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.