Far too often, today’s youth are exposed to over-sexualized images of women, unrealistic body expectations, and other unhealthy messages though the media. Television, magazines, and the internet constantly bombard teenage girls with airbrushed, too-thin, or provocatively dressed celebrities and models, causing girls everywhere strive for a perfection they will never reach. Several recent studies have linked the media’s depictions of women to teens’ eating disorders, depression, and low self-esteem.
Luckily, the government has finally taken an interest in the devastating effects the media is having on teens’ body images. The Healthy Media for Youth Act was introduced by two congresswomen, Representatives Tammy Baldwin (a democrat) and Shelley Moore Capito (a republican). This bill will work to promote healthy images of women in the media through a grant program that will support youth empowerment groups, media literacy programs, and further research into the effects of the media on women and girls.
As an educator and a mom, I strongly support this bill. But it hasn’t been passed…yet. I ask each and every one of you to reach out to your local congress representatives and ask for their support in passing this amazing bill. As it is Healthy Media for Youth Week, now is a perfect time to be proactive. If you are unsure where to start, I’m including a sample letter below.
Dear Congress (wo)man X:
I urge you to be a Voice for Girls in Washington by cosponsoring H.R. 4925, the Healthy Media for Youth Act, which was introduced on March 24th by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito.
Media and technology are dramatically changing the way children communicate, receive information, and learn. While there are many positive benefits of increased media exposure, there are many challenges associated with new media, especially with regard to the portrayal of women and girls. For example, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media found that in the top box office G-rated movies from 1990-2005, three out of four characters were male. It also found that the majority of female characters in children’s movies are praised for their appearance or physical beauty rather than their personality, intelligence, or other talents, and narrowly fixated on romantic relationships that lack substantial connections or courtships.
While this issue affects all children, it disproportionately affects girls. A recent study by the Girl Scout Research Institute states that sixty percent of teenage girls compare their bodies to fashion models and almost 90 percent of girls say the fashion industry places a lot of pressure on teenage girls to be thin. According to the American Psychological Association, three of the most common mental health problems among girls — eating disorders, depression or depressed mood, and low self-esteem — are linked to sexualization of girls and women in media.
With children exposed to more than 10 hours of recreational media each day, we must ensure that they are empowered to make sense of the media images they are seeing. The Healthy Media for Youth Act supports media literacy programming that provides youth with critical and analytical thinking skills, and leadership development to help them combat the negative images they see. The bill also supports research on the impact of media images, and creates a taskforce to adopt voluntary guidelines to promote healthier media images of women and girls. This legislation will empower children and encourage better balance in the media images they see
I encourage Congressman/woman_________________ to be a Voice for Girls. Please cosponsor the Healthy Media for Youth Act today by contacting Amber Shipley in Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin’s office at email@example.com or (202) 225-2906 or Virginia Gum in Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito’s office at Virginia.firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 225-2711.
Our kids need our help to battle the distorted messages of sex, beauty, and body image they are faced with everyday. Fighting to pass the Healthy Media for Youth Act is just one small step we can all collectively take in the right direction.
Rosalind’s Pick: Dove Campaign for Real Beauty
The Body Image Police
Girl Scouts Advocacy Network
National Eating Disorders Association