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Girl Power or Girl Downer by Cate

Written for her American Literature class

 

Everything we see affects how we think and act, and because of the stereotypical and negative images created by the media women have regressed instead of progressed. Each day the average person sees 400 to 600 advertisements per day. That means that by the time that person is about 60 years old they will have seen about 40 to 50 million advertisements, and one out of every 11 of those commercials they see has a direct message about beauty.

Over the years Barbie has become a major role model for young girls, but many people do not know that Barbie was originally based on a prostitute, Lili, in a German comic strip, and was later made into dolls sold only in adult stores. Today, about 90% of all girls between the ages of 3 and 11 have a Barbie doll. In 1958 Mattel bought the rights to Lili, and made her into the Barbie we know today. The traditional Barbie is known for her unattainable measurements of 40-18-32, her perfect features and blond hair. People have interpreted Barbie to be “the ideal woman,” and many girls want to be just like Barbie when they grow up. Barbie’s message is that it is ideal to spend your time shopping and talking on the phone. In 1992, Mattel came out with what is called “Teen Talk Barbie.” the doll was pre-programmed to say things like “Math is tough.” Barbie also pushes girls into gender roles and stereotypes by emphasizing pink as the feminine color, glamour and fame, and the “perfect” body. Girls begin to believe that Barbie is the ideal female.

Cartoons are also quite stereotypical, a prime example being Mrs. Jane Jetson. Her waist is small, her skirts are short, and she constantly has the desire to shop. She sends the message that the woman’s place is in the home, wearing skimpy clothes and serving the man. When they should show the woman as equals. Some early cartoons didn’t even have roles for female characters. The cartoons that do have women feature them in very subjective ways, and those cartoons that have women in positive roles, such as She-Ra, depict them with unrealistic features and bodies. One popular television show, Xena depicts the main character as a powerful warrior, but has her dressed in a short, tight leather outfit. This suggests that the only way women can be powerful is if they wear little clothing and the little they wear should be tight.

One group that is currently influencing girls ages 7 to 12 is Spice Girls. This group of five girls in their 20s is currently taking the world by storm with their little dresses, big shoes, and message of “Girl Power.” While the idea of their message is a god one, they claim that girl power is being yourself, working hard, being true to your mates, and not degrading yourself by dressing or acting like a slut. However, the message gets lost in their image of: big hair, big shoes, and small dresses. In a commercial for their movie they are in a bathroom and one asks “Is my dress too short?” when the others reply “NO!” she hikes her already short dress even higher up. This poses a interesting question ,what happened to having Girl Power? The Spice Girls play a large part in what girls today see as the perfect woman. Because their faces are all over lunch boxes, clocks, cameras, dolls, and recently, they have been made into chocolate figurines by Cadbury, it is hard not to be affected in some way by them. They are rude, underdressed and disrespectful, and they have become key role models for girls. Because there aren’t many positive images of women in the media girls don’t know who else to look to for inspiration.

The current message pushed into our minds by the media is that “thin is beautiful.” Store shelves are filled with diet pills, and dietary supplements, there are increasing amounts o Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers ads, and of course, the models that grace the covers of our magazines and billboards. The years in which women’s managerial positions increased, the “ideal women” became thinner. The media is sending women the idea that the only way to be beautiful and accepted in society is to be thin. Advertisements are not just selling merchandise, they are showing the images of emaciated models like Kate Moss. Telling people that that is what is accepted by society as normal.

Because of the increasing emphasis on thinness in our society, many girls have turned to such great lengths as starvation. The two most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Anorexia is characterized by starvation dieting, excessive exercising, weight below what is considered normal, and an intense fear of weight gain. Bulimia is characterized by episodes of dieting and bingeing, as well as getting rid of the food and fat consumed by vomiting, as well as an intense fear of fat and weight gain. 90-95% percent of anorexics and bulimic are women. In 1994 a survey company called Stice found a direct link between media exposure and eating disorders symptoms. It seems that the media’s images of women, to say the least, has a negative impact on women’s self-evaluation.

The media has tried to cover their negative images with a slogan that has many people believing that all is good, and that we are becoming more open to having women in high positions. What is lie the media is feeding us? Can you say Girl Power?