Dear marketing executives, advertisers and video game creators,

As you probably know, on a typical day, the average American is consumed by media–spending 80 minutes texting and using social networking sites and email, 2.5 hours listening to music and 4 hours watching T.V. [1].   That is a significant amount of time, and I believe that because we consumers are so exposed to such vast amounts of media, we have become demanding and picky, choosing what we want to see and when we want to see it. And because we can now decide which shows we wish to watch, which magazines to subscribe to, and which commercials to fast-forward through, you media creators are forced to choose new tactics to differentiate yourselves from the others.  Nowadays, instead of relying on traditional ideas to capture our attention, you are creating edgy, shocking images. From what I’ve observed, the most common (and probably most lucrative) approach you take is to utilize the well-known phenomenon, sex sells.

Your marketing knows exactly whom you are targeting and exactly how to get the message across.  You know how to appeal to a women and how to appeal to a man. You prey on women’s insecurities and men’s desire for power.  When the common individual views today’s advertisements, the message that you are sending to potential buyers is clear—you tell women how they should look, how they should act and what they should wear. Through marketing, advertising, movie and video game development you have created a world where the “ideal look” is comprised of flawless white women, with perfect faces and figures.  We do not see women who are average looking, overweight, poor, disabled or struggling.  When we see an advertisement, the gorgeous woman modeling appears to be saying, without words, “Hey! Look how pretty and happy I am! You could be like me too!  Just buy this mascara!” We see beautiful people get a glimpse of their perfect lives, and instantly we envy them.

I believe this is exactly how all of you in the cosmetic industry wish us to react. You are profiting through the sale of the idea that it is possible to be as beautiful and successful and skinny as the girl in the ad, who is thinner than 98% of American women and photo-shopped to perfection [2].  This tactic is not only unfair and misleading, but also dangerous.  There are more women than ever who do not think they are beautiful, who are getting cosmetic surgery, and who are suffering from eating disorders [3]. It is estimated that 80% of women and girls in America are not happy with their appearance, 48% have had or are considering plastic surgery, and 7 million suffer from eating disorders. They are all trying to become the women that they believe the world expects them to be [3].

Unfortunately, it is not just within ads for makeup where we see this miss-portrayed image of women, but also see in advertising directed at men.  Men’s ads often show women being objectified, using their body parts as a way to tell men, “Here—if you buy this product, you will get lucky tonight!’  These ads, video games, movies, T.V. shows, etc., don’t focus on women as individuals, but turn them into body parts and sexual prizes.  What I think you don’t realize is that by objectifying women, you encourage men to think of women only in terms of their sexuality.  And when you objectify someone, you take away his or her humanity. Turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step towards justifying violence against that person.   In rhythm 0, 1974, which was an experiment done by artist Marina Abramović, the limits of the relationship between performer and audience were tested when she assigned a passive role to herself, and gave the audience control to do whatever they wished with her body.  What she observed was that in the beginning, the audience was cautious, but over time, as she continued to remain an object in their eyes, the audience began to act more aggressively. “What I learned was that… if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you.” … “I felt really violated: they cut up my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the audience. Everyone ran away, to escape an actual confrontation.” (Abramovic)[4]

Image

As it has become more and more normal for women to be objectified in the media, you have continued to push the envelope.  You have become numb to objectification, and have progressed onto more extreme advertising tactics.  Now, It has become normal for your advertisements not only to objectify women, but also to display these women in harmful situations.  “Say you have a commercial that shows aggression or actual violence towards a woman, all that is doing to your influential audience is creating in their minds that this is okay.” (Jeff Lindberg, Domestic Violence expert).

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One of the largest problems with media, advertisements and video games directed at men and boys are the amounts of violence being shown against women. “The typical American child will view more than 200,000 acts of violence, including more than 16,000 murders before age 18. Television programs display 812 violent acts per hour; children’s programming, particularly cartoons, displays up to 20 violent acts hourly”[5].  Through exposure to so much violence at an early age, when their brains rapidly developing, children are becoming desensitized to the violence they are viewing in ads and T.V. shows, and to the violence they are committing in video games.  Over time, and after routinely being exposed to violence, it is easy to lose the ability to empathize with victims of violent acts.

In 2010, a very controversial Japanese game called Rapelay was banned from the U.S.  Rapelay is a molestation game that allows you to sexually assault and terrorize a woman and her daughters on a subway.  Although banned in the U.S., the game remains available in Japan, a country that is also experiencing the rampant occurrence of rapes. Where do those rapes occur?  Subways.   Now, a new law has been implemented, which segregates women riders within separate train cars, and which Japan hopes will prevent women from being attacked on public transportation. [6] This is only one example of how treatment of women in forms of media can affect behaviors in everyday life. Each year there are over 200,000 victims of sexual assault.  22 million women have been raped in their lifetime, and one-fourth of all women have experienced domestic abuse. [7]

While it is clear that violence stems from many other factors such as family abuse, poverty, mental disorders, etc., research has shown that exposure to media violence plays a significant role in the rise of violent behavior.  And, while not everyone who engages in violent and objectifying media will abuse and objectify women, every exposure to violence increases the chances that some day a person will behave more violently than they otherwise would.

Thus, I must ask you this question: When we live in a culture where women are starving themselves to be more beautiful, and violent acts remain prevalent, why not take every possible action towards preventing violence, beginning with the casual violence we see everyday in the media?  How about representing women in beauty ads in a more realistic way?  And would it kill you to make your products less sexist, less objectifying and less violent? –Because if not, your actions may kill someone else.

Would that be too much to ask?

Sincerely,

A Victim of the Media

Author’s purpose:

I decided to write this piece because as a young woman growing up in this culture, I have seen and felt the impacts of the messages, which the media is sending.  I have friends with severe eating disorders, friends who have been sexually assaulted, and like most people, have seen and heard about horrible violent acts going on each and every day around us.  We live in a world where terrible things continue to happen everyday and it is not until we bring awareness to this matter, will it stop.  It is not my intent to blame or villanize the companies putting out these ads and sexist media, I just hope that this letter give them the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on their actions.

Bibliography

[1] “American Time Use Survey Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 22 June 2012. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.nr0.htm&gt;.

[2] Katz, Nikki. “Body Image Statistics.” – Women and Body Image. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2013<http://www.personal.psu.edu/cap5202/blogs/women_and_body_image/about/&gt

[3] Katz, Nikki. “Body Image Statistics.” – Women and Body Image. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2013<http://www.personal.psu.edu/cap5202/blogs/women_and_body_image/about/&gt

[4] Andrew Fishman’s Art.” Andrew Fishman’s Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <http://andrewfishman.tumblr.com/post/37878716069/marina-abramovic-rhythm-0-1974-marina&gt;.

[5] “The Impact of Media Violence on Children and Adolescents: Opportunities for Clinical Interventions | American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.” The Impact of Media Violence on Children and Adolescents: Opportunities for Clinical Interventions | American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/developmentor/the_impact_of_media_violence_on_children_and_adolescents_opportunities_for_clinical_interventions&gt;.

[6] “Japan Tries Women-Only Train Cars to Stop Groping.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 10 June 2005. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/International/story?id=803965&gt;.

[7] “Statistics | RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.” Statistics | RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <http://www.rainn.org/statistics&gt;.

Interview:

Lindberg, Jeff.  San Francisco Police, recognized as a Subject Matter Expert in Domestic Violence by the California Department of Justice. Personal Interview.

Advertisements

These days, because we are exposed to vast amounts of media, and have a multitude of ways to access it, we have become demanding and picky, deciding what we want to see and when we want to see it. Because we can now choose which shows we want to watch, what magazines to subscribe to, and what commercials to fast forward through, companies are forced to use new tactics to differentiate themselves. They create eye-catching and shocking images to help capture the consumer’s attention and the most lucrative method, is through the well-known phenomenon, sex sells.

The media knows exactly whom they are targeting and exactly how to get the message across.  They know how to appeal to a women and how to appeal to a man. They prey on women’s insecurities and men’s desire for power.  When you look at advertisements today, the messages that companies are sending to potential buyers is very clear—they are telling women how they’re supposed to look, how they’re supposed to act and what they’re supposed to wear. Through ads, magazines, movies, etc. the media has created a world where the “ideal look” is comprised of flawless white women, with a perfect face and figure.  We do not see women who are average looking, overweight, poor, disabled or struggling[1].

When we see an add, the gorgeous woman modeling seems to be saying, without words, “Hey, look how pretty and happy I am! You could be like me too!  Just buy this mascara!” We see these beautiful people and get a glimpse of their perfect lives, and we instantly envy them.  This is exactly how the companies in the cosmetic industries want us to react. Companies are making money by selling women on the idea that it is possible to be as beautiful and successful and skinny as the girl in the ad who is thinner than 98% of American women, and photo shopped to perfection[2].  This tactic used is not only unfair and misleading, but dangerous

Not only are more and more woman tricked into fueling this negative cycle of objectification, but there are more woman than ever who do not think they are beautiful, who are getting cosmetic surgery, and are suffering from eating disorders[3]. It is estimated that 80% of women and girls are not happy with their appearance, 7 suffer from eating disorders, and 40 billion dollars are spent on diet related products a year–trying to become the ‘women’ that they believe the world expects them to be[4].

Unfortunately, it is not just within ads for makeup where we see women, but we also see women in ads directed at men.  In these cases, these ads show women being objectified, using their body parts as a way to tell men, “Here—if you buy this product, you will get lucky tonight!’

 

 

By objectifying women, the media is encouraging men to think of women only in terms of their sexuality.  “When you objectify someone you turn them into an object, you take away their humanity.” (Noreen Rahman)  And turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step towards justifying violence against that person.   Today, it has become normal in our society for advertisements not only to objectify women, but to display these women in harmful situations.

 

“Say you have a commercial that shows aggression or actual violence towards a woman, all that is doing to your influential audience is creating in their minds that this is okay.” (Jeff Lindberg, domestic violence expert)  “I’ve been involved with over 1000 domestic violence cases, and there is no treatment that we know of today, to take someone that is abusing women and using power to control women and have them magically stop that behavior.” (Jeff Lindberg)

While not everyone who engages in violent and objectifying media will abuse and objectify women, every exposure to violence increases the chances that some day a child or a person will behave more violently than they otherwise would.

How do we undo those tears and pain, un-brainwash the members of society, and reverse all the negative impact? We cant.  For generations people have been exposed to media, which exploits and objectifies women and our culture has allowed this media to shape the way they women are viewed. But hope lies in those who haven’t yet been affected, the youngest generation, who has yet to be exposed to the harmfulness of the media. The change starts with them.

[1] “The Myriad: Undergraduate Academic Journal.” Westminster College: A Private Comprehensive Liberal Arts College in Salt Lake City, UT, Offering Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees in Liberal Arts and Professional Programs, including Business,

[2] Katz, Nikki. “Body Image Statistics.” – Women and Body Image. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2013. <http://www.personal.psu.edu/cap5202/blogs/women_and_body_image/about/&gt;.

[3] “Teen Health and the Media.” Teen Health and the Media. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2013. <http://depts.washington.edu/thmedia/view.cgi?section=bodyimage&gt;.

[4] “Technology and Media.” Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013. <http://www.parentfurther.com/technology-media/facts/facts_mediaeffect.shtml&gt;.

 

 

People used in interview:

Rahman, Noreen. Girls Incorporated of Orange County. Personal Interview.

Lindberg, Jeff.  San Francisco Police, recognized as a Subject Matter Expert in Domestic Violence by the California Department of Justice. Personal Interview.

 

 

These days, because we are exposed to vast amounts of media, and have a multitude of ways to access it, we have become demanding and picky, deciding what we want to see and when we want to see it. Because we can now choose which shows we want to watch, what magazines to subscribe to, and what commercials to fast forward through, companies are forced to use new tactics to differentiate themselves. They create eye-catching and shocking images to help capture the consumer’s attention and the most lucrative method, is through the well-known phenomenon, sex sells.

The media knows exactly whom they are targeting and exactly how to get the message across.  They know how to appeal to a women and how to appeal to a man. They prey on women’s insecurities and men’s desire for power.  When you look at advertisements today, the message companies are sending to potential buyers is very clear—they are telling women how we are supposed to look, how we are supposed to act and what we are supposed to wear. The media is shaping the ideal woman. “If you consider how often girls or the average American is engaging in media, whether its T.V. shows, commercials, advertisements, billboards, magazines, however it may be, they’re being bombarded with certain messages about women.” (Noreen Rahman, Girls Inc.)

Because of this idea, put forth by the media and now accepted by in large by society, individuals create a personalized reality that is reflective of what they observe and identify as meaningful in their environment. The media instills a perception into women, which not only affects how we see ourselves, but also how others view us.

Unfortunately, it is not just within ads for makeup where we see women, but we also see women in ads directed at men.  In these cases, these ads show women being objectified, using their body parts as a way to tell men, “Here—if you buy this product, you will get lucky tonight!’

Image

By objectifying women, the media is encouraging men to think of women only in terms of their sexuality.  “When you objectify someone you turn them into an object, you take away their humanity.” (Noreen Rahman)  And turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step towards justifying violence against that person.   Today, it has become normal in our society for advertisements not only to objectify women, but to display these women in harmful situations.

022607_sexist_clip_image002

“Say you have a commercial that shows aggression or actual violence towards a woman, all that is doing to your influential audience is creating in their minds that this is okay.” (Jeff Lindberg, domestic violence expert)  “I’ve been involved with over 1000 domestic violence cases, and there is no treatment that we know of today, to take someone that is abusing women and using power to control women and have them magically stop that behavior.” (Jeff Lindberg)

While not everyone who engages in violent and objectifying media will abuse and objectify women, every exposure to violence increases the chances that some day a child or a person will behave more violently than they otherwise would.

How do we undo those tears and pain, un-brainwash the members of society, and reverse all the negative impact? We cant.  For generations people have been exposed to media, which exploits and objectifies women and our culture has allowed this media to shape the way they women are viewed. But hope lies in those who haven’t yet been affected, the youngest generation, who has yet to be exposed to the harmfulness of the media. The change starts with them.

People used in interview:

Rahman, Noreen. Girls Incorporated of Orange County. Personal Interview.

Lindberg, Jeff.  San Francisco Police, recognized as a Subject Matter Expert in Domestic Violence by the California Department of Justice. Personal Interview.