I watched a video yesterday about how women are portrayed in the media. You can watch it here.
It was pretty shocking to see all those images linked together. Some of the images looked familiar and when you see them individually you can almost miss how overtly sexually and explicit they are. As my roommate and I were discussing, it’s so present in our culture and the media has such a huge influence, it seems almost impossible that we wouldn’t be effected at all.
As I begin to see myself more as a feminist, I’ve started to notice that some of my actions and interests don’t necessarily align with my beliefs. Growing up going to sexually oppressive Catholic schools did not prepare me to transition from being a sexually ignorant teenager to a sexually explorative adult. Until college I had no experience dating and had only had one or two encounters with the opposite sex. Going to an all girl Catholic high school can have that effect on one’s experiences.
We were taught abstinence and I was certain I would be a virgin until I was married. One year away from religion class and I couldn’t wait to lose my v-card. That’s not entirely true. I met someone I cared about and had my first relationship, but when it slowly collapsed afterwards I felt like I’d wasted it. I was taught for 14 years that I should wait to be married and then in a rush of passion it was gone and I wouldn’t be able to get it back. Suddenly, it didn’t seem so special anymore. Once ‘it’ was gone, it seemed silly to have made it such a big deal and I embraced the hook-up culture of college with extra exuberance.
It’s no surprise that once young people move away for college they start to experiment, but if they are getting their dating advice from Sex in the City and every ad they see oversexualizes women, it is also not surprising that women are ending up in many negative situations. Date rape, sexual harassment (both verbal and physical), sexually unsatisfying relationships, and of course a wardrobe that my godmother would say came from a ‘half off sale’…if you catch my drift.
Sex and the City taught a generation that talking about sex was not actually a bad thing, but where are the boundaries? As a feminist embracing your sexuality is one thing, but where should the line be drawn? How much is too much?
So, are we liberated because we can talk openly about sex or are we oppressed because the media oversexualizes women?
We want to be able to have control over our sexuality, but when the media defines how we view our sexuality, that’s when we lose control. It’s almost impossible to disassociate from the images that bombard us every day, but as long as we are able to look at them and understand what we are really seeing, then I think we can overcome the messages they are sending.