If you had asked me six months ago if I was affected by the media’s presentation of women, I would have responded with an unequivocal no. Yes, TV and magazines bombard us with horribly warped images of what a woman is and should be, but after all, I’m a feminist. I can expose myself to images of impossibly skinny, tall, well-dressed teens and look at them with clear eyes and my self-esteem intact. I know they’re not real! Besides, I think I’m attractive already, and just like to read the fashion magazines for the outfits, and nothing else. So what if I skim over the “how to get a hot guy to hook up with you” sections? This stuff really can’t possibly have any effect on me!
I used to have a little tradition of buying a cheesy teen magazine during the first week of summer and lying on the beach reading about the perfect nail polish color, or how to make your skin appear flawless. The primary reason I enjoyed this was because I knew it was pure junk, and that most of it could not be accurate. Yet I recently began to look into how inaccurate these magazines are in portraying how teenage girls are and should be, while also considering the effects on the self-esteem of many readers. Because even I, who laughed at most of the spreads on the glossy pages, felt my happiness with my body disintegrate a bit each time I picked up one of those magazines.
A few weeks ago I attended the Young Women’s Leadership Institute at Barnard College, and I decided that I should focus on body image and the media’s effects on the minds and bodies of young girls. I learned so much from all the girls I talked to at the program, from the classes and workshops I participated in, and from all the research I conducted on the subject. There is just so much to say about the issue of magazines and media and their effects on teenage girls’ perception of themselves. One portion of my group’s project included a video in which we interviewed many girls participating in the Young Women’s Leadership Institute. I hope you watch this video and spread the message!
Magazines, T.V. and Disney: The Negative Portrayal of Beauty in the Media
From a young age, I recognized a pattern in the movies I frequently watched. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White – their major goal is to find Prince Charming. Being young and impressionable, I too started dreaming of my prince charming I would one day come to meet.
As I got older, around my pre-teen years, I developed a collection of magazines due to my interest in style and fashion. I’d flip through so many each day, and without even noticing how and why, I began to feel less and less confident in myself. And more and more self-conscious about the way I looked. Pretty soon I felt as though no guy would ever want me because of the way I looked. I began to think I’d …
When I was nine years old, I secretly dreamed of becoming a model.
I still wanted to be a writer, of course, but hey, a girl can dream, right? My family doctor had told my parents that because of their heights (my mom is 5’6” and my dad is 6’1”), my twin brother and I were likely to grow like bean sprouts to over 6 feet. I liked being tall for my age. Being my nine-year-old-self, I thought my potential height would be the key to becoming a model. (Also being young and naïve, I succumbed to society’s spoon-fed diet of telling girls that beauty is limited to certain numerical requirements. Thanks, society.)
I also liked the way models looked so serious as they strutted down the runway. (I distinctly …