On Monday, October 22nd, I was privileged to represent the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women as a panelist to discuss the film Miss-Representation held at Boston University. The film is a documentary on the affects the media has on the development of girls and their self-esteem. It is a powerful film and the statistics it presents are disturbing. For example, American teens spend:
- 31 hours a week watching television
- 17 hours a week listening to music
- 3 hours a week watching movies
- 4 hours a week reading magazines
- 10 hours a week on-line
This averages to 10 hours and 45 minutes of media consumption a day; so if mainstream media bombards teens with their messages that "women should be beautiful and sexy, while men should be powerful (and often violent)" this is the message our teens are receiving. Is it no wonder that 53% of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies and by the age of 17, 78% are?
If these statistics bother you, I urge you to educate yourselves and join the discussion.Hundreds of events across the country have been organized to bring awareness of this issue. You can get more information by connecting with Miss-Representation on FaceBook or Twitter (#notbuying it), or just by visiting the website www.missrepresentation.org. This is more than just a "feminist" issue; how society treats women and girls affects us all and it will take a community of women, men, boys and girls working together to stop the negative portrayals of women and girls in the media.
How important is this issue? A young girl (16 years of age) attended the panel discussion, she and her friend drove up from Worcester to be a part of the discussion. Why, because she knew there was issues of domestic violence, date rape and sexual assault in her high school and no one was talking about it. As a journalism student, she felt compelled to attend the panel discussion in the hopes that she could connect with someone who could help, which she did. She connected with many women who could provide information for her to disseminate to her classmates and girls in her community.
As the panel discussion came to a close, the burning question was - what can I do tomorrow or at the community level to further this discussion? There were a couple of suggestions: (1) call out sexism and sexist behavior when you see it, (2) compliment women and girls in a "substantive" way (i.e., how competent or smart she is versus how pretty), (3) educate yourself so you feel comfortable speaking about the topic and (4) join organizations that are working to make things better for women and girls.
Locally, I will be reaching out to community leaders, civic and service groups to continue this discussion. Feel free to contact me if you would like to become involved.
Enjoy the Journey!