If you’ve got a spare 8 minutes lying around somewhere (8 minutes that, I assume, you haven’t already wasted on Tumblr or Pinterest) watch this trailer for Miss Representation, a documentary on the media’s representation of women in America.
As a Mass Media Studies major (I went to college, did you know?) I’m the first person to be privy to the amount of media each of us consumes each day. From billboards to magazines to television shows to commercials to movies to music to whatever else, we are inundated with messages like the ones shown in the trailer ad nauseam. But the thing that really caught my eye was the statistic that says that the average American teenager consumes an average of over 10 and a half hours of media each day. That’s insane. That is, quite literally, almost half of all the hours we have in the day and, depending on a person’s sleep schedule, the overwhelming majority of one’s waking hours.
These or our teenagers. Our daughters. Our sons. Our future.
I’ve written before about how I’m absolutely no help when it comes to grocery shopping. All I do is gaze desperately into pages and pages of tabloid magazine garb, all to suddenly find myself crawling my way out of a body-hating depression while my husband has to single-handedly line up and pay for all of our groceries. And, like I said, I’m a person who is already aware of the effects of the media on our perception of the world. What does this mean for those of us who do not know?
Naturally, after watching the trailer, I came to the conclusion that I’m never having kids. I won’t. I won’t bring my precious babies them into a world that will jam this skewed message about women down their throats. Oh crap, I thought. What if I accidentally get pregnant?! Then I decided that if I accidentally get pregnant, I’ll snatch my babies up and run away to the woods somewhere and form a community a la The Village minus the creepiness and never let them know of the horrors of the outside world.
Then I remembered that I’m ridiculous.
It makes no sense for me to tell you to run away or lock yourselves up in a closet and avoid media all together. Even though that would most definitely put a band-aid on the problem we have developed in this country, it certainly would not fix it. Whether we acknowledge it or not, something is wrong with this picture. Running away from reality is the last thing we need to do. We need to stand up to this problem, look the media in the face, and let them know how wrong they are.
TODAY’S SELF-LOVE TIP — CONSUME WISELY.
Since, unfortunately, living in this world means consuming media, we’ve got to learn how to consume wisely.
First of all, avoid those triggers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Once you know what triggers negative self-image, you can begin taking steps toward defeating those triggers and robbing them of their power over you. If reading fashion magazines puts you in an overwhelming funk, or makes you swear off calories forever, don’t read them. You can acknowledge their existence without consuming them. And, when you do so…
Talk about it. If you feel icky about a certain message that’s being communicated in the media, chances are, that message is icky. Your feelings are real. They are valid. Tell other people about how you feel about advertisements, or episodes of Two and a Half Men, or whatever else. Open up the conversation. Ask those around you what their opinion is on the matter and, if necessary, challenge their viewpoints (without having to drop a dollar in the Douchebag Jar, of course.)
Give context. If you’re in a position of influence to the younger generation (parents, teachers, youth leaders, counselors, older siblings, etc.) don’t be afraid to address the issue with these impressionable people. Just because they’re younger than you doesn’t mean they’re not mature enough to handle it. If nothing else, I’d guess they’re already feeling the effects of these negative messages and could benefit from your older and wiser influence.
The media is pushing out a very real message to our society that our teenagers are consuming almost the entirety of their waking hours. Don’t let the media have the last word on our kids’ self-worth.