During my sophomore year in high school I discovered feminism. A good friend of mine introduced me to feminism right around the cusp of ‘wokeness.’ I learned about the struggles that women faced and started to notice the subtle forms of oppression that I would face, which are far less than other women of different racial, socioeconomic, ability, and gender identities. This friend of my decided to start a trend in my high school; she wasn’t just going to educate me, she was going to educate everyone. The feminists in my high school started campaigns of awareness and conversations on whether leggings were pants and the sexualization of females wearing these leggings. I became more feisty and academically feminist when I wrote my IB extended essay on female beauty standards and the negative impact that it has on young women. This research paper sparked my interest in advertisements and media in general. I started to critically analyze the effects of female depictions in the media and its cultural impact that occurs from it.
Around this time I also started to realize the fact that gender was a social construct. My IB Philosophy class senior year read Simone de Beauvior and through her work in The Second Sex I was able to begin to recognize how performative gender is through femininity. The social construct of gender places immense expectations on women to perform to these standards with femininity and sexuality as well, which is why I find it so destructive that advertisements and the media perpetuates these standards.
I was able to study this topic further during my second semester of my freshmen year, I took an introductory course to Women’s and Gender Sexuality Studies at Emory. Throughout this course I learned about intersectionality as an approach to feminism to make the social movement more inclusive. This idea that women of all identities, whether it be of a different race, ability, socioeconomic class, religion, or more can face different and combined forms of oppression based on these identities. This new framework allowed me to view the objectification of females in a different light. No longer did I view gender just as a social construct, but womanhood and the oppression that females face is a broader experience and concept because of these various identities. This new framework allowed me to recognize how there were differences in female perpetuations of femininity and the sexualization of women’s bodies based on race.
Female objectification in the media stems from the sexualization of women’s bodies. Advertisements and the media by extension use female bodies to promote products and further perpetuate the idea that women are inferior. These advertisements have a greater effect in the 21st century because the Internet and social media make this objectification ubiquitous. One objectifying and sexist ad, like this Burger King ad implying the woman giving a blow job, had the power to continue to degrade women more because it will never be deleted from the void that is the Internet. I can still google ‘sexist burger king ad’ and this form of objectification pops right up on my google images. The greater influence of the Internet means that advertisers and marketers must have a higher level of social consciousness because the objectification and sexualization of female bodies will always exist on the Internet further perpetuating these destructive ideals.
Social media, on the other hand, has the ability to call out these objectifying forms of media through feminist tweets and articles. Through these online communities of support, women are able to regain their voices and fight back against this objectification and sexualization. Hashtag campaigns like #TimesUp and #MeToo give women spaces to fight against the patriarchy. These hashtags are focusing on the destructive sexual assault and harassment that exists in our society, which is an incredibly important task at hand. While they are not explicitly focused on describing how women are objectified and sexualized in the media, they do however call out the fact that women are people and not body parts. I hope to accomplish in my final project not only an in-depth study into these unfair treatment of women in the media, but also find a way to effectively communicate it through the media so it can become an influential project.