Media’s Attack on Girls

Although the conversation of the media’s harmful messages on body image for young girls and women has become more and more prominent, little has seemed to change. Girls are constantly told that if they are thinner and prettier that they will be happier. We see characters struggle with this in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Pecola is especially concerned about her looks and believes that if she simply had blue eyes, everything in her life would be better. Many girls also chase this idea that if they are prettier, life will somehow be easier which based on our society’s treatment of
“ugly” people versus “beautiful” people, they might be right.

In her Keywords essay on the word “Body”, Kelly Hager talks about how heavier people are often mistreated in media and literature. She talks about how fat characters are represented as promiscuous and powerless (21). In The Bluest Eye, Frieda and Claudia struggle while talking about how Frieda might become “ruined” if she becomes fat. Claudia suggests that she could simply not eat and exercise (101), which sounds awfully familiar to what many media outlets and the beauty industry seem to push. Girls are constantly bombarded with messages about the importance of being thin which has serious damaging effects.

Hager also talks about how girls’ bodies are often sexualized, even at a very young age (19). The media is consistently sexualizing girls’ bodies but then coming down on girls who embrace their sexuality. This is particularly true with girls of color. Here is an article that goes more in depth about the impacts of hyper sexualizing girls of color: ( Morrison addresses this in her novel, particularly during conversations about how people treat the sex workers who live above Pecola.

This video by Dove does a great job of showing all the images young girls take in and how that can impact their ideals of beauty, body image, and self-esteem. It highlights the importance of being thin. It also looks into how women should never be satisfied with themselves and try to be more beautiful with beauty products, diets, and plastic surgery.

8 thoughts on “Media’s Attack on Girls”

  1. It is true that girl’s body image is discussed in media a lot these days, but I like the perspective you took on it. Something that happens a lot, but I suppose I’ve never thought much into is the irony of sexuality. It is so true that in every media outlet, women are sexualized for their bodies either indirectly or straight out. Yet women who do choose to embrace the sexuality that is so evident in our culture get shamed. Society, media included, has an evident double standard for women of which we will never be able to be on the winning side of.

  2. It is crazy to think how much the media has an effect on girls image of themselves. They are constantly surrounding, like this video is showing. Most of their role models are always wearing make-up, have the perfect body and the perfect outfit. In this day in age, there is literally no escaping photoshopped photos of beautiful models. There should definitely be more role models for girls that embody qualities that empower young girls, rather than make them self-loathe. I think that we are moving in the right direction, with some celebrities posing with no make-up and brands like Aerie, refusing to photoshop their models, but there is still a long way to go.

  3. Drew, I found the Dove ad to be extremely moving, especially the quote, “talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does.” I never realized how influential ads could be on people’s perceptions of themselves. Having seen this, I think there should be consideration into placing restrictions on beauty ads.

  4. The conversation about body image and the detrimental effects of body-shaming certainly has received increased attention and discussion, however, I really don’t think this conversation will ever be settled. Prior to social media, the conversation about body image portrayal revolved around what we would see on TV, in movies, magazines etc. These images were, and are, destructive because it repeatedly showed tall, thin women, thus promoting the idea that there is one standard of beauty, which is unattainable for many. This constant exposure to society’s standard of beauty has only increased with the many forms of social media that have become a staple within the past decade or so. The conversation needs to still continue, especially to teach young children that the images of beauty they see are very one-sided and not an accurate representation of beauty.

  5. Great post, Drew! I think it’s so interesting and important to think about Pecola’s desire for blue eyes in terms of the media she was being presented, and how this has not gotten any better today – perhaps it’s even worse! As girls we are sold an incredibly narrow version of what it means to be beautiful (white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, thin, etc.) and this is so damaging. I think that you point out so well that Pecola’s desire for blue eyes, while clearly racially charged and thus more complex, is something that so many girls and women can relate to. I think almost every girl has a belief that there is one thing about her appearance that, if changed, would make her life better.

  6. Society places a huge emphasis on the importance of looking a certain way in order to be considered beautiful. It is devastating to a young girl to be constantly bombarded by advertisements suggesting the only way to be happy is to change the way you look. I felt the message shared by the video was extremely important by stating “Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does”. Young girls have a hard enough time growing up, fitting in and feeling accepted. It is extremely dangerous for advertisers to constantly recommend women change the way they look in order to feel that others accept them. The video suggested that a parent could have an impact on the way their child feels about themselves. It is a parent’s responsibility to talk to their child and help them to realize that happiness is not a result of changing your looks.

  7. Hi Drew,
    You bring up some great points! Though I’ve seen countless ads similar to this one (or who impose the same idea) I never thought in lecture or discussion how similar the message media sends girls is to things we’ve read. It makes me wonder if Toni Morrison, had she been exposed to this media advertisement while writing Bluest Eye, intentionally brought up the ideas of “ruinedness and fatness” to shun (if that’s the right word…) these advertisements.

  8. Hi Drew, I really enjoyed reading this post because I could not agree more with everything you said. The media’s over-sexualized representation of the female body is an unfortunate, yet inevitable, influence on American girlhood for our generation. You mentioned how there are people and groups who actively speak out against the media’s representation of women, but how little has seemed to change. What do you think it would take to change the media’s ideas and project a more realistic, representative image of womenhood to our younger generations?

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