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Portrayal of Teenage Girls in the Media

In the United States of America, citizens possess the privilege to enjoy the freedom of speech and the freedom to express their views and feelings under the protection of the U.S.Constitution.

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However, there may be a point at which freedom of speech is abused or escalated to an unethical level that may be harmful to the well-being of society, particularly the youth of today and the future leaders of our world. Over the years, the question “should parents be concerned about the portrayal of teenage girls in the media? ” has become a significant controversial moral issue in society.

The portrayal of teenage girls in the media is a controversial moral issue because of the cultural sensitivity and the perceived intrusiveness of the subject. This issue primarily concerns the excessiveness of sexual content and unbecoming images of young women exposed through the media. Needless to say, this question leaves many parents ill at ease. Images, perceived norms and new trends are consistently being set for how young girls and women must look, act, think, and feel in order to be successful and accepted in today’s society.

There has been an ongoing debate concerning moral actions that need to be taken to regulate the appropriateness of age sensitive material being permeated throughout the media. Media is everywhere; it is in classrooms, advertisements, movies, televisions, magazines, newspapers, the internet, the workplace, and in homes all over the country, and it continues to infuse the world and our lives. Media does not only sell tangible products, but also morals, values, concepts of life, and success, and to some extent normalcy (Killing Us Softly 3).

Whether positive or negative, consciously or unconsciously, media affects each and every one of us every day. Young girls are being exposed to a supposed ‘ideal’ image of female beauty through the years of media exposure. For example, the notion that the most important thing to a young woman should be her physical appearance is an idea that is acquired at a very young age. Even before a girl reaches puberty, she is already aware of her physical appearance and the effect it has on her stand in society. Extreme and unhealthy amounts of guilt and shame can follow if the young woman does not achieve that perception (Killing Us Softly 3).

Many people in America’s society believe that the media’s unethical behavior is to blame for influencing and even producing some of the nation’s growing problems among teens, such as eating disorders, increased participation in sexual activity, pregnancy rates, rape, increased alcohol consumption and drug use. Others, however, feel that society should not blame the media for the inappropriate behavior and that lack of discipline and morals among teens in today’s society, but rather blame the parents and educators who influence and guide those teens.

The majority of parents hold the media responsible for the corruption of the morals of teenage girls. They believe that the media’s widely unrealistic and unhealthy depiction of young women and what they are supposed to look and behave like in order to be socially accepted and respected has allowed and encouraged teenage girls to become overly consumed in achieving this supposed ideal. Sadly, it has left many girls confused, in danger, or even dead.

Supporters of this position argue that “the mainstream corporate media construct sex and sexuality in ways that limit and hamper girls’ healthy sexual development” (Durham 12). They trust that there is more evidence that the messages teenage girls are getting about sex from media are harmful rather than helpful (12). Intervention began to be a growing demand from the public audience. One potential resolution to this moral issue is to continue revising and producing television and movie ratings that are current, relevant, and constructive to the current images spread through the media.

For example, a ban on commercials and advertisements that objectify women and promote sexual behavior would be effective to alleviate these unethical teen images. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) ratings and the TV Parental Guidelines (a TV ratings system designed to give parents more information about the content and age-appropriateness of TV programs) (“TV”) can be used “to allow parents to block out programs they do not want their children to see, based on the ratings” (“TV”) and other personal preferences.

These types of sources support and encourage media restrictions and the facilitation of providing cleaner and more appropriate television for children. Promoting a more realistic and healthy body image, lifestyle, and attitude for today’s young women through public service announcements is another form of media that advocates healthy teen behavior. According to supporters of such sources, consumer advocacy and action is a principal task in resolving this problem.

People have the power to critique, analyze, challenge, and affirm media messages, and also have the option of turning off, boycotting, and disengaging from media that denigrate or insult girls (Durham 227). Just as producers have the right to produce and distribute these messages, the public audience has the right to question and challenge them. It is both the responsibility and obligation of the American society and the government to ensure a safer, healthier, more promising nation for girls to develop and grow without negative imagery, or false and fabricated ideals being fed to them through media.

Nonetheless, these potential resolutions to limiting the indecent exposure of teenage girls in the media predictably stir up opposition. Some people believe that society should not blame the media for the inappropriate behavior and lack of discipline and morals among teens in today’s society, but rather the parents and educators who influence and guide those teens. Also, they argue that not all media is bad media, and consider the idea that adults are biased against teens.

They believe that those who oppose their belief have over exaggerated the media’s impact on today’s youth, claiming that “seeing attractive models [has] become such a familiar experience that exposure no longer produces a reaction strong enough to influence self-perception or ones general sense of hope” (Wagner 120). Meaning, that girls have become desensitized to this kind of imagery that does not psychology affect them as much as some would like to believe.

After analyzing and being influenced by both sides of the argument, the leading proposed solution to me would be to alter the ideal image of female beauty and appeal disseminated by the media, then to extensively promote and advertise an improved, healthier, beautiful, and more realistic idea of female beauty. The media’s negative imagery has had an impact on the majority of today’s youth and is noticeably a serious problem. This impact has infected the minds of young growing girls with unrealistic and dangerous notions of perfection and lifestyle, clearly leaving parents concerned.

America’s teenage generation is disregarding moral values and the practice of self-respect, faith, self awareness and the embracing of childhood experiences, and rather engaging in activities involving immoral behavior which are simply not age-appropriate. Although who can blame them, since this type of behavior has become socially acceptable due to the media’s infiltration into America’s homes and spread of images and ideals focused rebellious behavior, sexual active, parental defiance, and distorted imagery of beauty and health.

The American society should take action as concerned citizens by voicing their opinions to society and demanding a decrease of the objectification and sexualization of females in the media. Additionally, since advertising agencies are not going to immediately rid themselves of the negative unethical habits with regard to female imagery in the media, continuing to produce and broadcast understandable and accurate ratings on all television programs, movies and even advertisements is an effective way to inform parents about what their children are watching and being influenced by.

Many young girls worry about the contours of their bodies, especially shape, size, and even muscle tone, because of the belief that the body is the ultimate expression of the self and beauty (Durham 128). This kind of mentality can cause long-term physical and mental damage and can push young girls to dangerous limits. Communities should promote extracurricular programs that help young people develop self-esteem based on traits such as ability, talents, character, and academics, rather than simply physical appearance.

The need to replace sexualized images with positive images of females endorsing notions other than physical beauty is vital. The goal should be to deliver messages to all adolescents, boys and girls, which lead to healthy, safe and realistic development. Our government has an obligation to protect its citizens from harmful and dangerous things; ultimately, these things are under the government’s control. The negative influences generated by media on young girls should be taken into consideration and should be diminished, even if that means comprising the few positives.

This lasting controversy is clearly a conflict between the values of health, safety, self-esteem, and ethical choices of teenage girls on one side, and the support of logical evidence and standpoints and the parental supervision aspect on the other. While promoting positive messages to youth through the media is the ultimate plan and goal for supporting the change in images presented by the young girls about young girls, every solution can back fire.

Some may believe that attempting to transform the media is a waste of time because these corporations behind it all will not bend easily since the obvious result and reason for a lack of good conscience is loss of profits and loss of the number one selling point, sex. However, if enough people take a stand and stop buying products with discriminating and insulting ad campaigns, turn off the television shows displaying high school students having sex and doing drugs, stop allowing their children to go see the movies that encourage and reward poor behavior among teens, then a demand will not go nnoticed. This may force those corporations responsible for the media to change this rising controversial moral problem and take us one step closer to having healthier, happier, growing young girls, rather than confused, pressured, unsatisfied, and vulnerable young teenage girls living everyday of their lives engulfed by an array of poor images and trying to live up to a image that is unhealthy, unsafe, unethical, or simply just doesn’t exist.

Works Cited Durham, Gigi. The Lolita Effect. New York: Overlook P, The, 2008. Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising’s Image of Women. Dir. Sut Jhally. Perf. Jean Kilbourne. 2001. “TV Ratings. ” The TV Parental Guidelines. 2008. 1 Nov. 2008 . Wagner, Viqi. Eating Disorders. New York: Greenhaven P, Incorporated, 2007.

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