Category Archives: images of women in the media

Maura Kelly: Heavy People Shouldn’t Kiss on TV

By editorial intern Lauren Castner

On October 25, Marie Claire posted an entry from blogger Maura Kelly about finding overweight people on TV “aesthetically displeasing.”  Kelly spends a large portion of her post railing on overweight people featured on shows like the CBS sitcom Mike & Molly.  In her mind, heavy people should not be intimate with each other on television.

The blog post has caused such a stir that not only has Kelly updated it to add an apology for the tone, but Marie Claire has started a series of response posts from other editors and bloggers discussing the issue.  One of the responses comes from Fatshionista, a blogger independent from Marie Claire.  The responses bring up many valid points about the lack of full-figured television characters that look like the rest of us.

Many websites and blogs are weighing in too, including Jezebel and the Huffington Post.  The integrity of the editors who allowed the post to be published has been called in to question – people want to know who thought the post was a good idea to publish in the first place.  While I was reading the original post, at least 35 more comments were posted about it on Marie Claire’s site.  Many women have publicly declared that they are cancelling their subscriptions and are calling for others to join them in doing so.

Body image and self-esteem issues run rampant, and fashion magazines such as Marie Claire play a role in perpetuating these issues.  Instead of appreciating our bodies and all that they can do for us, we focus on being too fat or too thin.  Let’s praise the fact that there is some diversity of size and shape on TV, not shove it into a corner. Being healthy, no matter what your size, is much more important than being thin.

What do you think about Maura Kelly’s post?  Does it change the way you think about Marie Claire? Tell us what you think!

The Case for Unaltered Celebrity Photos

By Sarah Binning
As unaltered photographs of Jennifer Aniston hit the Internet, airbrushing has again made headlines. The original photo shows Aniston’s freckled, lined face, while the magazine cover of Australia Madison indicates perfect skin sans freckles and wrinkles.
Most of the viewing public knows media images are edited. A recent study by the Good Surgeon Guide, indicates that nearly 90 percent of teen girls are aware celebrity images are edited. This leads us to an important question: If people know that these photos are unrealistic, why do is there so much interest in Photoshopped images?
Do you think celebrities would be less famous if media portrayed the “unedited” versions of them? The Merrriam-Webster definition of “celebrity” is the “state of being celebrated.”So what are we actually celebrating? Their talents? Accomplishments? Looks? It’s easy to focus on “celebrating” so much that we forget they are human. We all age, get wrinkles, and sport the occasional dreaded pimple!
Maybe if we all saw more unedited photos of these celebs, we could recognize them as “normal” and create a newer, more positive standard of beauty. And isn’t it possible that their flaws would make them more likable to us, not less?
Teens may understand that media images are unrealistic, but that doesn’t mean the images don’t affect their self-esteem. This summer, Teen Voices’ teen editors spent an entire week discussing and analyzing media representations of women. The teen editors also uncovered the types of females who are represented in film and TV, and, more importantly, which types are left out. Our girls discussed how easy it is to feel your self-esteem lowered, and to feel like a failure when you can’t reach impossible beauty. These standards might be unrealistic, but they can still deeply impact the way teens view themselves.
We’re always happy to see groups taking steps toward combating false representations of women. OneStopPlus.com, a top plus-sized retailer, will showcase only plus-sized models during their show at New York Fashion Week. The retailer is taking a lot of heat for participating in Fashion Week – but we’re looking forward to seeing these curvy women in the show!

What We Learned at Teen Voices This Week

Being a teen editor at Teen Voices brings with it a lot of experiences, togetherness, laughter, and learning. Our teen editors compiled a list of the things they have recently learned about relationships, hip hop, life, and each other. See if any of them sound familiar, and you may just learn something new!

• People almost always want to be your friend and it’s almost always worth the effort to be friends with them.
• Giant companies own many radio stations and control what we listen to.
• Looks don’t always reveal what’s going on inside. Actually, it doesn’t reveal much at all.
• You don’t need to specifically need to have a conversation with someone to feel close to them. Just sharing experiences shows trust and trust can make you feel close.
• When guys take care of their children (like they should in the first place) it shouldn’t be especially looked upon or praised because that’s what is expected.
• Media has a major impact on our lives when it shouldn’t.
• All the girls here have a lot in common as far as what they have been through in life.
• The power of a group is the most healing, beneficial and cleansing. There are many things that are not achievable individually that are possible to overcome in a group.
• The moment you give in to being yourself and overcome your shyness in a new environment there is a feeling of liberation and extreme happiness.
• I don’t always think about the music I listen to.
• The girls who seem the meanest are often the ones who have been through the most in life.
• Women don’t have an independent role in the hip hop world as much as I thought, especially after seeing how Beyonce dances around Jay-Z.
• You have to pay attention to the things you say, because you never know how other people are going to take it.
• A positive community can bring the best out of people.
• Making a difference in the world starts with you.

Wow!

Girl Scouts Is Ensuring Healthier Media for Girls!

By Teen Voices guest blogger Stephanie Harig

Stephanie Harig is an intern at Girl Scouts of the USA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office.

Every day we are bombarded by unhealthy media images of girls and women.  Even though we know that these depictions are not based in reality, many of us still define our self-worth by how we measure up to them.

A 2010 survey by the Girl Scout Research Institute found that 60 percent of girls compare their bodies to fashion models and 47 percent say fashion models give them a body to strive for. And only 46 percent of girls believe that the fashion industry does a good job of representing people of all races and ethnicities.

The problem is not only what girls think – it’s also what they do. The same survey found that more than half of girls admit to going on a diet to try to lose weight and 31 percent admit to starving themselves or refusing to eat. Moreover, 42 percent of girls say they know someone their age who has forced themselves to throw up after eating, while 37 percent know someone who has been diagnosed with an eating disorder.

We are smart and powerful, but there is no doubt that unhealthy images negatively influence our body image and self-esteem. So is there anything we can do about it?

The answer is YES!

Girl Scouts is taking steps to ensure that healthier media images of girls and women become a reality. First, our newest program, It’s Your Story, Tell It!, will be released this winter.  It will empower girls to use the media as an agent of change and vehicle for self-expression, effectively helping them build their self-esteem.

Girl Scouts also supports The Healthy Media for Youth Act (H.R. 4925), which was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswomen Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).  The bill addresses unhealthy media images of girls and women through three avenues:

  • grants to support media literacy programs;
  • research on how depictions of women and girls in the media affect the health of youth;
  • and, the creation of a National Taskforce on Women and Girls in the Media.

Current media images of girls and women set unrealistic standards that distract us from what is important and make it harder to believe in ourselves. This is not the reality in which we should have to live!  The Healthy Media for Youth Act is a step toward a new, girl-positive reality!

Imagine a world full of healthy media images of women and girls. Positive images of girls and women in the media would foster self-esteem, positive body image, and healthy relationships.  Girl Scouts further encourages the media to highlight strong female role models, more women in leadership roles, and body type, racial, and ethnic diversity.

If this is the world you want to see, then TAKE ACTION!  Join Girl Scouts as we advocate for healthier media images.  Visit www.girlscouts4girls.org and send a letter of support for the Healthy Media for Youth Act (H.R. 4925) to your Member of Congress. By using our GIRL POWER we can change our reality!

Teen Voices Featured in Documentary

Teen Voices is featured in this short documentary from What You Can Do! Watch and find out about ways you can get involved in changing the world for girls through media.

New Projects from Media Analyst Jean Kilbourne

By Teen Voices editorial intern Christina Loridas

How do we change the way society views women? How can women be seen as more than an underwear ad or a bedroom staple? It starts when we analyze the destructive images we see on a daily basis. Jean Kilbourne is known worldwide for her criticism of advertising and its negative images of women.  She has conducted studies on the media’s affect on eating disorders, violence, and addiction.

Kilbourne’s series Killing Us Softly, based on her lectures, looks at advertising and its destructive themes of sexism, racism, and perfection. Now, she will release a fourth installment of the series: Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women (Media Education Foundation) will be available online and in stores April 15. Can’t wait until April? Check out the Media Education Foundation’s excellent study guide to Killing Us Softly and find out more about Kilbourne’s work at http://jeankilbourne.com.

Boston Girls Express Themselves…Poetically!

By Teen Voices editorial intern Jackie Catcher

Poetically Speaking performers and Teen Voices peer leaders-in-training Anna-Cat and Kassandra

Poetically Speaking performers and Teen Voices peer leaders-in-training Anna-Cat and Kassandra

Whoever said “money makes the world go round” should have attended Poetically Speaking, where 20 teens proved there’s more to life than making bank.  The annual poetry/spoken word event, which Teen Voices presented in partnership with Emerson College, had a special theme this year: “The Value of Voice.”  Teen girls (and a couple of women) performed their original poetry to a packed house at Emerson, using four topics to guide their poems: overdraft protection, more than face value, making ‘change,’ and R.I.C.H. (Respected, Influential, Courageous and Hopeful) Girls.

Through prose and rhymes, the girls thanked the people who have supported and cared for them, discussed the meaning of real beauty, thought aloud about how to improve our world, and showed how their respect, influence, courage and hope make them some of the RICHest girls in the world.  “My outer beauty doesn’t make me successful, get it straight.  It’s my passion, drive, and determination that structure my fate.  My passion for writing is going to open my gate,” rhymed Tekeisha Meade in her poem Imagine.

Kaire greets the audience during her performance

Kaire greets the audience during her performance at Poetically Speaking

As girls danced onto the stage, host Saun Green kept everyone laughing, but these girls were also here to talk seriously about change – and we don’t mean coins.  Poet  Kaire Holman recited, “I’m here to pick up the change and advance the pace of this race, and in time, our line will be fine.  I’m that coin collector,  and I’m also their overdraft protection.”

Rather than addressing dollar value, the teens expressed voice value—the importance of amplifying their voices.  They had the audience laughing, crying, and dancing in their seats.  “Do we all need to conform?  Conform to the ideals that this thickness I got right here is wrong?  That my light brown and curly hair don’t fit their song?   Well listen —  listen carefully.  The beauty I got, you can’t even see,” wrote Natasha Gonzalez in her piece Conforming.

The Poetically Speaking performers gather after the event

The Poetically Speaking performers gather after the event

Inspiring, strong, confident, and beautiful, these young poets showed that teen girls are way more than just pretty faces – they are a social movement, a generation of strong new voices, a group that isn’t going to wait to add their voices to society — because their time is now!

Photography by Lolita Parker, Jr. of Parker Digital Imaging