Ashley Judd has received an enormous amount of criticism recently from appearances she has made and pictures that have surfaced of her having a puffy face. She explained that the reasons for her puffy face are because of a reaction to medication that she was taking for a sinus infection and weight gain. Ashley Judd said that the media giving her this criticism is just “a sad commentary on our society’s obsession with appearance.” After the big uproar about her appearance, she appeared on NBC’s Nightly News and Today show to speak out against the media and to defend herself. Judd even wrote her own op-ed piece on The Daily Beast, which sparked much talk among those who read the article. “We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification,” said Judd. “Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted.” Although at times the media tried to make something good out of the situation by saying she did not have any wrinkles, therefore she must have had some work done; Judd believes that there was “no presumption of goodwill” coming from the media.”I think it’s the objectification of girls and women and this hypersexualization of our society that invites the criticism,” said Ashley Judd.
“I think it’s the objectification of girls and women and this hypersexualization
of our society that invites the criticism,” said Ashley Judd.
Women are constantly being picked apart as to how they look. They might not be the best size, their hair might not be that “ideal” color, or a particular minor flaw might stand out. This hyper-sexualization that the media projects onto society can easily tear someone down.
What is hyper-sexualization?
Ashley Judd’s speaking out and her op-ed piece has turned the media’s concentration to a more healthy topic of women, rather than talking about times they have been criticized because of the hyper-sexualization our society has created. Women cannot get away from being sexualized, it happens everywhere, whether in the privacy of our homes or publicly in the news, advertisements, and other sources of media. The APA Task Force reports that sexualization in the media can occur during any of the four scenarios below:
- Sexualization makes people look at physical things first and put other characteristics aside
- When someone’s standards for physical attractiveness is narrow minded
- Someone is sexually objectified, in today’s case young girls being forced to look older than they really are or for sexual use. These young girls are not viewed as the young girls that they are.
- When sexuality is forced upon young girls in a way that shouldn’t be.
“We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification,” said Judd. “Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted.”
This hyper-sexualization is not something that just happens to celebrities. Most women feel the impact and stress that it causes daily. According to ABC News, even the extreme has been taken by women who have life goals to “become Barbie”. There are a group of women who consider themselves to be “real life Barbie”. The way these women act and dress are forms of non-verbal language that speaks an image. Even in magazines, the way women and young girls are positioned in advertisements can non-verbally suggest this sexualization behavior. In today’s society specific woman features are considered to be more desirable because the media portrays it as the way you should be. When in reality these images are impossible for women to obtain, due to photo editing. In the study Comparing Society’s Awareness of Women: Media-portrayed Idealized Images and Physical Attractiveness, most viewers of advertisements where women were sexualized had an impact on those. The increased amount of sexualization made viewers more aware of advertisements and more likely to purchase the product. The non-verbal communication from these advertisements attracts viewers while sending the wrong message to young girls, teens, and adult women.
Young girls are introduced to sexualization even through their toys, such as Barbie. As mentioned in the video, “Why play with Barbie when you can be Barbie?” Messages like this convey to young girls and teens influence them on how they should act and dress. According to Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, and Culture, artifacts is defined as objects that define you and create identity. The clothing that women wear attracts viewers because of the form-fitting, low-rise, and revealing dress that we have today. Even Barbie shows young girls how they should dress with her skintight clothing that is very revealing. Being exposed to these types of artifacts at such a young age can end up sending the wrong message to young girls.
What is being done?
The Dove Real Beauty Campaign started in 2004 by Dove to provoke discussion about what society believes is the definition of beauty. In the study, The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report, it was brought to Dove’s attention that the definition of the word “beauty” was very narrow and that it needed to be widened. The study found that only 2% of the world’s population of women, ages 18 to 64, would use the word “beautiful” to describe themselves. Of those surveyed from the ages 18 to 29, only 4% would use the word “beautiful”. This is clearly a problem for women of all ages. The Dove Real Beauty Campaign has been in the media for a few years contradicting the whole “sex sells” theory. Their advertisements have been widely popular receiving a lot of positive media attention. Most advertisements are short lived because they are either overplayed or something better has come out to catch an audience’s attention. This was not the case for the Dove Real Beauty Campaign.
In 2011, when Dove conducted another survey, they were happy to see that the 2% that said they would consider themselves beautiful had increased to 4%. This self-esteem motivation campaign has really had a positive impact on those that have been affected by it. There are many celebrities, such as Ashley Judd and Miley Cyrus, that are advocates trying to stop the media from making women think less of themselves. Women need to be proud of who they are and not let the media influence how they think they should be. The non-verbal and verbal communication that women receive from sexualization can be hard for women to deal with. Tearing down one’s self-esteem by displaying images of how you should act or look is not going to make things better.
I think that it is important that marketers especially realize what this is doing to women in today’s society. Taking one small step in trying to change the way someone views an advertisement or news story can truly change society’s perception of how they view women. Women do not need to be inside a box, but be able to be themselves outside the box.