When you turn on the TV, watch a movie or play a video game, you can be sure that at least one thing will happen: the male or female gender will be represented. As such, it’s important for you and your children or students to understand that the way women and men are presented on screen is not always truthful, but instead they’re seeing something highly conceptual.
For example, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media released an overview of their findings today that males outnumber females at the rate of almost 3 to 1 in films. It should come as no surprise they found that women were far more likely than men to be hypersexualized in kid-targeted media. However, it is also worth noting their findings regarding the portrayal of men in animated media, specifically the frequency with which men are drawn as having unusually large chests or having an impossibly muscularized body.
Their statistics happen to come out at the same time that Guy Trebay of the New York Times published an article about male models getting thinner and thinner. (You’d think the media could at least stay on message–which is it, should men be skinny or ripped with muscles?) Of course, none of this renders the issue of skeletal female models any less urgent, but it serves as a good reminder that both boys and girls are receiving conflicting messages telling them how they “should” look. For a mildly humorous example of just how conflicted these messages can be, check out this piece about CosmoGirl’s latest attempt at being responsible.
Take some time to sit down with your children and students, and talk to them about what they see. It’s unrealistic to expect them to never watch another movie, but help them understand the difference between air-brushed entertainment and healthy men and women.
(For tips from Commonsensemedia.org on how to take an active role in your child’s media habits, click here.)