I wrote an essay for my English class about the over sexualization of women in the media. It’s really long so I took some things out that I had previously talked about in other posts. But here it is:
[…Women are constantly over-sexualized in the media. Any magazine you open you’re bound to see at least ten advertisements of “sexy women” selling you anything from alcohol and cigarettes to sports cars and motorcycles. You turn on the TV and there’s a half-naked woman selling you beer. Half the time the advertisements that are using a women’s sex appeal to sell their product have nothing at all to do with the product that’s being sold. Take godaddy.com for example. Godaddy.com is a site that sells webpages, yet if you’ve seen any of their commercials, you’d think that they were an online escort service. Tom Ford let out a cologne ad in 2007 that pictures a naked woman holding a bottle of cologne pressed between her thighs, barely covering her vagina. To get a visual, if the liquid in this bottle was clear, you may have been able to see her cervix. The ad is cropped so all you see is her pelvic area and on the bottom of the ad it says “TOM FORD FOR MEN.” This advertisement set up would be more understandable marketing a feminine douche product than men’s cologne.
Regardless of the relevance of the product being sold versus the marketing strategy the company used to sell their product, it is no question that sex sells – but at what price? Women are attractive, so yeah, it makes sense to slab a babe in a bikini holding a bottle of Corona up on a billboard that says “drink responsibly” at the bottom. However, if the only affect sexualized women in media had on society was an increase beer sales, then I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Yet, marketing products like this doesn’t just affect sales. A study released in Psychological Science in May 2012 revealed that when both men and women see images of sexy women’s bodies, they see them as objects. However when shown images of sexy-looking men, they see them as people:
One way that psychologists have found to test whether something is seen as an object is by turning it upside down. Pictures of people present a recognition problem when they’re turned upside down, but pictures of objects don’t have that problem. So Bernard (one of the psychologists in the experiment) and his colleagues used a test where they presented pictures of men and women in sexualized poses, wearing underwear. Each participant watched the pictures appear one by one on a computer screen. Some of the pictures were right side up and some were upside down. After each picture, there was a second of black screen, then the participant was shown two images. They were supposed to choose the one that matched the one they had just seen.
People recognized right-side-up men better than upside-down men, suggesting that they were seeing the sexualized men as people. But the women in underwear weren’t any harder to recognize when they were upside down—which is consistent with the idea that people see sexy women as objects. (Mikulak, People See Sexy Looking Pictures of Women as Objects, Not People).
So not only is the media metaphorically objectifying women, but also literally. “The next step,” Bernard says, “is to studying how seeing all of these [sexualized] images effects how we treat real women.” For the answer to that question, just watch Robin Thicke’s music video for “Blurred Lines.”
The worst part about it all is that the advertisements aren’t even real women. In almost every case, the women in these ads are models – so already they aren’t your “average women,” but they are actual people. They take theses practically flawless women and slab pounds of make up on their faces. Once the pictures are taken, it’s off Photoshop for a boob job, a butt lift, and other modifications. Now men see these ads and think “Wow! She’s hot, I’m gonna buy that beer.” Women see these ads and think “Wow! She’s hot; tell me how to look like that.” But the fact of the matter is that you can’t look like that, because not even the models look like that. So sure these women start out as “real women,” but once the pictures are taken not only are they stripped of their clothes, but also their identity.
Now the women who are questioning how to look like the women they see in the media are going out and buying push-up bras to get the photo enhanced boobs. They buy the mascara that makes their eyes pop. They’re taking pictures with their lips parted and their backs arched; imitating the “sexy women” they see on TV, the one’s that sell beer and webpages. Now I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with a woman wanting to be sexy, but there’s definitely something wrong with the way the media is objectifying women. And there’s something even more wrong when these women, and even young girls, are criticized for acting how their told to.
An internet sensation, Kim Hall seems know the ins-and-outs of scrutinizing young women for their media driven behavior. Soccer mom by day and slut-shamer by night, Mrs. Hall is a mother of three boys, raising her kids in a very Christian home and all she wants is for her sons to be surrounded by “women of character.” It was that time of the week where she gathered her sons around the family table to creepily stalk their female friends’ social media accounts. Apparently, these girls where not behaving to her standards so she decided to post an open-ended letter to the girls on her blog page, Given Breath. Hall added just that right amount of sarcasm to make sure these girls knew she meant business:
Wow – you sure took a bunch of selfies in your skimpy pj’s this summer! …it appears that you are not wearing a bra. I get it – you’re in your room, so you’re heading to bed, right? But then I can’t help but notice the red carpet pose, the extra-arched back, and the sultry pout. What’s up? None of these positions is one I naturally assume before sleep, this I know. (Hall “FYI”)
Then hall continues on saying that “if you want to stay friendly with our sons online, you’ll have to keep your clothes on, and your posts decent” (Hall “FYI”). What a self-righteous thing to assume — that these girls must want to stay internet friends with the sons a psychotic mother who’s going to creep through her kids’ online accounts to see if any of their female peers are posting things that are a little too risqué. Instead of raising her kids with “a strong moral compass,” to respect women and their choices, as she intended, she’s raising them to treat women like objects, by telling them what they should and shouldn’t be doing.
And it’s not just young women getting slut-shamed by nazi-moms. It’s women in the media as well. Take Miley Cyrus for example. Cyrus preformed at MTV’s Video Music Awards this year to her hit single “We Can’t Stop” where she actually did a collaborative performance with Robin Thicke and his “feminist movement” “Blurred Lines.” Her performance was very provocative and a little bit raunchy, which left Miley the talk of the town for the next couple of weeks. Even Cher thought her performance was ugly. However here we are, sexualizing these young women, showing them the advertisements of the women they “should” look like, and the minute they start to act sexually, we get mad at them. Miley Cyrus has been in the world’s eye for quite some time and has been seen by many as “sexy”. Yet the minute she starts to behave the way she is portrayed, she’s criticized for it. Girls don’t just get the idea to act like raging sluts, someone plants that seed and the media are the gardeners in this case.
There was a study done by the University of Buffalo in which they took decades of rolling stone magazine covers to analyze the sexualization of men and women. The study showed that there were “ten times more hyper-sexualized images of women than men and 11 times more non sexualized images of men than women” (Hatton “Equal Opportunity Objectification? The Sexualization of Men And Women On The Cover Of Rolling Stone”). For example, take a look a GQ magazine. When Ryan Gosling was on the cover he was shot in suit and tie. Yet when Beyoncé Knowles was on the cover, she was wearing next to nothing and posed in a very sexualized manor. Now GQ is a predominately men’s magazine, so it’s less likely for Gosling to be half-naked on the cover. However, even women’s magazines (take Cosmopolitan, for example) show images of sexualized women on their covers. Yet by not having Ryan Gosling posed in nothing but a tie only proves how women are sexualized and objectified in the eyes of the media. Ryan Gosling looks like he is on his way to a dinner party or maybe even to accept an award, considering the fact he’s an actor. While Beyoncé, a very talented singer, looks like she just got off the night shift.
Now I know all of this may just seem like me being prude. I personally have nothing wrong with women being less conservative. The fact that a woman can boosts the sales of almost any product just by showing some skin and arching her back speaks a lot for how powerful women truly are. But that doesn’t change the fact that over sexualization of women in media is affecting women in bad way. I don’t necessarily think this is the media’s fault, but it’s absolutely a drastic side effect. If women are literally seen as sexual objects, not only by men but by women as well, how will women be taken seriously? At this rate, who’s to say when the first woman is elected president? Sure the times have definitely changed from thirty/forty years ago, women have made huge advancements, but is this just another setback? I think as long as women know that they shouldn’t be treated as just sexual objects, then it won’t be. Don’t get me wrong; men too, should not view women as just “something to fuck.” Yet, the fact that women are seeing images of sexualized women and depicting them as objects shows just how easily the media is contorting the views of women from people to objects.]