I have a unique personal experience with and feel a close connection to the topic I chose to research about for my final project. I feel passionate about educating the community and myself about certain stereotypes that exist in the media and I think it’s important to act on them and make a change. It is vital that we learn how to resist and challenge sexist messages in the media. My passion for this topic stemmed from a math class in Ninth Grade. I was faced with an unpleasant surprise when I walked in on the first day of school to find a class of 25 boys and only 2 other girls. I was confused, disappointed, and intimidated. I was experiencing feelings of infuriation and insult. I started to question my academic ability and become filled with self-doubt. I wondered why there were only three of us girls and if something was wrong with the way my high school taught math to girls. I was sitting in a classroom that was the epitome of the stereotype that boys are more mathematically inclined than girls, an idea that I had always cast aside as old-fashioned and as something that would never affect me. Being faced with this degrading feeling prompted me to challenge the stereotype.
I researched women’s groups and inquired about data and papers on the topic. While exploring, I communicated with contacts from various websites, which ultimately led me to an opportunity to join Ma’yan. Ma’yan provides feminist, social justice, and leadership training to teen girls. Within Ma’yan, I was accepted to a 15-month Research Training Internship, in which we focused on media sexism and its impact on girls and young women. In discussing our own experiences and exploring our communities, as a group we unearthed conflicting and unreasonable expectations that girls face in our everyday lives. Once we started digging and uncovering facts and figures, I was shocked to realize the pervasiveness of the sexist stereotype.
This internship caused me to realize the seriousness of this stereotype and how it is embedded in everything. Because of this internship, I have become more aware of my surroundings and concerned with the messages that the media is sending to teens today. I learned that this sexist stereotype is embedded in everything, from social media to commercials to advertisements. How are we supposed to be pretty and silly, yet smart and good at everything? Since social media is such a big part of my generation and can even become addictive, I am eager to focus on Instagram and how certain posts and/or accounts are perceived in our society today.
I became an integral member of the Internship by participating, interviewing, listening to speakers, and sharing personal experiences, all of which culminated in our production of a video aimed at young girls and preteens. We created a Website to offer strategies to build awareness and take action. I was most empowered by this experience because I made a valuable contribution to making young girls aware that while sexism still exists, we have the power to make a change. The video is currently used in educational settings to help teach awareness about preconceived sexist ideas in society and the media. The situation in math class opened me up to a whole new world of research, and the research opened my eyes to a myriad of topics that have a direct relevance to my life. I am constantly surrounded by advertisements that portray this stereotype, whether I realize it or not. I am going to delve into certain Instagram accounts and posts and uncover the deeper meanings.