The Sexual Objectification of Women in Media

I don’t know who discovered water, but it certainly wasn’t a fish!” ~ Marshal Mcluhan

The point Mcluhan makes here is that some things are so common place to us, that we don’t even recognize they’re there. That is what the over-sexualization and objectification of women in media has become.

Our goal with the Teen Identity Network is to encourage professional photographers and filmmakers to help change the way females are portrayed in the media. We want to educate professionals and get them to think twice about the kind of photos or video they take of teen girls. We all are so bombarded by sexualized and objectified images of women every day, that it is easy for any of us to not even realize we could be contributing to the problem, instead of fixing it.

Example of Objectification

We will continue to provide education to help Network members understand and evaluate how the sexualization of girls and women happens in media. Our hope is that you can take away real and concrete ideas to implement into your studio.

The education and information we’re providing is being based on industry experts who have completed years (and in some cases, decades) of research on the topic. For instance, here were some findings recently reported at the S.P.A.R.K. Summit (Sexualization Protest: Action Resistance Knowledge). This was for a period of study from June 2006 to June 2010 and it dealt with the coding of sexualization in music video:

  • provocative dance
  • male gaze
  • close ups on body parts (most common)
  • provocative dress – sexual stereotype, sexy school girl, body glove, dominatrix, etc.
  • 92.8% of music videos contained at least one measure of sexualization
  • race differences: black artists twice as likely to be portrayed with provocative dress, similar in other 3 areas
  • genre differences: country less than pop and r&b

As noted above, one of the key ways objectification happens is when you take a photograph that accentuates or focuses on just one body part, rather than the whole girl. The sexualization of the girl is worse if that body part is one of the five that are inherently the most sexual: legs/hips, buttocks, crotch, mid-drift, and bust. Any time any of these areas are accentuated or exclusively highlighted in a photograph, you run the risk of objectifying in a sexual way, that teen girl. (Especially if the body part is completely bare).

I know that some people will read this and think “How prude.” I don’t think it’s about being prude. It’s about addressing a real problem and issue in this country that has very REAL ramifications on the lives and esteem of teen girls. (We’ll blog a little later about those ramifications).

Killing Us Softly

Jean Kilbourne is a celebrated speaker and advocate for female self esteem and health issues. The objectification of women in media is a topic she has addressed, studied, and fought against for forty years. Much of the education and work we do with Teen Identity is inspired by her work. Take a look at this short excerpt from her latest DVD series, “Killing Us Softly.” After watching it, think about the kind of photos you’re taking of teen girls, and ask how much your work is influenced (in a positive or negative way) by the media.

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6 responses to “The Sexual Objectification of Women in Media

  1. Great article as usual. The Jean Kilbourne video was excellent and so true. It is sad but so true especially the part about how the country looks at girls and women as objects. It is sad that right here in America we have to be afraid of letting our children ride their bikes on the very street they live on.

    Just yesterday a couple of days ago another girl was taken from our city by two men she was on her way to school and in the 5th grade when she was abducted taken to an abandoned house and molested. This country has a reel problem when people mainly men are going around snatching up girls for their own sick pleasures as if they were shopping at walmart. Women are not free in America. I know I don’t feel free. Free to walk down the street free for my children to play outside free to go bike riding on a nature trail free to go shopping in a 24 Walmart late at night because I am afraid of walking from the parking lot. Free to drive on the interstate late at night or stopping at a rest stop to use the bathroom. Free to let my kids go to the rest room by themselves in a a public place. The list goes on and on. Just last month on vacation in Clearwater we went to the famous Sloppy Joes Restaurant to have their famous Nachos. I let my 11 year old for the first time ever go to the rest room by herself because my husband was using the rest room next to her so I did not feel I had to actually go inside with her. Five seconds after going in she came running out saying their man in the stall she was going to use. My husband ran in and saw this drunk and homeless looking man and of-course freaked out on him I thought he was going to kill him this was his parental instinct. The man was of-course kicked out but who knows how many times this man has assaulted girls in public restrooms or done even worse.

    Thanks for posting!!!! God Bless! Misty

  2. Misty that is just crazy the things people do these days. And for the photography part of things, i grew up wanting to be a photographer but always being told of all the nude women and sexual things in it. I stopped wanting anything to do with it for a while. but i will keep moving toward ridding all the sexual pictures and videos of women. God doesnt want us lusting over women so why tempt more and more people with it? With people working together to rid the world of this, God can work miracles through us!

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