In this modern age, media revolve around us constantly. Whether it be through television, Internet or radio, the media always find a way to get our attention, and it always seems to be in the same way: through the exploitation of women. You see, for the most part, every media source seems to have the same concept: express a certain message and sprinkle in feminine promiscuity and degradation at its finest. It may seem rather insignificant to many, but this depiction of women in the media can cause serious effects on not only a woman’s self-esteem and ego but also on the way society views women. Although countless women have become very successful—becoming powerful business women, doctors, lawyers and politicians—the media continue to bombard us with what the “ideal” woman should be: submissive, compliant and objectified. This must change.
Starting at a very young age, girls are taught that what is most important is how they look. This is caused by the unrealistic depiction of what the “ideal” woman should look like. Even in cartoons female characters like Disney princesses all have the same features: flawless skin, big eyes, a large bust and bottom, along with a teeny tiny waist. The average woman doesn’t even come close to these body proportions, but because this is the only example girls see, they’re drawn to view this as normal and do everything in their power to achieve the media’s definition of beauty. In this way media put pressure on young girls, making them believe that the only way they will be beautiful is if they look like the “ideal” woman. Because of what they see in the media, not only do they apply pounds and pounds of makeup, but many resort to starving themselves in order to achieve the media’s “ideal” weight. Rather than loving themselves the way they are, they put their self worth in the hands of others. Young girls should not be worrying about whether or not they are thin enough or if they have a few blemishes here and there. Rather, they should be putting their focus on their studies, becoming well-rounded individuals and, last but not least, being kids.
Although we cannot do anything about the way women have been represented in the media up until now, we can fight to change how they are represented in the future. In order to truly get women to feel confident about themselves and to change society’s misconceptions, there must be a change in the media’s idea of a woman. As a campaign against sexism, MissRepresentation promotes the phrase “you can’t be who you can’t see.” This phrase has some truth behind it. How can we expect women and young girls to overcome adversity and take charge of their own lives when all they see in the media are women who are submissive and trying so hard to be “perfect”?
Rather than showing women who are preoccupied with the media’s notion of beauty, the media should be celebrating the women that take charge, are independent and make a difference in their communities. Those are the women who deserve recognition. Those are the women today’s youth should be admiring. Then young girls will have suitable role models, the confidence they need to know that they can achieve anything they put their minds to no matter what obstacles and injustices they may face and the capability to become role models for generations to come as well. If these types of women became this generation’s role models, as time goes by, the present idea of the “ideal” and “perfect” woman would become nothing but a thing of the past.
Nothing will ever change if no one takes a stand. It is time for women everywhere to ask themselves “what have I done or will I do to change this perception?”
Victoria Contreras is a 17-year-old high school senior from Franklin Park, Illinois.