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The Myth, The Media, and The Mirror

Psychologically damaging effects of the representation of women in the media: Objectified Body Consciousness

Emily Charles-Donelson

on 28 October 2014

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Transcript of The Myth, The Media, and The Mirror

The Myth, The Media, and The Mirror
The Swan and The Ugly Duck
Objectified Body Consciouness
The Environment:
Extra Info
The Consequences of Living an Objectified Life
Immersion VS Critical Distance
The Medium is the Message
All in the
Name of Economic Growth
These myths “have been forced on us by popular sociology, by magazines, and by fiction to disguise the fact that woman in her role as
has been essential to the development of our industrial society…Behavior that is essential for economic reasons is transformed into a social virtue.” John Kenneth Galbraith, What is a Wife Worth
What is a Myth?
...or how representations of women as sexual objects in the media cause psychological and environmental degradation.
Myths about Women
"A myth is an idea that, while widely believed, is
. In a deeper sense, in the religious sense, a myth serves as an orienting and mobilizing story for a people. The focus is not on the story's relation to
, but on its
. A story cannot function unless it is believed to be true in the community or the nation. It is not a matter of debate. If some people have the bad taste to raise the question of the truth of the sacred story, the keeper's of the faith do not enter into debate with them; they ignore them or denounce them as blasphemers." David Ray Griffin
The Victorian Invalid
The Feminine Mystique
The Beauty Myth
The second wave of the women’s movement dismantled the feminine mystique, which has since been replaced by the beauty myth
Since the industrial revolution, society has controlled women through ideals
and stereotypes:
For Instance:
The Feminine Mystique...
The idea being that, every time women gain ground in terms of winning rights and power for themselves, society creates a new story that acts as a restrictive mechanism in an attempt to restrain this new-found freedom.
The Mythic Cycle
...Women's Freedom.
The Beauty Myth
...But Their Effects are the Same.
“So the fictions simply transformed themselves once more: since the women’s movement had successfully taken apart most other necessary fictions of femininity, all the work of social control once spread out over the whole network of these had to be reassigned…this reimposed onto liberated women’s faces and bodies all the limitations, taboos, and punishments of the repressive laws, religious injunctions and reproductive enslavement that no longer carried sufficient force.” The Beauty Myth, p 16
Myths Change Shape...
“Inexhaustible but ephemeral beauty work
took over
from inexhaustible but ephemeral house work. As the economy, law, religion, sexual mores, education, and culture were forcibly opened up to include women more fairly, a private reality colonized female consciousness. By using ideas about ‘beauty,’ it reconstructed an alternative female world with its own laws, economy, religion, sexuality, education, and culture, each element as repressive as any that had gone before.” The Beauty Myth, p 16
Every time possibilities for women become open-ended and therefore threaten to destabilize the power structure - a collective panic reaction on the part of both sexes has demanded counter-images
Alice Goes to Wonderland
“…the unconscious hallucination grows ever more influential and pervasive because of what is now
conscious market manipulation
: powerful industries….have arisen from the capital made out of unconscious anxieties, and are in turn able, through their influence on mass culture, to use, stimulate, and reinforce the hallucination in a rising economic spiral.” The Beauty Myth p 17
Film Studies
Objectification Theory: “This theoretical framework places female bodies in a sociocultural context with the aim of illuminating the lived experiences and mental health risks of girls and women who encounter sexual objectification…the common form running through all forms of sexual objectification is the experience of being treated as a body (or collection of body parts) valued predominantly for its use to (or consumption by) others” (Fredrickson and Roberts, 1997).

Emphasis on “sexualized gazing” and its potential for sexual objectification.

Unconcerned with the reasons for the objectification of women. Rather, the concern is on the psychological and physical harm sexual objectification causes women.
OBC has three components:
Internalization of societal standards of beauty as if they are one's own
Extreme control beliefs
Externalized gaze on one's own body
Three Components:
Before and After Syndrome
Male = Female
Extreme Control Beliefs
Externalized Gaze
on the Self
The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a
social relation
among people,
mediated by images
. 4

The spectacle cannot be understood as an abuse of the world of vision, as a product of the techniques of mass dissemination of images. It is, rather, a
which has become actual, materially translated. It is a world vision which has become objectified. 5
The spectacle which inverts the real is in fact
. Lived reality is materially invaded by the contemplation of the spectacle while simultaneously absorbing the spectacular order, giving it possible cohesiveness. Objective reality is present on both sides. Every notion fixed this way has no other basis than its passage into the opposite: reality rises up within the spectacle, and the spectacle is real. This reciprocal alienation is the essence and support of the existing society. 8
The spectacle presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable and inaccessible. It says nothing more than “that which appears is good, that which is good appears. The attitude which it demands in principle is
passive acceptance
which in fact it already obtained by its manner of appearing without reply, by its
monopoly of appearance
. 12
Voluptuous, pouty lips
Big, thick lashes
Barbie button nose
Big, wide set eyes
High cheekbones
Clear skin (no lines, blemishes or pores)
Big breasts, small waist, firm behind, long torso, long legs
Thick hair, but it has to be styled
Plucked eyebrows
Accompanied by a belief that if one doesn’t have these physical characteristics, one is a fail at life. This leads to intense feelings of shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, cutting, decreased ability to experience flow, sexual dysfunction, and under/over eating.
For Instance:
The body is 100% malleable; it can be shaped, molded, and fixed if one uses the right tools (I.e., products) and procedures (I.e., diet programs, exercise routines, and cosmetic surgery).

Thus, if one or someone else does not measure up to the standards that make up the beauty ideal, it is the fault of the individual.

This enacts a cycle whereby the woman finds fault with her physical appearance, believes she can fix it, buys into a tool or procedure, and when it doesn’t work, the cycle starts again.
With the Right Tool You Can Fix It
Values Attached to Before/After Visuals


Disliked/picked on/invisible/unwell




Sometimes poor

Sometimes unhappy


Loved by all

Socially competent

Male attention



You Look Like Shit
Don't worry, use this to get:
It Doesn't Work
False Control Belief Cycle
too fat
bad complexion
hair is too flat
eyes are too small
clear skin
voluminous hair
stand out eyes
The individual thinks of the self as an object to be looked at - while performing tasks, such as reading a book, walking across the room, playing a sport, etc. the individual thinks about how they look while they are doing it.

Often is associated with NEGATIVE inner dialogue

Cognitive resources are split between the task at hand and the mind’s focus on physical appearance while performing. The individual who has OBC has less cognitive resources available than an individual who does not have OBC (effects on things like math and sports).

Limits experiences of ‘flow’ because of obsessive body monitoring
The makeover narrative is essential in establishing the feminine identity as product-centered - as long as women believe that success, acceptance, and power is achieved through buying the right look, women will keep spending money.
The media surrounds us with narratives that
are designed to cause women to wrap their
identities up in their external body –
the most salient feature, the most important thing
about them, is how they look.

Physical and psychological ramifications

Fast fashion/built-in/perceived obsolescence

EWG Skin Deep Cosmetic Database http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
Neurons that fire together, wire together...
Nature VS Nurture
"The changing technologies of 'delivery'
the effect of moving images in display...whatever shape a "piece from the next century" will take, we still need to ask questions about the altered and altering effects of screens that are mobile and fixed, that bring images and sounds in varied sizes and shapes, that permeate our spaces public and private, that sit on our desktops, in our living rooms, on our laps, or are hand-held, accompanying us on airplanes, in automobiles, to desert islands - with us here, there, everywhere." Anne Friedberg, The Virtual Window, p 180
The media is an environment...and environment SHAPES consciousness

Immersive VS Non-immersive story telling technology: we are moving towards IMMERSIVE screen technology
“Bringing you a brand new experience”
“The new dimension of entertainment”
“Experience the difference”
“Bring your experiences to life”
The Case of the Disappearing Interface
Presence can be defined as a psychological state or subjective perception in which “even though part or all of the individual’s current experience is generated by and/or filtered through human-made technology, part or all of the individual’s perception fails to accurately acknowledge the role of the technology in the experience” (Thornson, 62).
The Elimination of Mediation
The more senses that are evoked by a virtual presentation and the more transparent the source of mediation, the stronger and more complete the illusion of being there becomes.

“If an interface is in strong harmony with the way the human mind works it becomes not just intuitive, but transparent. For some, transparency is what presence means, the elimination of mediation” (IJsselsteijn, vi).
Dimensions Determining Telepresence

Proprioceptive sensations
Visceral sensations
Tactile sensations

Some people’s Kinesthetic Systems are more sensitive than others
Kinesthetic System Processing: Feeling as Information
The number of senses engaged
Quality of resolution
(wider field of view, hyper real images, multi-directional surround sound, three dimensional, touch, etc.)
CONSUMING KIDS: THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF CHILDHOOD http://www.filmsforaction.org/Watch/Consuming_Kids_The_Commercialization_of_Childhood_2008/

THE CODES OF GENDER http://www.filmsforaction.org/Watch/The_Codes_of_Gender_2009/

THE CENTURY OF THE SELF http://www.youtube.co/watch?v=OmUzwRCyTSo

STAR SUCKERS http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/starsuckers_2009/

CROSSROADS http://crossroadsfilm.com/

MISS REPRESENTATION http://www.missrepresentation.org/

Phillip Toledano’s ‘A NEW KIND OF BEAUTY’ Exhibition – Renaissance style portraits with cosmetically altered subjects
Nature or nurture? How does the insect 'know' how to camouflage itself so expertly from predators? What is the dynamic, interactive mechanism between environment and biology that causes moths to look like tree bark, flies to look like bees, insects to look like plants...?
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