In a world where 80 percent of ten-year-olds would rather have cancer than be fat, it’s safe to say we have a problem.
This problem has a name, its objectification.
The good news is, the industry that created the problem, is beginning to challenge it. As Madonna Badger, Jessica Grose, Liz Gateley and Linda Ong discussed women’s objectification in media Monday morning, one thing became clear, women’s role in the media is beginning to change.
The objectification of women within media has long been a problem for society, with adverting and pop culture as a driving force. Badger explains the root of objectification, is in the idea that women’s worth is determined by men. She recalls first having been confronted by its power as she researched for an advertising campaign in 2014. What she discovered, was a confidence gap between men and women, especially in the workplace. After researching the cause, she found it was largely caused by the industry which she was a part of. Since then, she decided she would no longer use these tactics in her advertising. Instead, she’s made it her mission to let the world know about them, for the sake of everyone’s daughters, and sons.
But how do we change it? According to the panel, the answer is simple: Representing women as they are. Human.
As wage equality rises, women continue to work more for less, and the pressure on women to have and do it all is increasing, according to Linda Ong. The illusionistic days of perfect pleats and dinner by five have fallen by the wayside, and women are demanding a new representation to reflect this new reality.
Instead of showing put together, cheery moms, the mainstream media has begun to show women how they really are. They are good people who occasionally make mistakes for the sake of holding it all together.
The panel notes this authentic representation of women is highly beneficial. The diversity of body types, voices of feminism and variety of relationships now given to women within the media are adding layers and a complexity that hasn’t previously been seen.
Even the portrayal of males can add another layer to this complexity. They noted showing males doing traditionally female tasks such as laundry and caring for children goes a long way to normalize these tasks, and rid them of their gendered stereotypes.
A heightened complexity of women within the media scape helps to give everyday women confidence that they’re actually doing alright.
The panel highlighted that representation changes portrayal, and the more women that aid in creating media content and campaigns, the more authentic the female media characters will be. But the panel made it clear that challenging this kind of objectivity isn’t feminism. Instead, it’s a kind of humanism that embraces people holistically.
Recognizing women as human is a first step in ending the negative objectivity they have been subjected to, but it’s not enough. The conversation needs to be extended to include both men and women to break the boundary between the two groups. And that takes all of us, working together.