Smart, Sexy, Sassy: Society’s Pressures on Young Women

COLLEGIAN: November 1, 2011

By Elizabeth Novatny

As a young woman in today’s society I find an increasing pressure to fit a certain mold. Smart, sexy, sassy – oh and organized, motivated and pleasant. Although more and more women are present in the work force the ideas of where and how a women fits into that realm are still very conservative.

I recently came across the documentary and wide-spread global think project, Miss Representation, pioneered by California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s lovely wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom. In the film, which was very successful at Sundance, it highlights the issue of how women are presented in the media.

Everywhere we turn hyper sexualized advertisements feature women in submissive and slightly violent positions. My new Dolce and Gabana sunglasses came off a stand where a women in a white bikini seductively lounges on a yacht next to a ‘successful’ looking man.  It highlights the concept of the gaze where the women feels she holds power through her sexuality. So is this the message we really want to show is success for women?

Along with the film, the website encourages women to pledge they will not buy products that use sex, body-image, violence or submission in their advertisements. When I think about it, what product does that realistically leave me?  Walking down the aisle of Target almost every product that I pass has used one of these elements somewhere in their advertising.

So, is this mission realistic I ask myself? Somewhat. At least, as a women in her early twenties, I’d like to think so. But it will take a good amount of support from advertisers, media and consumers in order to implement. It’s a total reorganization of thought.

I plan to make an effort to purchase as many products that don’t use theses elements. Giving up tabloids and gossip columns is no problem for me – I’ve never been an avid follower. But the solution needs to start at bottom; with our youth.

Last year I was a nanny for three elementary school girls. Their mother had given them the gift of no television, video games or radio blaring Rhianna’s rocking lyrics. She emphasized math, science and reading. All their play was imaginary and creative. They matter of factly told me that being smart is better than being pretty and hated everything ‘princess.’ While it seemed extreme, this might be the best way to revolt against the images we portray to women. What better then to train them at a young age that their value lies beyond their looks?

I feel that if enough parents and adults took the time to really enforce academia and not subscribe to these mediums the industry would be forced to reevaluate its tactics. That would be the true representation of ‘miss’ in our society.
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