The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Media Portrayal of Women is Harmful

2 min read


The media’s portrayal of women and men is harmful to everyone, and college students are not exempt.
Women are the more obvious victims of the misuse of sexuality. Advertisements on television, the Internet, and in magazines all over America use female sexuality to sell their products. Breasts, legs, and alluring faces sell beer, furniture, energy drinks, and even the woman’s sexuality itself.

Women in sitcoms and reality television shows, such as “America’s Next Top Model,” represent a body type that very few women possess. According to the documentary “Killing Us Softly,” the average person spends three years of their life watching television commercials. Still, many people view themselves as unaffected.

We see the effects every day. Recently, Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer underwent a “makeover,” from average child to sexed-up preteen.

Have you noticed that within our lifetime, music videos have become more and more like cheap porn?
Young adults reading Cosmopolitan or Seventeen may think they’re just learning about work-outs and skin care, but the subliminal message remains: meet this standard, or constantly be less than what you should be.
This urgency is clearly evident in the ever-rising rates of eating disorders, and the level of naivety and interest in them.
Tons of feminists give lectures, write books, and make movies on the effect of female sexuality on women, but the topic of how the male sex in the media effects men is often blatantly ignored. Of course, the presence of women in the media is dominant, but this does not mean that sexualized men do not exist, nor that men don’t feel the pressure.
Ever heard a friend voice a deep concern over his scrawniness? Have you been to Goolrick and seen the hoards of men lifting weights on any given day? Men see the huge Abercrombie ads, with almost naked, sweaty, built men – and they also see women drooling over them; just as women see men with Sports Illustrated calendars.
As college students, many feel the pressure to look better than their best every time they go out on the weekend, and even when they’re only going to class, or to the Nest for a late-night snack.
Although the media seems to be spiraling out of control, there is one thing that we can control: how much we internalize the messages it feeds us. Generate conversations with your family, your friends,  co-workers or classmates.
By simply raising the awareness of ourselves and others, we can realize that the image of the “ideal” woman or man is nearly impossible to achieve.
If no one is immune to this never-ending craze for perfection and if everyone feels the pressures and angst to fit the desired role, is it really right for us to judge one another on the very issues we worry about ourselves?
We can build each other up higher than these images can tear us down- a compliment goes a long way.

Caitlin Carter is a junior.