Workshop highlights media’s effect on body image
Studies say media’s portrayal of women has negative effects
Cranberry Eagle
Written by:
April 29, 2013

CRANBERRY TWP — National studies have shown that images and the way the media portrays women are having detrimental effects on young women.

Joan Schenker, parent-education coordinator for Anchorpoint Counseling Ministry in Ross Township, assured young tween and teen women’s self-worth and body image shouldn’t be determined what they see in the media.

She presented the workshop “Body Image & the Media” that offered young girls and parents information to help them realize that images and messages show a distorted view of reality.

The workshop was held April 10 at the Cranberry Area Public Library. This was one of a series of workshops that were conducted in and around the North Hills by Schenker, 60, a former teacher and current guidance counselor.

A few years ago, Schenker explained she started receiving calls from parents asking what to do because their first grader thought they were fat or their third grader wanted to go on a diet.

These kinds of questions were her motivation for writing the workshop with the assistance of middle and high school girls.

The pressures of looking a certain way or being pretty are having negative effects on young women. All the media want to talk about is how pretty women should look on the outside, she said.

She started off by talking about a teen magazine that listed 896 ways to look pretty. “Who has time for all that?” she questioned.

Media pushes to market beauty younger and younger. It started, Schenker said, back in 2011, when a well-known national company marketed a swimsuit with a triangle push up to 8-year-old girls.

Other stores and companies are marketing clothing and items to younger girls than just a decade ago, are marketing to younger girls.

“Media believes that outside if more important than how girls are inside, which we all know is not true,” said Schenker.

Schenker’s presentation had five objectives: enhancing feelings of self-acceptance or self-appreciation, increasing body confidence, providing basic media-literacy skills, empowering students to take action to address media messages and enhancing knowledge of healthy eating and an active lifestyle.

According to Schenker, teens see 5,000 images and spend 8.5 hours on media per day. “Media targets girls with digitally-enhanced and sexualized bodies,” she said.

“Girls who buy into this version of girlhood are more likely to underachieve in schools, more likely to be depressed, to have easy or unsafe sex and to develop an eating disorder.”

“Healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Girls are special each in their own way,” said Schenker.

The three best ways to improve body image is to get enough sleep, eat healthy and exercise.

Schenker offered nine basic tips parents can do to help their daughter improve their body image:

• Promote media literacy at home and in the school and faith communities and point out airbrushing, Photoshop and model-bots, where the same body is used and multiple faces are placed on top of it.

• Encourage athletics and/or exercise. Girls are not just “eye candy.” Focus on skill, ability and action. Participation in sports is protective.

• Encourage extracurricular activities: faith communities, scouting, storytelling, computer club or band.

• Understand their body and the responsibility that comes with sexual maturation. Do not let the media and boys be the only ones talking about sex.

• Go on a media diet. Try co-viewing media, where parents and teens can comment on the content and talk about why they feel the way they do.

• Connect with a faith community to combat the values purveyed by the popular culture.

• Stand up and speak out when one sees commercials/advertisements they don’t like. Talk back to the media. Sent an e-mail or letter voicing displeasure. Withhold business to that company if necessary.

• Parents confront personal body issues and gender stereotypes.

• Go positive and produce own media. Write a poem, produce a video or write to an advertiser or magazine.