Sunday, November 08, 2009

You've come a long way, baby?

Social theorist and media critic Jean Kilbourne has said that when it comes to portrayals of women in advertising, sex sells.

Whether or not this is true is -- at the moment -- beside the point as far as I'm concerned. What I've been thinking about is the degree to which even 'tween girls nowadays are heavily influenced by the sexualized content of media (advertising included). Then a while ago I read that Kilbourne said something along those lines:

"We’ve been conditioned from birth to think our sex appeal and physical attractiveness is the most important thing about us."

Judging from the material and the underlying messages the ad industry has been coming out with the past decade or so, that statement above seems to be fairly accurate (I just don't know about the "from birth" part). Whether or not that kind of conditioning reached you by way of excessive exposure to media during your childhood till the teen years, what ultimately matters is your acceptance or rejection of such kind of conditioning.

I wonder -- how would the proponents of the original Women's Liberation Movement regard all this if they were still around to witness the transformation? And, is the current manner of portraying women in media what the first feminists had in mind when they relentlessly fought for "women's rights"?

Do women who go about with an attitude of "I have the right to do anything I want" feel truly free?

In relinquishing a lady's natural power to turn even fools into gentlemen, does a woman who puts her "anatomical sexuality" on display really feel empowered? And confident?

Do women actually fall for the message put forth by advertising that sex appeal and physical attractiveness should be among those on top on the list of priorities?

Interesting questions to ponder. And I found a previous blog entry I posted some four years ago which I still find interesting. An excerpt:

And here I go again, attributing much of the societal damage to mass media. First of all, it's true -- media in this day and age is largely responsible for the perpetuation of ideas (both constructive and destructive) especially when the idea is deftly presented as something that will make you feel happy, free, strong, fabulously independent and/or desirable. The result: girls imitating what they see, whether it's a baby tee with "Porn star" flashed across the chest, the monthly boyfriend roulette, the spirit of abandon guiding underwear ads, or the whole attitude behind the "Sex Bomb Dancers" trend. An example:

Mothers who come into my office frequently express doubt about their own judgment, not knowing where to draw the line when their daughters dress provocatively. Girls, meanwhile, freely admit that they are only aping what they see in the media. One young woman told me, "I love 'Sex and the City,' but I know it's contributed" to the problem. " Desperate Housewives" does, too.

Believe me, people behind magazines, ads and TV programming know how to make practically anything -- even the trashiest, most indecent fashion styles and intrinsically wicked ideas -- look good and spend tons of money to do research to get better at it!

Read the whole thing, which includes links to two insightful reads from The Washington Post and Modestly Zone, here

* First photo is from a Benson & Hedges ad.


Manny said...

Media is powerful -- and dangerous. That is why we need persons who are morally sensitive and socially responsible in media. Good, decent people can transform how the media works and what is imparts. Let's pray for more God-loving, faithful people in media.

sunnyday said...

You're right. Sayang talaga -- so much good can be done through media. Better understanding between peoples, promotion of good values, reporting of substantial news at such a fast pace. But look at the shape it's in. It's become a mere money-making machine, with a bit of substance on the side.

Ishmael Fischer Ahab said...

During my college days, a teacher told us about the product placement on poster and billboards.

Mapapansin daw na kadalasan sa may bandang breast part or crotch kasi doon unang tumitingin yung mga lalaki. That is how advertisers use sex to sell products. At maraming nauuto.

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