Even when we do reach the top……

Last year in Ireland, The Independent newspaper published a report. It highlighted Helen McEntee’s success on becoming the Dail’s youngest female TD. However, it quickly points out: “but let’s face it, that high is still a paltry figure. Just 26 of the country’s 166 elected representatives are female”. Sue Ellen, a Fine Gael area rep in 2013, stated how she believes that perhaps more women would be willing to join politics if they were given more of an opportunity. Personally I feel that women are afraid of such roles firstly because we are simply more responsible in the home but also because we are wholly under-represented and even when we do have female politicians, it often appears that nasty remarks regarding women s physical appearance will be made. Back in 2011 Mick Wallace labelled Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell as “Miss Piggy”

Mick Wallace “…Miss Piggy has toned it down a bit today.”

Shane Ross: “Who’s that?”

Wallace: “Miss Piggy has toned it down a bit.”

Flanagan: “That Mary Mitchell O’Connor one. I couldn’t remember her name on Vincent Browne.”

Ross: “Was she on with you?”

Flanagan: “No she wasn’t…the one who drove off the plinth…they’d want to ban her wearing pink.” (Flanagan is referring to the incident earlier this year where Mitchell O’Connor took a wrong turn on her first day in the Dáil and drove down steps outside Leinster House)

Ross: “[Laughter]. Oh yeah, that’s right. She’s nothing sensational, she normally wears the most garish colours (trails off)…”

Male colleagues often feel the need to diminish their female colleagues. PWC came under fire when it was revealed that an internal e-mail was circulated in which 13 new female colleagues who were subsequently ranked into the “top ten” based on their looks. For more information on this click here.

Often still, the single most influential, high achieving women will be negatively scrutinized by the media in terms of their looks. The media is so derogatory to some of the most influential and powerful women in the world. This derogatory is not in any way coming solely from men. One of my favourite lines from one of the video clips on Fox News shows a female reporter and she states: “You all saw the famous photo from the weekend showing Hilary Clinton looking so haggard and….what looking like 92?!!” Yep. Hilary Clinton didn’t look picture perfect after a tiresome campaign. It doesn’t matter what she was campaigning/ speaking about. What matters is she didn’t look great. This is the most important thing. Reporters constantly play on this concept of women and their looks. In 2012 a publication in Elle commented how she was in an awful habit of pulling her hair back in a casual scrunchie while roughly the same time the French magazine had a headline stating “Hillary au Naturale” which commented on her lack of makeup. Celinda Lake sums it up quite nicely when she states: “What is just absolutely amazing is how pervasive this is and how true it is even for  women reporters and the degree to which even if women try to develop just a uniform for the job we can’t seem to get off this topic,”. That topic of course being appearance. This piece has has come from this article be sure to check it out!

Erika Falk, author of “Women for President: Media Bias in Nine Campaigns also found in her publication that news reports for every female presidential candidate from Victoria Woodhill in 1872 to Hilary Clinton in 2008 has received quadruple the amount of appearance based coverage in comparison to their male counterpart. Even nowadays the notion that what is most important for any woman is how she looks with less of an emphasis on her career achievements or success.

The stronger women become in power, the stronger the backlash against them. The problem is that this is not about to change anytime soon either. There are so few women in high level positions and as you go further and further up the ladder in media, you will find that there exist only a handful of females in high end media positions, in fact only 3% of clout positions in telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising are held by women.

The highly successful director, Catherine Hardwicke, director of Twilight and Thirteen to name but a few, states how she has been point blankly turned down for jobs simply because it has been stated to her that the film would be better of being directed by a male, from a males perspective, yet the directors of films such as Sex and the City, sisterhood of the travelling pants, all directed by males and there is never anything said about that. This short video here from Miss Representation captures this 

Overall, it becomes clear that the struggle women face in terms of being unfairly represented by the media is having an impact on how we are taught to judge women. The full version of Miss Representation can be found here, which was brought to my attention by the blogger Wicked Tragic, so thank you for that! It really highlights all those issues and really opened my eyes! It is well worth a watch!

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Combating the stereotype

My last post introduced the whole notion of the impact that media has on our perceptions of normality. It centred on how women, in particular, are enhanced and photoshopped to a large extent in magazines in particular. According to a 2010 study, 81% of girls would rather see real or natural photos of models in magazines. 63% of girls stated how body image displayed by the media is “unrealistic” yet, 60% say that they compare themselves to the fashion models and over half again wished that they were as skinny as the models in the photos. In short, girls see images that – despite recognizing as unrealistic, unattainable, and often not even real – they aspire to meet and then suffer when they can’t help but fail to do so (Nyc.gov, 2015).

This new post will highlight how (thankfully!) how different campaigns, organisations and certain celebrities are speaking out against such issues and are fighting to have women represented in a fair and realistic light.

The Big Apple is one of the first cities to take on and tackle such issues as a whole. Later on in the fall of 2015 it aims to target its campaign to young girls aged 7-12 years in order to help showcase the importance of individualism and normality. It aims to showcase a number of videos and images displays at bus shelters, busses themselves, park benches with the words “I am a girl, I a beautiful the way I am”. The initiative also is providing a curriculum aimed at 10 – 15 year old girls which explains positive changes in girls’ body image, body satisfaction, and body esteem. Although not implemented in all schools, it has been met with great success in after school sessions and in summer schools and the initiative aims to have the program implemented in 200 + schools by the end of the year. If you want more information be sure to click  here

A great initiative which tackles the lies offered by media. However I cannot help but be saddened by the whole initiative. It has now gotten to such a stage that young women are in need of formal education which needs to explain to them that they are fine the way they look, oh and just because you don’t look like one of the models in a magazine, well that’s okay. Oh and in fact its actually acceptable to just be yourself. Yep, to young women on today’s society, such concepts are alien when really they should be the most natural thing in the world.

Another great initiative has been offered by Dove:

This initiative was launched over 10 years ago! Dove acknowledged that women were not displayed in a realistic light and so it made to change that. Dove instead sought out real women to be advertised in their campaigns. These women were from a range of backgrounds and average sized women are being displayed in their advertisements. By doing this, Dove is challenging the stereo types associated with women and promotes a healthy body image.

Celebrities are also speaking out about photoshopping:

Recently Ashley has spoken out:

Photo of Ashley Benson with a recent post on Instagram reading: "Saw this floating around hope its not the poster. Our faces in this were from 4 years ago and we all look riduclous. Way too much photoshop, we all have flaws. No one looks like this, its not attractive
Image credit (Nyc.gov, 2015) available fromhttp://www.nyc.gov/html/girls/html/issues/issues.shtml

The intent is phenomenal. By publicly stating and publicly highlighting the fact that she is merely a representation of herself, not her true self is significant. This is sure to have an impact on the readers of such. The fact that she distinguishes herself from the image is interesting, for all too often, the reader is unaware or simply forgets the fat that the image has been photoshopped.

The point is that women should be fairly represented by the media and more than ever we are hearing a murmuring of voices speaking out, advocating for a rightful representation of women. But what about men?  more to come on that in the next post so stay tuned (always wanted to write that!)

Sources

Nyc.gov, (2015). NYC Girl’s Project – The Issues. [online] Available at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/girls/html/issues/issues.shtml [Accessed 11 Feb. 2015].

Media and its power on us

All too often we tell ourselves that we are aware of the fact that images of models in magazines and on social media are photoshopped and enhanced. We know that these images do not necessarily represent real life. We recognise that such images are the work of a team of professional hair stylists, make -up artists, enhanced lighting, and the list goes on, but then why has it been statistically proven that these images cause real harm? Today more than ever girls and women, being exposed to such, and particularly from a young age, are more prone to eating disorders, depression and low self -esteem.

Ads and images normalise such expectations of what a female should look like. These images offer far more to the reader than the product they are selling. They play on our emotions, and sense of normality. They tell us that it is not okay not to be anything other than perfect.

These images have become so embedded and embraced as part of normal life that we have devised ways to achieve such looks. Girls are learning from an ever younger age that they need to look a certain way. A perfect example of this was highlighted by NYU Language Medical Centre. Among 5-12 grade girls (that’s equivalent to third class girls and up in the Irish system) said they wanted to lose weight. Over half of these girls said that they wanted to lose weight because of images they saw in magazines (Aboutourkids.org, 2015). Half of these girls also said they disliked their body image. This is troubling and sad, shouldn’t this be the last thing in the world for a kid to worry about? Isn’t it becoming obvious that body image is become an all too important measure of self-worth? Not only will these young kids fail in their attempts to resemble the photo in the magazine, teens and women of all ages will also fail because obtaining such is impossible. Images are photoshopped and enhanced. Women often feel like failures when they don’t even come close to resembling such images and so more and more products are bought to try and achieve the desired outcome.

We live in a society whereby we are constantly bombarded with the same message time and time again. Beauty is an incredibly thin, Caucasian and most importantly young women. Even other races are only considered beautiful if they resemble such features. The model Cameron Russell states in her video how this has become a “legacy” of today’s day and age http://

 Video credit :(Russell, 2015)

Older women in particular are told over and over again that having wrinkles and grey hair is completely unacceptable. Society will not stand for it and you will be shunned if you dared venture outside with such a look. Anti -wrinkle creams, hair colors are but a few of an ever growing industry which prey on such notions of beauty. Below is an image of such. These two celebrities are more or less the same age yet, the woman has to be enhanced and photoshopped so as not to show any wrinkles, indeed she does not have a single flaw. Why is it that Linda cannot even look real but becomes a falsified version of what women really look like? Why is Brad allowed to resemble, at least, some form of himself?

boy vs girl
Photo credit from (BEAUTY REDEFINED, 2012) available                       from: http://www.beautyredefined.net/photoshop-phoniness-hall-of-shame/

Furthermore women are often showcased as things, as objects. Turning a human being into a thing is the most dehumanising thing that you can do, yet everywhere we turn we see this more and more. As a society we have simply learned to accept that is perfectly okay to showcase a female as such. Only certain parts of the body are showcased and the female body is simply seen as a thing or an object. Jean Kilbourne has captured this whole notion and I would urge you to watch the 4 minute video here:

Video credit: (Killing Us Softly, 2010)

It certainly opened my eyes to just how pronounced this issue is!

The harsh reality is that even though we may be all too aware of the falseness of these ads, they are having more of an impact on us than we may realise.

Bibliography

Aboutourkids.org, (2015). How to Raise Girls with Healthy Self-Esteem | AboutOurKids.org. [online] Available at: http://www.aboutourkids.org/articles/how_raise_girls_healthy_selfesteem [Accessed 5 Feb. 2015].

BEAUTY REDEFINED, (2012). Photoshop Phoniness: Hall of Shame. [online] Available at: http://www.beautyredefined.net/photoshop-phoniness-hall-of-shame/ [Accessed 5 Feb. 2015].

Killing Us Softly, (2010). [TV programme] YouTube.

Russell, C. (2015). Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model.. [online] Ted.com. Available at: http://www.ted.com/talks/cameron_russell_looks_aren_t_everything_believe_me_i_m_a_model?language=en#t-369473 [Accessed 5 Feb. 2015].