The media presents a contradictory representation of women,
Media Education Foundation Director Sut Jhally said last night in
the Michigan Union. Women on television draw power from their
sexuality, but at the same time the ideal woman is supposed to be
submissive. He said this leaves women unhappy with their
As part of the “Love Every Body Week,”
Jhally’s speech “The Catch-22 of Female Sexuality in
Pop Culture” focused on ways women base identity on the
media’s representation of the female body.
He said there is a link between pornography and fashion
advertising — women are seen as submissive sexual objects
being over powered by the dominant male.
Jhally said those who control the media decide what images are
seen everyday. Men control the majority of media, so women are
portrayed as having only the power of being sexual objects and are
still submissive to men, Jhally said. He discussed the complexity
women must face regarding their own sexuality.
“During the day you can be the good girl and at night a
bad girl,” Jhally said.
Jhally noted that some directors of Britney Spears and Mandy
Moore music videos are also well known for their pornography
“Male fantasy is inside the identity of young
girls.” Jhally said.
Jhally also addressed how men treat women according to how women
are represented in the media.
Since masculinity is often defined as their control over women,
men have the pressure to treat women a certain way, Jhally said.
For example, the language found in rap music is developed to
promote masculinity and the “good guys” are not
speaking up, he said.
“Change the context in which our society views
women’s bodies.” Jhally said. By not speaking up, men
are enabling women to be left dissatisfied with their bodies and
feeling guilty about their own sexuality.
“One of the things that men can do is break that silence.
The role of the universities is to raise questions up and put them
on the agenda,” said Jhally.
LSA freshman Becky Weinstein said she believes the media can
have a powerful influence on the way women view their bodies.
“I have definitely re-evaluated my own life and I try not
to be so affected by the negative messages that the media is trying
to portray to teenage girls and college girls,” she said.
And LSA senior Jessica Marks added, “I think it was
refreshing to hear this from a male point of view.”
This week’s events — organized by the Coalition for
Action Regarding Eating Issues — seek to raise awareness of
“Awareness is the first step in societal change,”
Alison Brzenchek, chair of CARE, said. “The whole message is
that we are trying to get acceptance of all bodies and show the
power of media.”