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.
With graduation coming up right around the corner for me I have been bombarded with questions and statement regarding this important day. Although I do like talking about what I am going to do after graduation there is one comment that always gets me after they find out I go to Longwood University, “Oh, so you are becoming a Teacher?” I know this has to do because Longwood was originally an all girl college preparing teachers, but the looks I get when I tell them, “No, I am actually getting my degree is Business Marketing.” is almost as if they do not think a woman should be entering this field or that a woman can make it in a “man’s world”.
The puzzling looks that I get a lot can sometimes be discouraging but also at the same time makes me more determined to strive to be the best in my field to show them that a woman can succeed in a “man’s world” that this sexist language has created.
After reading the article Why Sexist Language Matters by Sherryl Kleinman it made me want to look deeper into women’s roles in the business world. Over time the male generics of terms such as “businessman” have created a higher male status for occupations or even titles that hold the suffix “man”. When substituting the suffix with “woman”, “businesswoman” sounds like a less important job in the business world. It is hard to turn away from words that have been used for decades because we are so familiar with them. Words that have gendered meaning attached to them such as postman, cameraman, and businessman were generally associated only with males where as the nurturing professions were associated only with females. I know I get really offended sometimes when people use the world businessman when referring to me. I am not a man, I deserve me own title!
This topic of sexist language and what people really think about occupations one should have based on their gender really caught my attention with graduation coming up soon. Although I know that there are successful businesswomen in the world, I wanted to look deeper into the reality of what I was getting myself into. Society is always changing and it is easier to see how roles like this have changed from the past to now, but I also want to look into how it is changing in the future. What do women have to look forward to in a “man’s world”?
According to the article, Ad Agencies Working to Increase Diversity In Their Ranks, many Virginia businesses are trying to focus bringing more women into the work world by focusing their recruiting efforts on women. In the United States, females control 80 percent of the purchases, so why not put them in creative marketing positions that can potentially help attract more women or even to different products. In the article, Women Gain As Men Lose Jobs, women are for the first time starting to be more predominant in the work force. In 2009, women occupied 49.83 percent of the jobs in the United States, but according to Heidi Hartmann, a labor economist, “The change reflects the growing importance of women as wage earners, but it doesn’t show full equality.” Women are starting to occupy more of the man’s world. From the articles above it shows that women really can dominate the business “man’s world”. This is a prime example of why sexist language does not need to exist but terms such as “business professional” should be used instead to not be gender specific. According to Women Entrepreneurs Succeeding in a “Man’s World”, women are considered to be CEO’s in the home every day by multitasking, playing a homemaker, wife, and mother, while being able to balance problem & listening, while also being determined to succeed in what they do. Women are more successful as entrepreneurs than men are which is starting to create more of a market. Women have found their niche in the business world, which has allowed them to have a greater lead in something over men.
Now after understanding more about sexist language through the term “businessman”, I hope you can understand why it should not be used due to the increase of women in the work world. Women are starting to show more and more how they can dominate men in their “man world”. As being someone that is getting ready to enter this “man’s world” as of May 12 it is very encouraging to know that there is a demand for women in the business world and that everything is not always centered around men. I think that this also shows how society can change because of the sexist language that has been created by trying to break out of the box to stereotypical norms of what professions should be attached to specific genders. With the increase of women in the business world it makes me believe that one day that it may be known as a “women’s world” instead, giving them more power and seen to be more successful in business.
According to Sean Artis, a student in the Suffolk, VA school district, “ People express themselves in different ways in school and in the world in general.” For some in the Suffolk County School District this may not be the case any more. The School Board is currently trying to ban cross-dressing in schools because it may be distracting to students and take away from their education. Thelma Hinton, the Board Vice Chairwoman, has brought this issue to the School Board’s attention in efforts to protect students from the harassment that may come from their dress choice. A group of boys at one of the schools were scared to use the men’s bathroom because they were being bullied for cross dressing.
When I was at home two weekends ago this story was one of the developing stories for the 5 o’clock news. Not only was my attention caught because of the relationship it had with this class, but I was also drawn to it because of peers I knew in high school and in college that do cross-dress. According to the Virginia Pilot, the ban would include “any clothing worn by a student that is not in keeping with a student’s gender and causes a disruption and/or distracts others…or poses a health or safety concern.” Is this really fair to those that don’t fit in the social norms? Civil liberties and gay rights groups have also brought up the argument that this dress code ban would violate the student’s First Amendment rights. Students, such as Sean Artis, that are friends of cross dressers at school do not believe that their behavior is a distraction to the learning environment.
For some people they may feel more comfortable in the opposite gender’s clothing but at the same time they are completely comfortable with their sex. This situation brings up the concept of Queer Performative Theory with a focus on heteronormativity, challenging what is “normal” and “abnormal” for one’s personal identity (Wood, 2003). The way one dresses and their everyday practices that are not in the social norms are ways that they can express their gendered selves. According to our textbook, Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, and Culture, the queer performative theory is basically anything that is not within societies norms and is challenging a societies culture (Wood, 2003). The act of cross dressing that is causing worry among the Suffolk County School Board may be caused because of the abnormal acts of the students in their society and culture. The potential ban in cross dressing that the school system is trying to pass makes it harder on those students in the school system that do cross dress.
The potential ban that the School Board has presented may allow those students that it effects to feel more discriminated and outcasted in a stage of their lives that is already difficult due to the social environment. Banning cross dressing really might not be a threat to students since they seemed more accepting of the acts from the interviews than the School Board officials did. This shows that the social norms are changing and how what is accepted in a societies culture changes as time goes on.
Wood, J. (2003). Gendered lives: Communication, gender, and culture. Chapel Hill, NC: Thomson Wadsworth