In Hollywood and in media today, women are often times hypersexualized. In 2018, women like Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj, Scarlett Johansson, Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry and countless others have all been objectified by the media. These women are well known in the U.S. today and their objectification can have a powerful influence on young girls and women in society. The objectification of women in the media can send strong implications that the ideal woman or girl should be pretty, not powerful, noticed but not respected.
A big issue in this country centers around body image, and how women appear in our society. Body image is defined as the subjective picture or mental image of one’s own body. It sometimes is confused with self-esteem, which is defined as how you think or perceive and feel about yourself altogether.
For a young woman struggling with body image and self-esteem issues, this can be incredibly harmful as one develops into womanhood. It has impacted young girls and women alike with emotional, mental and physical wellness problems. These can include lower self-esteem issues, feelings of shame, depression and eating disorders.
Some eating disorders that are most common are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating. According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), “Full-blown eating disorders typically begin between 18 and 21 years of age.” It is also estimated between 10 and 20 percent of women in college will experience an eating disorder.
The disorders are usually, if not always, caused by this cultural prejudice against fat and obesity. The idea of being overweight, or not as thin as women depicted in the media, has influenced many young women. The definition of beauty has warped over time and many women feel that they are only valued for their appearances.
In our culture, we have created a certain kind of brand for the perfect woman. Women either have to be thin or have to be curvy in all of the right places. If you have all these factors you are deemed as the ideal woman. Our culture has forced women to be valued for their bodies and not their minds.
According to Unicef USA, a 2008 study by researchers at Wesleyan University found that on average, across a variety of 58 magazines, 51.8 percent of advertisements featuring women portrayed them as sex objects. When women appeared in advertisements in men’s magazines, they were objectified 76 percent of the time.
Another issue with the objectification of women in the media is the influence it has had on men. The message that the media is sending when displaying these sexual images not only impacts women on how they perceive themselves;, but also affects how men see women.
Men are influenced by the media with these explicit images to believe attractiveness or success is connected to dominance, power and aggression. Advertisements, music videos and films have come to represent what society, or even our culture, deems to be normal. The media often portrays this with images that degrade and even harm women, making violence towards women to be almost normalized. These stigmas also reduce the chances of these acts of violence, specifically sexual, to be reported as stated by Unicef USA.
According to a research study done by the U.S. Department of Justice from 2000 on the sexual victimization of college women, less than five percent of the rapes experienced by the surveyed women were reported to authorities. The most common reason that women hadn’t come forward to report these crime was out of fear that the occurrence wasn’t serious or harmful enough. The media and our culture can have a large role in empowering women to believe that any violence or offense is a serious and harmful matter.
In 2011, a documentary titled Miss Representation, which was directed and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, an American documentary filmmaker and actress, was released. The film analyzes and shows how the media has underrepresented women in positions of power. The film’s motto, “you can’t be what you can’t see,” has a message that young women need. Young women want positive role models, and the media has neglected to provide this to them.
Despite women still being objectified today, there are people fighting to change this with organizations such as the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. This is a research-based organization that is working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate and influence media producers to change and improve gender representation in films.
SPARK is another organization for women that stands for “Sexualization Protest Action Resistance Knowledge.” This is a movement that works against the sexualization, objectification and images of violence against women that are present in the media and society.
With organizations such as these fighting against the misrepresentation of women, it brings hope that people can come together to put a stop to the sexual objectification of women in the media.