Women and the Media: The Influence of Magazines, and such...

Friday, May 4, 2007

The Last Post

I have always had an interest on the topic of women’s representation in the media. Ever since my first subscription to Seventeen magazine, I always wondered why the girls had to dress a certain way or why did most of the ads have to be so sexual. I also thought whether or not women between ages sixteen and twenty-two really followed the fashion or other advice given in these magazines.

The social norms and hegemonic messages that have facilitated my interest to the topic were basically the plain fact that young adult women were falling victim to the advertisements presented in these seemingly innocent magazines. Even with all the stereotypical contents in the magazines, there are plenty of positive articles featured in these magazines; articles describing real-life situations that young women can relate to and “advice” from doctors, among other things. Part of me does feel that the real-life stories featured are a way to justify that the magazine is not promoting hegemonic norms, but then if one were to look past the stories, there are articles and other sections that show how to apply make-up, keep/breakup with a boyfriend, how to dress for a date, how to style your hair with the changing season, and other things that “teach” young girls how to be an “IT” girl.

The same things that are presented in the magazines are also shown on television. Before the class, when I would watch a television show, specifically reality TV, I would notice that the women on the shows almost always had to behave a certain way in order to get recognized. America’s Next Top Model, for example, has always had issues when it came to representing plus size women on the show. There were occasions where the bigger women were chosen to be finalists, but I always felt that this was only because the judges felt that they needed to have a “diverse” cast. I also noticed that in the end, the judges would always find a reason to eliminate these girls, and for the most part, that reason was barely justified by something concrete. This made me wonder well, how is the average woman watching this show supposed to feel about herself?

When it came to music, I have always had a problem listening to the condescending lyrics of hip-hop towards women, as well as the fact that it is made mandatory for women artists to have to always be sexy in their videos to even get attention. It is as if their talent is not apparent unless there is a massive display of skin. So those things simply stuck out to me when I watched television or listened to music.

My perception of the topic has not changed much, although I definitely gained valuable insight from the various readings from class and comments left on my blog. My ideas and feelings were confirmed by professionals and scholars familiar with the topic. I did not know that women were analyzed in all the different aspects that I wanted to investigate for the blog, and when I did find this out, my ideas and thoughts were confirmed and I was able to put some academic evidence behind my observations, which helped in showing how evident the hegemonic norms were supported in all types of media.

Today, when I look back at the way I first viewed my topic, I realize that I had a one-dimensional examination of how or why things are the way they currently and the way they will continue to be. I now understand myself better in the sense that it has been made clearer the way things work and that women will continue to be subject to hegemonic and social norms that they will never be able to properly fulfill. In her article “Because You’re a Girl,” by Ijeoma A., Ijeoma describes how things are in her country. She quoted her mother saying, “you’re a girl and we’re raising you to be a woman some day.” It was made apparent that most of the modern countries today view women as having specific roles that must be fulfilled, and if any women dare go against this, she will be subject to severe scrutiny. In the article, she continues on, telling readers what her family believed to be a woman’s role in the house. It was bizarre that she would think that America liberated her from her oppression back home because in all reality, America itself was oppressing women. This goes to show that no matter where a woman goes, there will always a standard that she must meet in order to be accepted by society.

People will continue to scrutinize women’s looks, behavior, and “motherly duties,” as we saw with Courtney Love debacle. Over the course of the semester, I was able to find concrete evidence to support my premature observations. Now I will be able to not only analyze everything I watch, listen to, or read, but will also be able to support them with tangible data.

Ijeoma A. "Beacause You're a Girl."Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism. Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman. New York: Seal Press, 2002.