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I am loving what’s going on with the Healthy MEdia: Commission for Positive Images of Women and Girls right now.  In case you haven’t heard, this is a group spearheaded by the Girl Scouts of theUSA and co-chaired by Geena Davis, founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and Deborah Taylor Tate, former FCC commissioner.  They’re taking it right to where it counts –Washington,DC – to tell legislators why action needs to be taken in order to create a better media environment for kids.

I recently read an article by Deborah Taylor Tate that talked about the imbalance of females to males in the media.  According to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, despite being 50 percent of the U.S. population, in family films and television, male characters outweigh female characters nearly 3:1 with only 27 percent of the speaking characters cast as female.

At first I thought to myself, “Does this really matter all that much?”  So I went on over to Google and decided to see what popped up when I Google-imaged “women in movies” and “women on television.”

And that, my friends, is where I found the bulk of the problem. 

While the ratio of women to men might be off, I think the biggest problem is not as much the quantity but the quality.  Just look at the pictures that pop up when you do those Google searches.  You’re gonna see a lot of skin and bust. 

Here are a few more stats for you to chew on.  According to the Girl Scout Research Institute, sexualized messages and images of girls and women not only impact girls, but also result in boys’ developing unrealistic and unhealthy expectations.  (And hello – if you watch what the average man watches, the quality of women characters gets even lower than usual).

And this is the one that really gets me.  Nearly all girls compare themselves to fashion models, with 31 percent admitting to starving themselves or refusing to eat as a strategy to lose weight.

31%

That’s too many.  Those girls don’t have strong enough role models to look up to.  I know what you’re saying – it should start in the home!  They should have real-life positive role models to look up to!  And you’re absolutely right.  But it’s 2011 and that just isn’t always possible.  And whether we like it or not, they’re going to consume media.  Because – and this is the last stat I’ll throw at you I promise – children between 8- and 18- years-old spend over 10 hours a day engaging with media.

They are going to see it.  They are going to react to it.  So we have to change it.

Actress Geena Davis, former FCC Commissioner Debi Tate and the Girl Scouts will be in DC tomorrow to promote Healthy MEdia: Commission for Positive Images of Women and Girls.  According to Potomac Flacks, members of the commission include Katherine Schwarzenegger (daughter of Gov. Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver), model Emme, NBC Chief Medical Editor Nancy Snyderman and Seventeen Magazine Editor-in-Chief Ann Shoket, among others.

Girl Scouts of the USA played an integral role in pushing the Heathy Media for Youth Act into Congress in hopes of creating more programs and funding to help promote more positive media images for girls and women. 

I am a huge supporter of all of this.  We need to have healthier images out there for our young girls and, let’s face it, for us as adult women AND men.  It does us no good to continue on the path we’re on where we sexualize girls way too young, express that skinny is the only way to beautiful and set up unrealistic expectations for women.  Our media can do better – we just have to make them!

I leave you with this public service announcement – a 2011 Gracie Award Winner.  It’s called “Watch What You Watch.”  The campaign is created in partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA, The Creative Coalition, National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and the National Association of Broadcasters.

Be honest.  How many times have you gathered with your buddies and started some small talk that included celebrity bashing.  Picking up a copy of People magazine and gasping at the “Worst Beach Bodies” and “Guess Who’s Cellulite This Is?” pictures.

You’ve been there, haven’t you?  I’ve certainly caught myself saying or thinking mean things about celebrities. It’s just so much easier – and acceptable – to insult them than it is to insult someone in real life.  Celebrity body bashing – everybody does it, right?

I was reading some articles today about Khloe Kardashian’s interview for Cosmopolitan magazine Middle East (can you believe that magazine is allowed over there?!?)  She is constantly being bashed by the media and by fans for being the, and I quote her not myself, “ugly sister.”  I cannot imagine how difficult that must be for her (especially considering the fact that she is not at all ugly or fat or anything less than gorgeous).  She has obviously developed some incredibly thick skin to be able to deal with that.

 Sometimes we justify our celebrity bashing with, “Well, she’ll never hear me say it” or “I’m not saying it to her face.”  But who’s face are you saying it to?  Your friend’s face who might be dealing with body insecurities herself?  Or maybe a little girl heard you bash one celebrity and praise another for body perfection.  Now that little girl has the idea of “perfection” in her head and that it’s something she needs to achieve to be loved and praised. 

Or maybe it doesn’t affect anyone but you.  Constantly looking at those magazine with the “Hot or Not” columns is like putting your self-esteem on drugs.  You might feel good about it in the moment, but it’s not healthy and it will damage you in the long run.  It brain washes you into thinking that one body type is “bad” and “ugly” and another body type is “beautiful” and “good.” 

Don’t get me wrong.  I love celebrity gossip as much as the next girl.  But there has to come a point where we stop and realize exactly what we’re consuming and how it’s affecting you.  Conscious consumerism.   There are so many healthier ways to entertain ourselves than by body bashing celebs and, indirectly, ourselves.

What do you think about celebrity body bashing?  Do you catch yourself participating?  Have you ever been negatively affecting by someone else’s body bashing?

Worry. 

I hate that word.  I feel like it is such a constant in my life.  I am definitely a worry wort.  Constantly worried.  Worried about my job, my husband and his job, family and their jobs, my health, their health what I eat and how I exercise, my savings account (or lack there of), whether or not this blog will ever help anyone, my dog’s allergies, the mess in my house, the environment/economy/country/world/blah blah blah blah.

Exhausting!!

Tully worries about everything. She is always terrified.

This may come as a complete shock to you (not) but women are actually twice as likely to suffer from worry-driven anxiety than men, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.  Some studies say it’s in our DNA (thanks, hormones).  Others say it’s societal.  I think it’s a bit of both.

What’s sad is that it shows up even in young girls.  According to a Girl Scout Research Institute study, girls are generally more concerned than boys about issues such as getting along with friends, doing well in school and of course, how they look.  I hate this study: nearly half of the 3- to 6- year old girls worried about being fat.  (I also hate the title of the study: Too Fat to be a Princess.  As if being a princess is something we hope our girls are aiming for.  But that’s a post for another time.) 

Our society definitely plays a role.  The stakes are higher these days.  Women are expected to do more and to do it well.  The line between work and personal life is completely blown (thanks, Droid) and we continue to focus our goals on material things: money, houses, clothes, etc.  We’ve gotten away from the basics that used to keep us grounded. 

Of course we worry.

Nova never worries. She keeps it real. All she ever wants is to play fetch.

The good thing is, worry is controllable.  There are plenty of coping mechanisms out there.  First off, you have to start with taking care of yourself.  That means an appropriate amount of exercise and healthy, whole foods.  That means taking time out for yourself, even if it’s just 10 minutes, to reconnect to what really matters to you.  Say a prayer.  Take a walk.  Do some yoga (which I HIGHLY suggest you try if you haven’t). Read a book.  Sit outside.  Watch a marathon of Real Housewives or whatever mindless TV you like.  Whatever makes you happy and calm. 

During really difficult times, it might mean reaching out for help, whether that be talking to a loved one or even seeking professional therapy.  I think therapy is the greatest thing ever invented and I will never understand why it’s so taboo.  People who go to therapy are not the crazy ones.  They are, in fact, the smart ones.

So take a deep breath.  Count to 10.  And go to your happy place (as my mom would say).

My happy place.

This has been quite the week and I just haven’t had time to post yesterday.  Trying to be okay with this blog being far less than “perfect”!  So here’s a little something I stumbled upon this morning and wanted to share.

When I saw this video posted on 7Wonderlicious, a great blog by the way, I just had to repost it here.  I’ve seen this before and really admire Jean Kilbourne for her work in raising awareness about the way advertising portrays women.  Her series Killing Us Softly brings light to the sexualization and objectification of women’s bodies in advertising.  Once you become aware of how widespread this issue is, you will never look at ads the same way again.

Here’s one of her Killing Us Softly pieces.  You can find others on YouTube.

This is just another reason why we have to talk to kids and get their attention early, before the advertisers do.

What do you think of this negative use of advertising space?  Do you think it’s an issue?

Barbie and Ken are really getting up there in age.  Last week, Barbie turned 52 and this Friday, Ken will earn his AARP card as he turns the big 5-0.  For half a century, the iconic dolls have made an impact on the lives of our little girls and perhaps even our little boys.  But has that impact been a positive one?

People call it the “Barbie Effect.”  Her impossibly tiny frame creates an unrealistic expectation of what the woman’s body could ever be.  At a 1/6 scale, Barbie in real life would be 5 foot 9 and have measurements of 36 (chest), 18 (waist) and 33 (hips).  The average American is 39-34-42 and even the classic derogatory songs claim that 36-24-36 is perfection.  But an 18 inch waist on a 5 foot 9 woman?  I don’t think so.

 The most disturbing thing I found about Barbie was the 1965 Slumber Party doll.  She came with several accessories including a scale permanently set to 110 (which by the way would give her a BMI of 16.2) and a book entitled How to Lose Weight which suggested, “Don’t eat!”  Just what every 8 year old needs to know! 

By the way, the matching Slumber Party Ken got milk and cookies for his accessories.  There was also a Barbie who proclaimed both “I love shopping!” but also “Math class is tough.”  And then there’s also the issue of the lack of Barbie dolls of different races.  Sure there are a few, but in the past they have had their issues as well.

All of this information can certainly get the blood boiling but at the end of the day, can be blame the lack of self-esteem and poor body image our girls have on Barbie dolls?!?  Are Barbie dolls really toxic to young girls growing up?  Some people say yes.  What do you think?

I had a really hard time with this because I had Barbie dolls and I LOVED them.  I had a whole collection of them with outfits, houses and even a Barbie limo.  (Gosh I loved that thing!)  So my first reaction to this was, “I loved Barbie dolls and I turned out okay!”

And then I realized, “Oh wait.  Except for that whole eating disorder/poor body image thing.”  Right.  Forgot about that.

But there’s no way I could blame all of those issues on the fact that I played with Barbie dolls when I was young.  In my mind, the Barbie Effect is similar to the way media affects all of us today.  You cannot say eating disorders are caused by the media (or by Barbies).  However, I do think they play a role.  If someone is predisposed to eating disorders to begin with, these negative messages can push them into those unhealthy behaviors or can make it that much harder for them to recover. 

I feel like conscious consumerism is important here.  You can’t shelter yourself (or your daughter/sister/niece/cousin) from Barbies or the media but you can be aware of their possible negative effects.  When you’re conscious of this, you can balance them out by being a positive role model yourself and not being afraid to start conversations about why those expectations are so unrealistic.  You can focus on the real things that matter such as education (math class doesn’t have to be “tough”), giving back (community service is the best confidence booster) and of course, positive body image (we’re all different and our imperfections make us beautiful).

So what do you think?  Are Barbie dolls toxic to little girls?

In the wake of International Women’s Day, I wanted to talk about a few of the major successes we’ve had as women.  I think it’s easy to get carried away with our demands for more everything and we forget to stop and take a look at how far we’ve come, particularly in this country.   

Let’s be real.  In America, we are insanely lucky.  We have so many rights and freedoms, accessible health care (I know…the level of health care might be debatable but there are doctors on every street corner…that’s more than most African nations can say), opportunities for quality education and so much more.  American women seem to have it all.

We are able, in this wonderful country, to push as hard as we need to push to get that top position in the company.  We might only be paid 80 cents the man’s dollar, but we are getting paid.  We can start our own companies and be our own boss.  We can be the boss of hundreds of others – including men.  We can express ourselves freely through blogs, through books, through magazines, through speech.  We can vote on who will lead our country and, more importantly, one day, one of us will take that seat in the Oval Office.  It’s only a matter of time. 

Of course, all of that privilege does take its toll.  It creates the demand for the Superwoman and puts unrealistic pressures on women to look perfect, work their butts off to climb the ladder to the top and still maintain their dainty, pleasant female personalities

But at least we have those opportunities.  And most importantly, we have the power and the brains to make the changes that still need to be made.  We have the power to help our sisters in countries around the world who are not nearly as blessed as we are.  We have the power to be the women we want to be and to help lead the country, and the world, towards equality.

And on that note, I leave with this awesome video released yesterday.  James Bond for equality?

It’s only a matter of time, ladies.

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