy to sell their products to adolescents by sexualising their own products and models to promise their consumers the ‘sexy image’ desired within today’s society. Popular company ‘American Apparel’ became infamous for their sexy advertising campaigns attracting thousands upon thousands of consumers targeting males and females ages eighteen to thirty-four. However, the sexualisation of their company caused outrage and backlash from the public, sex sells but seemingly not to the entire population. One specific ad released in September 2014 described as ‘shocking’ and ‘sexist’ was banned by Watchdog for ‘sexualising school-age girls’ after featuring a school girl in a short tartan skirt bending over to reveal white underwear – the obvious focus of the ad. The ASA said: ‘We considered the images were gratuitous and objectified women, and were therefore sexist and likely to cause serious and widespread offence’. The campaign, including its backlash, raised to me the issues of today’s sexualized society. Viewing the campaign normalized the ‘dress code’ seemingly expected of school-age girls in the eyes of the popular clothing merchandise. However, the company shortly went bankrupt, reinstalling my own beliefs and confirming to me that not all of society promote the objectification of girls. While gathering my evidence for this topic I was comforted by the statistics showing that my confidence and sense of self is not weak in comparison to my peers for being so greatly affected by the idealization of women by the media and famous social networks, like the many I follow daily on Instagram. I am normal to be affected by these outlets – and better yet, it is understandable that I am as they’re such a huge part of the society and generation that I am part of. Gathering my research has helped educate myself on body confidence surrounding the media and its artificial idealistic women, but has also educated me on my sense of self and individuality. I have managed to reach the conclusion articulately put forward by famous R&B star and icon Rihanna; ‘”You shouldn’t be pressured into trying to be thin by the fashion industry, because they only want models that are like human mannequins. But you have to remember that it’s not practical or possible for an everyday woman to look like that. Being size zero is a career in itself so we shouldn’t try and be like them. It’s not realistic and it’s not healthy.’ Reading the stories behind the statistics and sexualized, touched up, artificial photographs portrayed by the media has enlightened me, leading me to realize that as a woman I do not have to become a statistic desperately trying to make myself fit societies unattainable ideals, I just need to reach my own goals. Recently Instagram’s famous fitness icon Kayla Itsines posted a quote that fully supports my point; ‘Your best weight is whatever weight you reach when you’re living the healthiest life you actually enjoy living’.
I’ll stop blabbering on now and conclude…
The media is a massive part of everyday life during this highly technological era, it now acts as a socialization process during childhood, shaping ideals, norms and attitudes. Children and young adults have no choice other than to be exposed to that call of multi-media since its infiltration into everyday lives since owning a smartphone has become a trend in itself – with 92% of teens reporting going online daily according to Amanda Lenhart.
Girls are now forced to be ‘willing’ participants in their own process of sexualisation, considered just another norm of daily life.
Unfortunately, the statistics and evidence suggest that the impact of the media on women and their subsequent control over their bodies has a negative impact; exacerbating low self-esteem, rape culture and unattainable body shape ideals.