Tip #25 – Teach Daughters AND Sons to be Critical of Female Portrayals in Media

Dec 01

There is a growing army of female warriors determined to battle the media’s assault on female empowerment and self-confidence. The likes of Miss Representation and Spark are two such inspiring grassroots organizations that campaign to stop the proliferation of degrading portrayals of women in movies, TV shows, ads, and more. I wholly applaud them because their words to North American females echo those I share with my own family. With one exception: I have sons.

As my oldest son leans toward his tween years, I feel a particular urgency to open his eyes to the inaccurate representations of women of which he is increasingly exposed.

The days of 24/7 Treehouse TV are long gone and YouTube viewing is slowly migrating into music video territory with movie preferences getting dicy.

While I understand that the campaign to fight negative female stereotypes is by-and-large a female issue, more emphasis needs to shift toward educating our boys to think critically about this issue. After all, some of the most offensive displays of women (think: helpless, “stupid”, barely dressed) are emblazoned in magazines and movies marketed directly to men. If we, as parents, are not teaching our boys that these images do not truthfully reflect the value of women, then I don’t believe the battle will as hard fought as it could be.

A couple of weeks ago, my 11-year-old son’s friend blurted that he was going to see the movie Jack and Jill. I’d just seen the commercial and had been struck by the degrading treatment of the “ugly” sister. (I know it’s supposed to be funny that she is played by Adam Sandler but the message isn’t: treat pretty girls well and ugly girls like garbage.)

My knee jerk response was to exclaim how awful the movie looked and to point out that is completely degrading to women. My son, used to this kind of talk, didn’t bat an eye but his friend looked at me like I’d just grown a horn out of the top of my head.

“I don’t like Adam Sandler movies,” I’d muttered as I cleared the dinner dishes. My son would not be thrilled if I’d stepped onto my soap box and lectured on the importance of critical thinking in front of his friend, so I left it at that. However, the experience helped me to realize that this issue of misrepresentation of women is relying almost completely on the shoulders of mothers and daughters, when it truly should be a battle shared by all. I, for one, am doing my part and I hope others join me.


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