Professor Publishes Report Linking Media Images To Sexualization
March 9, 2007 12:02 PM
We're constantly bombarded by images of skinny women on TV, magazines and the Internet, and now we’re seeing the effects on young girls and women.
On Feb. 19, the American Psychological Association reported that sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising and merchandising damages females’ self-image and healthy development.
Professor Deborah L. Tolman, director of SF State’s Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality, is on the APA’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.
“In our society, the sexualization for girls is so pervasive that it can feel normal for young girls to look like older women,” said Tolman the day the report was released.
Tolman, who also teaches in the human sexuality studies department, is a nationally recognized researcher on adolescent sexuality and mental health. She also mentions that parents should keep an open dialogue on what girls see in media.
“Talk about how marketing techniques make girls’ and women’s bodies look unnatural and focus people’s attention on their bodies as if that is all that is valuable about them. Get kids to question what they are seeing and hearing, and how they may be feeling about their own bodies and their own abilities,” said Tolman.
The report also stated that the sexualization of young women can affect social problems specific to women, such as violence and exploitation.
“Pressing social problems that disproportionately affect girls both directly and indirectly, including violence against girls and women, sexual exploitation of girls, forms of pornography, and prostitution of girls, may be maintained or even increased if there is a continued and escalating sexualization of girls. Some of these consequences are explored in the following sections," said the report on the sexualization of girls and young women.
“I just hate it when people blame the media, not that the media’s innocent, it’s not all their fault,” said Ashley Goulart, 21.
Goulart, a cinema major, believes that if girls emulate what they see in the media it’s from low self-esteem, and that parents and teachers should help girls address these problems.
“You can’t blame it all on a corporation... I think there is consumer responsibility,” said Goulart.
Harumi Inoue, a senior in art, says girls feel pressure to look like a model to feel attractive.
“If you don’t have big boobs or white teeth you can’t get a boyfriend,” said Inoue.
“A lot of women on TV and media; they look perfect, I think they need to use more realistic models,” added Inoue.
However Dove soap has changed the way they advertise to women, and use "real-life" women in their advertisements to women.
According to Dove in an email to the Xpress, they started their campaign for real beauty after they conducted a report that women don't feel represented by the beauty.
"The Dove global report revealed women do not feel represented by the beauty stereotypes currently prevailing in advertising and the media and desire a broader, more inclusive definition of beauty in popular culture. The report found that the narrow definition of beauty is having a profound affect on the self-esteem of women and only 2% of women described themselves as beautiful. This motivated Dove to create advertising campaigns and messages that debunked the stereotype that only young is beautiful and only blonde is beautiful," said Dove.
Bruce Robertson, assistant professor of marketing at SF State, says that marketers do target women, but they aren't the only ones.
“Yes, there are representations of a lot of things in the media that create unrealistic expectations for lots of people, not just young women, but for young men, for old men,” said Robertson. “When we measure ourselves against these media ideals we find ourselves falling short.”
Robertson said that human beings respond to aspirational goals.
“Beyond the negativity of this is people look for aspirational ideals, they want to improve themselves,” said Robertson. “So is it wrong to say if you are an athlete should you aspire to be like Tiger Woods, or is that creating an unrealistic expectation of you that ‘I need to be as good a golfer as Tiger Woods’ or is it OK for me to say that Tiger Woods is the ideal of a golfer and Shaquille O’Neil is an ideal of a basketball player, is that wrong?"
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