Media is a powerful mechanism to spread information. Whether they are fashion models, sport stars or celebrities, the media promotes figures who become role models for young people. This is particularly true for young girls. Celebrities and other “role models” often become a misrepresentation of reality.
Young girls receive mixed messages which often place expectations on them to be beautiful, girly and appear as fragile. In my country of Nepal, young women are flooded with messages from the media pressuring them to have the smallest waist, lovely long hair and a fair complexion. The gorgeous photos of young women on magazines, advertisement banners and other media are beautiful. However, these often unattainable photo shopped images create unnecessary pressure on young women. Young women often go to great lengths to achieve the media’s version of beauty. The result? Many girls develop eating disorders, those with fair skin apply various beauty products while the deemed “unpopular” girls try to reduce the size of their skirts so they will be noticed. Why?
The media sends the message to young women: Our value exists in our bodies.
Media has devalued the existence of women. Women are expected to be flawless. Young women are viewed as sex objects rather than as valuable human beings. I have met so many young women who struggle with depression, lack of confidence and do not believe they can be leaders in our society. In fact, in Nepal, if a young girl exercises leadership she is viewed as someone who is too independent and does not care about her family. Due to the influence of media, men are taught to think they have power over women. While this view is slowly changing, in Nepal media misrepresentation exacerbates existing gender inequalities for young women.
In the United States of America, the average young person watches over twenty hours of television a week. This statistic doesn’t include other forms of media and entertainment. Lack of technology in rural areas of Nepal reduces this number among Nepali young people. However, in urban areas like my home city of Kathmandu young people are heavily influenced by media culture on a weekly basis. Media misrepresentation is a sensitive topic but a crucial one. People must be aware of how the media culture is shaping both young women and men. It is high time we raise our voice against media misrepresentation.
Cover Photo Credit: John Meadows, Flickr Creative Commons