The SPARK Summit

From the SPARK Summit on the sexualization of women and girls in the media and its effects on young women:


20 thoughts on “The SPARK Summit

  1. Sarah Canavan says:

    I think they key thing here is self esteem. The media is a powerful thing. Even the most secure woman in the world can take a hit to her self esteem when Blake Lively in all her blonde, thin, tall gloriousness parades around on Monday nights in the highest fashion with the hottest guys (Gossip Girl reference, for all the men out there…). That the media sexualizes women is obvious. It’s been done, it’s still being done, and it will always be done. It’s just the way it is–the more reality TV there is, the easier it is for people to get their 15 minutes for taking off their bikinis on spring break, the more sexualized TV becomes. The issue is HOW these sexualized images affect the people “on the ground,” so to speak. I don’t know if there was ever a time when you could voluntarily opt out from being a part of the media. Maybe way back when. But, you certainly can’t opt out now. Even if you don’t have a TV, you have the internet. If you don’t have the internet, there are newspapers and magazines and posters on the street. There is no escape from the “image,” which is exactly what the media pedals. Of course, the “image” refers to sex, sexy women, and the ideal woman. If you are not those things IN THE EYES OF MEN, then you are not a woman (or at least, a good woman). Right? Because if you don’t look like Barbie as she sits in her dream house, then who are you? I don’t think there is a fat Barbie. Is there? What about a flat-chested Barbie? What about a working-mom Barbie? If you are any of those things and then you see Barbie in a magazine, boom: major hit to your self esteem. But, let’s not exclude men here, because they certainly face some of these challenges, too. I’m pretty sure there’s no chest-hair Ken…

    There has been so much said about the media and its effects on self esteem. But clearly all the rhetoric hasn’t been working that well because each day, Snooki takes of another layer of clothes… Personally, (and I know I am extraordinarily biased because I loathe reality TV) I think reality TV is a MAJOR factor in the sexualization of women. Okay, it was happening long before reality tv made it’s debut. But, the voluntary nature of reality tv, the REALITY of it (whether that’s legit or not), takes away the “women only look like that in the airbrushed pages of magazines” outlet. It takes away the reasoning that they’re actresses, and it’s their job to look pretty all the time. It’s their job to be “the ideal woman,” whoever she happens to be in that movie (the ideal woman certainly changes constantly, depending on who’s looking and in what context). Reality TV took that away. Supposedly these are real people who think it’s OK sexualize THEMSELVES on television. Supposedly it’s no longer just TV, but real life. Reality.

    This video talks about movie stars and pop stars and advertising, but I think it’s more than that. As the media becomes a bigger part of our lives through the inception of reality tv and the personalization of celebrities (the more we have access to the media, the more we know about the lives of these people–their REAL lives–and guess what? it’s still just media, they’re still looking pretty for the cameras, even when they’re grocery shopping or talking to Ellen DeGeneres), women feel more pressure to be like the women in the ads or on TV. Because it doesn’t seem so far fetched that you COULD be them. I mean, why don’t I look like Blake Lively? She says that her workout routine is 30 minutes of cardio a day–clearly I AM THE ONE who’s doing something wrong. Right?

  2. Katie Smith says:

    I really agree with what Sarah wrote. Media, especially television, has a major impact on female (and male) self esteem. Since I was young, I have always had a very clear view on what society believed was “beautiful.” Skinny, tall, long legs, clear skin, amazing clothes. In any magazine or television show today, the image is still the same. Like Sarah said, no matter where they are, it seems as though those in the spot light are always look 10X better than the average person would. It is very difficult for younger (and older!) people to see these females sexualized in this way, because not only does it make our self esteem take a major hit but also seems to promote the idea that there is really only one type of beauty recognized in hollywood. We saw examples of this when looking at Noah Cyrus and her barely there clothes as well as inappropriate taste. The video gave a clear image of movie stars and pop stars in advertising, but to agree with Sarah once more, there is so much more underlying the video. The subliminal messages in advertising have a MAJOR impact on those in society.

  3. Isaias says:

    While watching this video, many things popped in my head. First thing is that clip is very true at the end of the day. The media is at fault for the way people perceive everything! From the way girls are supposed to look, act, and dress to how people of color act. This is brain sabotaging to the young people and especially the ignorant people who do not think outside of the box. When I say ignorant people I mean who do not understand that there millions of people and everyone is not the same. Everyone is different. For example, if a person is from the middle of the woods it doesn’t mean he or she is automatically racist. Or if a person is from the inner city it doesn’t mean he or she is a product of their environment. Which means he or she isn’t the same ghetto person.

    In addition, I feel bad for the females that fall into the trick that the media plays. The video says because of the television shows and commercials females get depressed. As a result, females not eat in order to lose weight in order to look like the slim girls on the TV.

    I will tell you one thing that I really enjoyed while watching this video. Throughout the entire video there was an African American Female who is a little bigger and is a High School senior speaking. This shows that she is one of the few girls who are strong enough to not fall through the cracks that the media puts in front of us. She is telling the rest of the girls to be strong like her and understand that it is ok to not look like the top models in the “booty popping” videos! 😉 It is ok to be different and be proud of the way we are.

    Over and out….

  4. Grace Hennigan says:

    After watching this video, I am not surprised. As a nineteen-year-old woman, I can say that this video is 100% true. I am 5’3’’ and my healthy weight zone according to my doctor is 120-135 pounds. After my first year of college, I gained 10 pounds, leaving me at 126 pounds. In this blog post, I will be brutally honest, and this is the first time I have come to say these things.
    126 pounds is in my “healthy weight” range, but according to celebrities, the media, and the fashion world, I was not “healthy”, I was “fat”. Ever since I stepped foot on that scale last May, I became OBSESSED with my weight. My father told me that I looked “chunky” and even pulled at my stomach. He suggested that I go on a diet of only “apples, cereal, and water” for a week. This method of “detox” in his mind equaled anorexia in my mind. To make matters worse, when I visited my friend in NYC (his dad is a fashion designer) I was offered free clothes from the sample bin. This sounds great, right? Well, when I walked into the office to pick the clothes out, his business partner looked me up and down, and then simply said “Oh, you are the one here for the samples? Sorry, we only have a size 2. You are definitely a 4”. I was awarded no clothes that day, only a bruise to my already aching self-esteem.
    When I turned on the television, I would see Gossip Girl’s characters, bone thin and wearing size 2. When I opened my lap-top to my favorite website, Perez Hilton’s blog, he had written a blog that poked fun at Mischa Barton for gaining weight and looking “bloated”. When I opened an issue of Seventeen magazine, which is geared towards young girls, I saw an ad for diet pills on almost every page. It’s like the world was caving in on me because I was not skin and bones like I was in high school.
    When I got to school this year, I began a strict diet of salads and vegetables, with the occasional chai latte. I try not to eat more than 20 grams of fat per meal. I have only lost seven pounds so far. You may think that this is starving myself, but meanwhile, my best friend on campus is losing weight by simply “not eating” because she also gained weight freshman year, and she began being called “pregnant” by boys on campus.
    When this video said that the media effects how men view women, they were right. Men expect women to be size 2 with double D breasts. Even my boyfriend once joked about buying me a boob job (I hope he was joking at least). Anyways, it is not only effecting men, but EVERYONE in our society. Why can’t women just be a normal size, like in earlier centuries, when having a healthy inch of extra tummy fat was socially acceptable? I know that until I lose more weight, I will be unhappy with my body. It is not easy to be accepting of something that everyone is constantly judging (even my own dad). I hope that videos like this one will start to bring change to society, so that other girls won’t go through what I have.

  5. Kyle Tritten says:

    I feel along with everyone else that has posted on this video, that this video is brutally true. The media plays a huge aspect on girls daily lives. But like one person said self esteem is the big thign here. Women and girls need to learn to be comfortable with themselves. Alot of the shows shown in the video are usually on late at night when the young female or male should be asleep. I know growing up my parents would never had let me watch those shows for the mere fact at the time they were on for one. But i agree also that watching these shows give young males the ideas of what women should look like, how they can treat women, and simply just how to degrade women in general. Although majority of the shows shown were reality t.v it’s even more shocking because the young generation believes this is the way they must act. I think young men and women who are affected by this need take a deeper look at what is going on in their lives, they need to see what is right from wrong. My parents set that standard for me when i was young, so when i watch these shows i laugh becuase i know i would not do any of that is shown or act in that nature. But now i realize that alot of other boys and girls are so worried and involved in what the media is telling them its disturbing. I think our media needs to take a deep look into what is good for our younger generations to be seeing in the media.

  6. Sarah Drapela says:

    It is easy to think (for me at least) that we can ignore adds and stereotypes that are portrayed in our media. I look at so many of the women in the media and I tell myself over and over that these women are not just everyday normal women, they are the exceptions. However, looking at this video and thinking about what I have learned regarding how women are supposed to look and act and even what constitutes beauty, I have realized that my ideas have indeed been shaped by the women I see in the media. In my head a beautiful woman is what everyone here has been talking about (tall and thin) and no matter how much I tell myself that everyone is different and there is no one definition of beauty I still think the “perfect” woman is the one that I see on tv and in the media every day. It worries me that I have been shaped so much by what I have seen on tv and to think about the messages that our media is sending to our children is truly scary. You cannot watch tv for any amount of time without seeing something that is sexual in nature or the places men and women in their traditional gender roles and all that does reinforce ideologies in our youth. The see how men and women behave and they come to believe that they are supposed to act like the people they see on tv. As a result there is always a lot of pressure to conform to these ideas of perfection and self esteem goes out the window. If we want to teach our children to be strong and happy with whom they are we need to be careful and aware about what messages they are getting from the media.

  7. Erin Meehan says:

    I appreciate and agree with everyones comments on how the media does have a negative effect on people. I believe as one of the first commenters stated that self-esteem is the key to help young girls and women deal with these over sexualized images shown on tv, online etc. However, I also believe that it is time for media particularly advertising companies and television to stop printing these images.
    This is where we as educated young women come in! I feel it is our job to write or in some way express our distaste for these sexualized and beauty obsessed stereotypes being thrown at us each day. It maybe beneficial to take a more active legal action and research how one could go about bringing these issues to congress etc. With the evident statistics there is no doubt that these images have an immense negative impact on young women and men. These effects often lead to abuse, rape, suicide and death. Media is not going to change unless us women do something. We must not only cease from buying into advertisements and media which portrays women in a negative light but also fight back. After all if they are no longer making a profit off of these methods of sales they will have to find new means. Furthermore, by taking legal action we can actually prevent these companies from showing such images and thus help younger generations you do not have the abilities or knowledge yet to speak out.

  8. kelly olney says:

    In my sociology class we read an interesting article that really emphasizes the media and how it affects women. Its called “Size six: The Women’s harem” by Fatema Mernissi. She analyzes the differences between women of America and women of her country. She tells of a time where she was shopping in an American clothing store and was told by the woman that worked there that she would not fit into any clothin in the store. The author was first shocked that she was being rejected for the size of her body. The worker then explains how the maximum size of the store was a size 6. Which I guess is small. She is astonished with this norm in the American society that women are suppose to look like young girls according to the media. She then describes how in her country women make their own clothes, and men like a woman’s curves. The reality of this is, that the media has too much influence on the way that women and men. This is too bad because, not every man out there is attracted to a women that kills to fit into a size six.

  9. Jillian McCarthy says:

    I completely know what Grace is talking about in terms of weight. While I’ve never been a dieter (I just don’t have that degree of self-control when cookies are in front of me) I am an avid gym-goer, to the extent that if I skip a day I immediately feel fat. I’m 5’11 and, while not completely sure what my weight is, I think I weigh about 155, which is an appropriate weight for a person of my height. While I generally appreciate my body fat and curves, sometimes I feel like I will never be quite as thin as society wants me to be. I’m almost twenty years old, in good health, I exercise regularly and I generally eat healthily as well, yet I constantly watch what I eat and feel guilty if I think I’ve eaten a bit too much at dinner. Why does it matter? I’m happy with my body and if I want a cookie I should get a cookie. Grace, I’m sure you’re a lovely person just the way you are and if you feel like treating yourself to a cookie don’t let the patriarchal forces in your life deter you.

    What I found interesting about the video was the high school student’s comment about how the trashy shows sexualizing girls and young women play at the times when she gets home from school and doesn’t want to do homework yet. I’ve always pictured these shows as running late at night, but this comment makes it clear that the timing of the shows is a purposeful attempt not to please male viewers, but to teach young women how to act. What’s that phrase about bringing a man a fish and feeding him for a day versus teaching him how to fish and feeding him forever? That comment applies here; if networks run these shows and advertisements late at night, they will gain the male viewers. However, if they run them when impressionable young women are likely to be watching, then the men can watch the television shows AND have real women constantly performing for them as well!

  10. jr. woodard says:

    It’s crazy how much sexual content around our youth is. The media is the nucleus for all the sex and the issues dealing with the exposure of it to our youth and others. It’s a shame how many women and men are effected by this. Women can have body image problems, lack of confidence, eating disorders, and much more. However, just as much goes with the men. Men have a system to look at that always stresses what beauty should look like and they base there views on that. The slim, long haired, beautiful curvy body that sometime they lose the focus on the person themselve. It’s dehumanizing at points. The thing that caught my eye was the toy that had a doll poll dancing. I dont know what even to say. Speechless. My sister would play with a doll like that and she is 7 years old. Fortunately, i have parents that will not ever come close to allowing such toys or exposure of inappropriate things to my kid sister but overall there is no need for that anywhere. Not needed to be invented or sold. It all comes back to parenting. That is the only true thing that can increase our youth’s ability to shy away from the sex exposure. They must grow to learn right from wrong and they must be trusted to make the right decisions for their son or daughter when they get older. But for now, sex sells and it wont go away.

  11. Emily Harris says:

    This video sends a very powerful message that girls need to question the media, but also that boys need to also be questioning what they are watching. Girls can understand all they want and question, but unless boys are also questioning the way we are portraying ideals for men and women nothing is going to change. It is important for girls to have the tools to assess the way they related to men based on what has been drilled into them in the media, but boys need to be just as conscious of the way they have been taught to relate to women. In my psychology class last year we learned that 75% of men would have sex with a random girl if the girl were to approach the man and ask to have sex with him. 0% of the women said that they would have sex with a man if they randomly came up and asked them. This statistic is pretty telling in that men are taught that it is okay to objectify women and use them for sex. This scares me in relation to rape. The topic came up in my team’s locker room the other day and one of my teammates threw out a number that around 85% of men said they would rape a girl if they knew they’d get away with it. I’m not sure whether that number is correct, but the thought that any man would rape a woman if they knew they’d get away with it is appalling and scary for a woman to think about. The media can be blamed for much of the way women act towards each other and for the way men act towards women, but how do we make changes? First, teenagers need to be made aware.

  12. Sheba Morgan says:

    This video is very true and I wish I would have seen this in high school. When in high school and younger I feel like a lot of female are not comfortable with themselves. This video pin point and draw attention to one of the main causes females are unhappy with their bodies. The media is corrupting women making them question who they are. The media is selfish and is purposely hurting women today.
    The media goal is to get people’s attention and they would do by any means necessary to accomplish this goal. They knows what will sell their products, sell their shows and/or what kind of shows will grab the attention of the public. The goal of the media is to make money and they will stoop down to low levels to do this.
    The media knows exactly what they are doing to females. They are dirty and evil to do something like this. They purposely make people feel guilty and disgusted with themselves. People look up to the media to tell them what to wear, how to look, who to envy and who to love. The media purposely turn young women against themselves. They should feel ashamed, but they don’t. They are not ashamed because they are making money.
    This video is absolutely correct. The media is confusing young girls. Instead of having more shows with professional, educated, young women they have this thrash. The media highlights women that are going nowhere fast; who dream is to be on television and will do anything to be in the spotlight. Honestly, these are the people that should not be on television most of all. They embody the wrong principles and do not teach or motivate young girls.
    If I had my own television network, I will name it after my middle school. It will be called Knowledge is power program or KIPP. It will have reality television of real life, not a bunch of teenagers living in a house, because that is not reality. Life isn’t rent free living with your peers. It will show real college experience, real family experience, documentary of people that are inspirational and hard working. KIPP will show job interviews gone wrong and how to do them correctly, it will show intelligent, beautiful people of all type, and diversity on every network show. Some of the media shows were created by the devil himself and this need to be fixed.

  13. Maggie Bernay says:

    I completely agree with this message. Media hurts girl’s and women’s self-esteem. Being a young female student, it is easy to get caught up in personal body image struggles when you are surrounded by other females who are constantly watching what they eat and what you are eating for that matter. It seems as though there is a competition to who can be thinnest and prettiest. While I do believe media plays a huge role in creating an unrealistic mold that according to them all women should be, I also think that women put pressure on other women to fit into this mold as well. Everyone has either been in or heard the group of girls obsessing about how fat they are or how they need to eat healthier. While I am not excluded from this group of girls, I do think that is disgusting how young girls seem almost to be brought up with self-esteem issues.

  14. Colleen Lukas says:

    After watching this clip I immediately began thinking about all the shows I watch on TV. I recalled watching numerous episodes of “Rock of Love”, “Flavor of Love”, and various other shows, laughing at how ridiculous they were. The truth is that shows like this are not just ridiculous but they are extremely problematic. They bombard women constantly with the idea to look and act in a manner that pleases men, compelling women to be hyper-focused on their body image, and leading them to depression and other psychological issues. I thought it was interesting that the clip did not talk about how men are also affected by the media. The media, in particular shows like the ones I mention above, are also problematic for men. They encourage men to be macho and hyper-masculine, which may also lead to body image issues for them.

  15. Conor Callahan says:

    What i actually found interesting about this video was the fact that they included males. I’m doing my final project on this subject and most of my research has involved females only, which is most of who the media influences. With that being said, many young males who see these videos are also significantly influenced by the way men are perceived to be around women. I would have to agree that women are seen as very sexualized in many of these videos, but men are also seen as these horny figures who just fiend for these types of female behavior. It almost makes it acceptable for men to treat women as sexual objects which is ridiculous. Some of the media presents the men as being sorrounded by half naked, gorgeous women who he is dancing up on and making out with.

    I am not, by any means, saying that the message is being focused towards men, I’m just saying that not many videos present the idea that men are also influenced. I feel that women are more of the focal point of these videos and they certainly influence many women more than they do men. Young girls are constantly subjected to sexualized videos and their appearance being the most important thing. The biggest problem is that our society sees many of these videos as “socially acceptable” seeing as many of them are nationally broadcasted. The question is, how do we change that? How can we stop the mass media from subjecting our youth to such sexualized images?

  16. mike says:

    Brumberg’s article entitled Fasting Girls: the Emerging Ideal of Slenderness in American Culture. This is where it all started. I suggest you read the article.

    this is where we see the first encounters with the fashion industry’s stranglehold on women in the early 20th century. it amazes me that this has been an ongoing problem throughout the 20th century and still today. it is scary how american pop culture has such a powerful influence on body image. people are becoming hynotised by the pressures to be perfect causing very negative impacts on health. the sad thing is that nothing seems to be helping this situation and many lives have been lost because of it. I live with a girl here at school and whenever she is in control of the remote, these are the shows that she is watching(I am not saying she is in the wrong). I recall watching that kendra show (the ex playmate) on E and she was complaining that after she had a kid, the media automatically felt she lost her sex appeal so now she is on a quest to prove them wrong. i hope someone can help me out with this bc i dont know all the details but it just goes to show effect that the media has on our culture.

    • mike says:

      our youth is being exposed to this issue at an early age and I just hope something can be done before it keeps seeping down to lower age levels.

  17. Chryssy Glam says:

    I must say, this was by far my favorite video clip I have ever seen on the media.
    I have never realized that all this tv shows, magazines, billboards, celebrities, fashion…etc really have a HUGE effect on young girls today. I know when I was a young girl I never really payed attention to the details in the media. But now, I believe that the media is getting worse and worse. I don’t understand why the media would want to portray a fantasy image that is obviously not perfect. We as a whole should be helping one another and not trying to over-come one another or look better than one another. I believe that the media should be changed only to truthful things.

    Then again, our society wouldn’t be making the money it is making today, and our economy would evenually go down hill. So, this is a tricky situation, females being portrayed as sexual objects is what is entertaining to both males and females and we have no one to blame but ourselves because this is what WE like. This is what entertains US, and without it there would be no excitement. Its really hard to comment on this, because even though we all say the media is wrong and it needs to change at the end of the day we enjoy this entertainment or else it wouldn’t be #1, it wouldn’t be something that controls us all. We all do it, we all try to be in the lastest fashion, or look like celebrities, or even become famous, we all want to be attractive and SEXY. That’s why we even have a media-to guide us to our desires. If we really want to change the media and stop all of this then we have to stop adding to situation, and stop incouraging the media in what we as women do everyday.

  18. Shane Samuel says:

    I agree that the media does sexual women a great deal, but at the same time all the balme should not be placed on the media–it takes two to tango. The women that is allowing themselves to be portrayed this way should have some blame because they can say no but instead they choose not to. Even more interestingly a majority of the time it is other women who is behind the sexualization of a female celebrity or someone on tv. It should also be noted that men are also sexualized too, not just women.

  19. jm0392 says:

    Wow, after watching the YouTube clip I cannot believe the amount of sex is shown in society today. What is our world coming to? Everything in the media comes back to sex. Sexual appeal is definitely a prominent tool for advertisers because sex has become a main focus today. Because of television shows, magazines, and celebrity figures young girls see what skinny beautiful women are doing, wearing, and saying in the media – and mimicking it.
    I think it is definitely an issue that our society has become so wrapped up in sex in the media. Not only is it ethically wrong, but also it is sending the wrong message to younger generations. This is especially obvious if you look at the young girls in society today, they are watching television shows and inappropriate magazines. I read Cosmopolitan once in a while, and can’t imagine allowing my children to read it. Yes, it is entertaining and talks about the many things girls want to know or don’t understand, however, it is not appropriate and a lot of it is very strange.
    One television show that concerns me a great amount is The Life of the American Teenager. This show is on ABC Family, a FAMILY network. Young kids are the targets for the show as well, so they will obviously be watching it. The show is one hundred percent about sex. And in my opinion, it makes sex even more normal, as well as pregnancy. Would you want your little child thinking sex is okay and safe at a young age? I think young pregnancy is already a problem, and this just adds to it. Girls have been influenced to believe that they need to attract men with their looks, not their personalities – what really counts. As a result, I think sex is becoming much more popular at much younger ages. Is it a problem? Not necessarily, but I don’t think it is something that our country has traditionally held high values for – are we losing the romance and true connections a couple shares? Is it just a race to sex?

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