Feb 21st, 2016, 12:26 AM

How The Media Cages Our Bodies and Minds

By Eva Gudnason
Image Credit: Eva Gudnason
And how it's one stop away from developing a eating disorder.

Last Tuesday night, the Empowerment Through Media Literacy Workshop was held in Combes. The room was packed full of more than 70 people, with additional seating that had to be brought in. Professor Westley, who teaches the Intro into Media & Communications class, said, "It was great to see such a good turnout of students and it looked as though everybody, despite the gravity of the issues raised, had a really good time."

The event kicked off by talking about femininity and how society distorts and infiltrates these various mediums, in order to bring a certain ideology of how women should look and behave. As a result, these are often contradictory expectations, such as being sexy, but still “virginal”. Through Photoshop and advertisements, women are also edited to resemble what no human could ever achieve. Tina Fey’s famous quote of a perfect body from her book, Bossy Pants, is a perfect example of these objectives. Moreover, women are rarely seen as strong and independent and holding careers, typically only as objects or stay-at-home moms. Having these examples for little girls is detrimental to how they will view themselves in the future because that’s all they have to look up to, thus perpetuating the ongoing and unrealistic expectations. 

On the other side of the spectrum, we also explored masculinity. The masculinity group started off by defining what it meant to be masculine, in the stereotypical sense, and later showed a powerful video, asking male AUP students what they thought their most non-masculine feature was. The male presenters mentioned that the participants in the video were excited to contribute to the video because they often don't have a chance to comment on this topic, due to the small ratio of men to women at our university. To demonstrate the pressure of becoming masculine, the group created an imaginary AUP student and showed his life through the exposure of overly masculine stereotypes.

The third group talked about the cultural beauty standards and how Western ideologies have impacted our views. Although non-white people make up the majority of the world's population, white people dominate most industries. The group also brought up the notion of whitewashing and how certain countries change their appearance to look more white. Many recent films have been criticized for this, like Aloha for casting Emma Stone and trying to pass her off as half Asian.

Image Credits: Eva Gudnason

Dr. Chloe Menon concluded the discussion by talking about the effects of media's display of women's bodies. She brought in a more scientific perspective to inform the audience about various eating disorders. Although the workshop has ended, presenter Emma Roberts expresses that "there is so much left to talk about, like the forms that male and female stereotypes take in everyday life and the implications of fashion and makeup choices. For example, is wearing makeup a choice made by women to make themselves feel more confident, is it an artistic outlet, or is it simply another societal expectation thrust upon women? The workshop was certainly a step in the right direction."

If you are interested in seeing the video that the masculinity group did, I provided it below: