Dear All Women, You are beautiful.

I have already written two blog posts about the sexual exploitation of females through the media, in particular through the commodification of religious events. After reading the Parent Television Council (PTC) Report, Parkin’s article in the New Yorker and Anitia Sarkeesians Ted Talk, my views and understandings of female sexuality in popular culture are only heightened. It is quite clear through these articles, as well as other blog posts about women, sexuality, and gender representations in the media are detrimental to female’s mental, physical and emotional health and how women are viewed by society.

I would like to dedicate this blog post to women. Women are constantly under fire by the media and popular culture for what seems like everything nowadays. Young girls, college girls, working women, feminists, Mother’s, Politicians and everything in between, you name it, these women have been criticized, threatened and undervalued in society. I can’t help but wonder: why? This blog post seeks to explain how women are depicted in popular culture, and different ways to overcome societal pressure of being “the perfect woman”.

First, lets start off with the video Sexualization of Girls in the Media.

The video describes how the constant sexualization of women and their bodies is harmful to women of all ages. A negative side effect of over sexualizatoin can lead to issues of body image, eating disorders, depression and loss of self-esteem (video). With images and campaigns such as Victoria Secret’s “Perfect Body” Campaign, women are targeted and told “if you do not look like this, you will never…” insert an untrue and sexist phrase. The Victoria Secret “Perfect Body” Campaign was launched to promote their newest line of lingerie. However, the ad was printed on 10 slim models reading “the perfect body”.

Immediately this campaign came under fire for body shaming women and promoting a message that was both unhealthy and damaging. The campaign has now been changed to “A Body of Every Body”.

Not only are women signing petitions to change the way women are portrayed in popular culture, different avenues of media have also been promoting body positive messages to women. For example, singer Colbie Caillet recently debuted her new song “Try”. The video itself speaks wonders, but the message behind the song is very moving. The song describes how young girls are trying very hard to have people like them and to feel “pretty”. However, this effort is mentally and emotionally draining for women as they try to look and act a certain way; striving to be considered “perfect”, all the while searching for approval by society. As seen in the video, Caillet along with other women of different ages and race are first shown with make-up on and their hair done. However, at the end of the video, the façade of “the perfect woman” is gone and the women are featured as their true beautiful selves, confident and loved.

The #LikeAGirl campaign demonstrates how the phrase “you do this [activity] like a girl!”. When the producers asked adults what it means to “run like a girl” they all acted very dramatically with arms flaying around, one participant even grabbed her head and said “oh no my hair”. This continues with several other actions, such as fight like a girl and throw like a girl. However, when the producers asked young girls to demonstrate the exact same actions, the girls participated with every effort they had. They did not over-dramatize the actions they displayed what it truly means to run like a girl — “it means run as fast as you can”. This video powerfully demonstrates how negative images of women in popular culture affect people’s beliefs of women. Many women feel personally targeted through ads sexual designs, however these campaigns and many more are beginning to debut, fighting to end the negative portrayal of women in the media.

Anita Sarkeesian’s Ted Talk Cyberbullying describes how she was personally attacked over social media by videogamers. Sarkeesian is a feminist and a Youtuber. She decided to create a Kickstart page to create a few videos about how women in video games are sexually objectified (Sarkeesian, 2012).

After creating this start up page, Sarkeesian’s was threatened through different forms of social media such as tweets, email, Facebook messages. These threats consisted of comments about rape, violence, sexual assault and death threats. Sarkeesian’s describes this as a “cybermob”; much bigger than cyberbullying. This negative reaction took place because Sarkeesian’s wanted to create a few Youtube videos about misogyny and deconstructing the female representation in video games (Sarkeesian, 2012).

Unfortunately, Sarkeesian is not the only woman to face threats for speaking out for feminism and raising awareness for women’s rights. A popular example of this negative backlash is Emma Watson after her “He for She” speech.

After speaking out for women’s rights, a cybermob threatened to release nude photos of Watson as punishment for challenging equality in modern day society; how dare she!

An image created by a cybermob after He for She speech.

Although both women faced severe negative backlash, both of their campaigns came out stronger. Sarkessians explains how she made 25 times the amount of money she set out to earn, she was able to make twice as many Youtube videos and even created a free curriculum for teachers explaining the dangers of female construction in the media. Watson is continually working on changing feminism from its historically negative meaning to one that empowers women. Despite the negative backlash these women received, they are still fighting for women’s rights, because yeah you guessed it, women’s rights are worth fighting for.

Finally, a discussion on the gear-grinding, gut-wrenching chants heard around colleges and university all over North America. Yes, UofT, we too have offensive chants. PTC explains how in October 2012 a list titled “Top 10 Ways to Get Away with Rape” circulated amongst the internet. The list includes suggestions such as putting drugs in women’s drinks, if she is asleep or unconscious it is okay to have sex with her, and “Practice makes perfect, the more you rape, the better you get at it” (Parent Television Council, 8). These chants create an atmosphere where rape and sexual exploitation are humorous. These chants are extremely offensive to women, yet during Orientation Week events many females and males can be heard chanting disrespectful lyrics about women.

At Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, their historical chant faced extreme backlash for being offensive and dangerous. One line from the cheer is “N is for no consent”.

The Student President Mr. Perry claimed that he “did not see the message” behind the chant. However, literally and figuratively, the message behind the chant was heard loud and clear. St. Mary’s University was chanting about rape, sexual constructions of women, and overall disrespect for the female body. This cheer is no longer changed at the university and other campaigns have been circulating, encouraging new first year students to not partake in any activities, chants included, during orientation week that make them uncomfortable. As a Resident Advisor, I strongly urged that message to my 54 female residents this year in hopes to create a more inclusive and accepted environment for UofT students.

Overall, the portrayal of women in the media is objective. Women are harmed every single day by the sexualized images mentally, physically and emotionally. However, we have the power to control what media we consume and produce. I was able to find positive examples of women standing up for equality and fighting to be seen as humans, in all of their perfect imperfections, to counter the negative representations of women in popular culture. Yes, women are sexualized through the media, however it is everyone’s responsibility to be mindful of how media and popular culture purposefully targets the sexualization of women.

A single golf clap? Or a long standing ovation?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.