Staying true to oneself is a concept that most people continuously struggle with as they grow up. From the moment we are born, we are assigned a gender role based on our biological sex. We are then expected to conform to these sets of “rules,” these so called gender norms, that tell us how we should or should not act based on our sex. I believe that our society definitely exaggerates the stereotypical male and female behaviors not only in the United States, but also around the world.
We see these stereotypes portrayed and reinforced everywhere, especially in the media. According to the documentary, Miss Representation, “American teenagers spend 31 hours a week watching TV, 17 hours a week listening to music, 3 hours a week watching movies, 4 hours a week reading magazines, 10 hours a week online. That’s a 10 hours and 45 minutes of media consumption a day. ” If we spend that many hours online, imagine how much the media are affecting the minds of children, teens, and young adults.
Being a sister of a nine year old girl, has definitely made me more aware of what and how the media portrays not only femininity but masculinity as well. We see stereotypes everywhere; from the news, to tv shows, to commercials, to movies, to magazines, and even in social media. The media alone put so much emphasis on attractiveness that they are reinforcing this idea that it is beauty and not brains that matter. This results in young girls being unhappy with the way they look.
They start to compare and contrast their looks to what they see in the media at such an early age and I believe this is what contributes the most to negative body image. Being told that you are not tall enough, or short enough, or skinny enough, or fat enough, is detrimental to not only our physical health but our mental health as well. In the media, we see successful women being undermined and rather than focusing on their accomplishments, the media decides to focus on her appearance. One example was of a comment made by President Barack Obama about California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
He stated that “You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake. She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country. ” This comment by one of the most powerful and influential men in the world, sadly demonstrates how much our society values appearances. In the movie Miss Representation, a female student in ne of the interviews stated that it has become “all about the look and not the intellectual” when speaking in regards to how women are portrayed in the media. The media give off the idea that females are only valued if they are young, beautiful, and sexy versus being valued for their intellect and their achievements. The media makes it seem impossible to be both beautiful and intelligent. They make comments like “she is smart for a woman” versus just saying “she is smart. ” They portray women of power as being bitchy, or lonely, or having to sacrifice a family for work.
They judge women for showing too much leg or not enough. The media even change grammar when they talk about men and women. A man and a woman may say the same thing during an interview, yet it gets reported that the woman “complained” while the man “stated. ” Even in films, femininity is portrayed in a poor way. Even though we have films that show strong and beautiful protagonists, we still see them dressed in revealing clothing or fighting in heels. We see them seduce men to get their way, or mask who they truly are, or even turn on each other because of this idea of what is considered “normal. Katie Couric said that “the media can be an instrument of change. ” Yet when are we going to see it happen? When can we see women being portrayed as respectable human beings? When will be see the decrease in hypersexualization in films and shows? Where can we start? These are only a few of the questions that we must ask ourselves. I am just hoping that we start asking these questions now so that we can make a difference. Growing up was not easy in a country where being just a little bit chubby can bring you such emotional pain at a young age.
The stereotype where women have to be skinny and sexy to be considered beautiful and attractive is carried throughout the Philippines. I got made fun of by my peers and even some of my teachers. I remember in the second grade, we were learning cursive and my teacher compared me to my writing: fat. She even did it in front of the class. I was so hurt by her comment and felt betrayed that someone who is supposed to be a role model, was actually making fun of me. Growing up, I also had a hard time with my academics. I was a bright and creative girl, but I was just lazy and never really tried in school.
I lacked the drive to push myself in my studies so my grades would always be below average. I remember one of my teachers comparing me to my classmate who would always get the lowest grade and belittling me and how I had gotten the worst grade. To this day, I sometimes question myself every now and then because I have thoughts that maybe I am “dumb. ” It is hard to get out of that mentality. In an article from our reader, “research suggests that children and adolescents learn from families and friends that they should be thin and that being overweight is unappealing.
This statement stood out to me because this was exactly what was happening to me. My parents would also contribute to the dissatisfaction of my body. They never made fun of me, but they constantly told me to lose weight or eat healthier. Back then, I viewed it more as them never really being satisfied with how I looked. My 11 year old self would have thoughts of running away or worse. I had such a hard time understanding why they were never happy with me. However, now I realized that they were only concerned about my health.
They just did not know how to properly approach it. I have gotten much better at dealing with my body image and have become more accepting of who I am. If anything, this class has helped me realize things about myself. I am still a big girl, but I embrace it more now. I am at a much better place with my parents and I can openly talk to them about everything and I am so grateful that they support me in all that I do. They are still concerned for my weight, which I do understand, but they are definitely more aware of how they deal with it and how they approach the topic.
I am comfortable in my own skin for most of the time, which is still something that I am constantly working on. I am excelling at school, with professors and mentors that I respect and admire, and I am in a major that I love. I think that I have come far from what I used to think of myself. I am more open and can openly communicate with my peers. I walk more with my head held up high, and I smile more. I remember looking down a lot in the past when I would walk and I noticed the difference while taking this class. I see some of my closest friends, who are beautiful and talented, yet they think of themselves as being unattractive.
I find it interesting to see two opposite ends of the spectrum in weight yet both have similar views of themselves from time to time. It hurts me to see them think of themselves that way, but that is something that they have to realize themselves. I cannot force them to see themselves how I see them, but I always communicate with them and tell them how much I appreciate them for who they are. As I had mentioned earlier, I am an older sister of a nine year old girl. I hope that she does not have to go through the same struggle that people, like myself, has gone through while growing up and having to deal with insecurities and self-esteem.
I started to observe this intelligent, talented, and beautiful little girl and I became aware of the nonverbal cues that she would do when we are in new situations that she is not comfortable in. For example, I have noticed that she would often bring her shoulders in, or cross her arms, or just make herself feel smaller. I noticed that she does not make eye contact when she speaks to new people. I notice that she stares at the mirror for a while. These thoughts of negative body image started rushing to my head immediately and it saddens me to say that this is probably what other younger girls and boys feel like.
In the Miss Representation film, I was affected by a student named Maria and how her younger sister is cutting herself because of her negative body image towards herself. It makes me scared for my sister and I hope that she does not resort to things like that and that she is able to comfortably come to me or anyone else to express her concerns. So now I am asking myself how I can help change that. How can I influence the little girls and boys to believe in themselves? That it is okay for a girl to like sports and science. It is okay for a boy to like theater and show emotion.
All of this is acceptable and should be acceptable. I think that bringing awareness to society would definitely help reduce stereotyping. I believe that there should be some kind of open communication for kids to reach out to their parents or adults or role models. I think that kids just need their loved ones to accept them for who they are and to tell them that they love them. In the movie The Mask You Live In, there was a man being interviewed towards the end who started to break down. His teacher had told him that he finally understood him and told him that he was good enough.
We are all enough, and sometimes it is hard to remind ourselves of that fact. Our upbringing definitely makes a difference in our future and one way we can contribute to the future and help reduce stereotyping is by just simply loving our future children for who they are. Encourage and support them in what they want to pursue and constantly tell them how much we appreciate and love them. “Researches showed that boys and girls with positive and supportive parents have more consistent body image satisfaction over time. ” The future starts with us.