How Did We Get Here?

April 3, 2012
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When corsets were a status of wealthy, educated women, many wanted to lace theirs tighter. These women, in fact, were taking drastic measures to tie their corsets tighter. Some went as far as to have their ribs removed. Often, this led to many medical problems. The astounding thing is, however, this was all because of societal and media ideals. These media ideals which have been adapted into society today are unattainable and harmful to most women and must be changed.

We may not realize it but since hundreds of years ago media and societal ideals have infiltrated our homes. Robert Max Jackson in Chapter 8 of his book, Down So Long, elaborates that “Moreover ideology helped to sustain women’s inferiority by constantly defining socially legitimate household responsibilities for women.” These ideologies include the idea that women are “better” at cleaning and that they should stay at home with the children. Jackson also goes on to say that this wouldn’t be the media standard if we haven’t accepted it. But we have. Maybe we’ve evolved from women who never get jobs and stay home with the children, to women who are the CEO’s of some of the most prosperous businesses in the US, but the ideals that we carry and accept are that of the first.

This ideology epidemic has also spread to the workplace and manifests in education as well. Amanda Noworyta and Frank C. Manista conducted a study in 2001 with MSU; they found that often our perception (formed by the media) of women in the workplace is very skewed. They record that more women than ever are graduating from college and they make up over 45% of the economically active population. This is actually discouraging to many women as societies and the media’s perception of women in the economy are not at all reality. These skewed views are giving more women the idea that they cannot succeed in the workplace or in their education, and it is truly a detriment.

The most common or typical ideal set in place by society or media is how we should look. How did we (as a society) go from idolizing women shaped like Marilyn Monroe to super models who look like a sack of bones? Westminster College in Utah reported that 10% of girls ages 15-29 could be considered anorexic or bulimic. This was steamed from a disfigured idea of healthy figures caused by the media. More and more we are being exposed to harmful advertisements, and Westminster found the correlation. So we look to a market research firm,Yankelovich, whose results were released in a New York Times article in 2007. The data showed that one person sees an average of 5,000 advertisements a day. This is a sensory overload, and it’s contributed negative health conditions sprung up from the advertisement messages.

Thankfully, we can do something about what kind of ideals the media is inflicting on society today. Back to Robert Max Jackson’s book, Down So Long, he concluded that these negative messages can actually propel women forward to put a stop to this. Now with social media it’s easier than ever to share the message about what a modern day woman looks like, how she competes at the economic level, and where her place in the home is. The government can also do something, such as regulate ads that could have negative consequences later on. But ultimately we need to set our own standards for women in today’s society.

Through seeing how these media ideals have been active in our lives, we looked at the home, workplace and place of education, and our bodies; we can come to the conclusion and learn that the media ideals currently are harmful to women. But, in the future we, men and women alike, can change them. Never again should we have to revert to a time when women were tightening their corsets or removing their ribs to attain acceptance from the media.

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