Healthy Media for Youth Summit Addresses Images Portrayed to Young Girls on Television

by Lucette Pierre-Louis on October 24, 2010

Photo by AbdallahhThe Girl Scouts of America, Alliance for Women in Media (AWM), National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), and several other national organizations are united in efforts to reconcile the images of girls and women they see in the media with their own bodies. Young women face many temptations growing up in a society where media leads the race in depicting what indicates beauty, intelligence, and success. A girl can easily become negatively influenced if she is unable to decipher the difference between fiction and reality, developing low self esteem, eating disorders, and even depression. To address these issues, the organizations held a unifying “Healthy Media for Youth Summit” at the US Capitol on October 6th.

Joining the other tools and resources available to combat this problem (such as media literacy education, youth empowerment groups, and Public Service Announcement programs like the Dove Movement for Self-Esteem), the Summit explored the impact of the media on youths’, and especially girls’, self image.

The event highlighted steps parents can take to minimize the chances of their daughters being affected by media images. Many girls dream of becoming a princess or a model because that is what the media and society has deemed as an ultimate dream job for a woman. In fact, a little girl can be whatever she puts her mind to, from an astronaut to a police officer.

During the ceremony, keynote speaker Academy Award winner Geena Davis spoke about her advocacy engagements geared toward urging the film and television creators to increase the percentage of female characters and reduce gender stereotyping in media targeting children 11 and under. Davis gave an example of how one day, while watching Harry Potter with her daughter, she asked her daughter which of the characters she would like to be when she grows older.

Out of all three lead actors, Davis’s daughter instantly chose Harry, instead of his female sidekick Hermione, because she thought his powers were the coolest. This mindset is what needs to be encouraged in our nation’s daughters – to be the best, rather than the prettiest. As Davis’s advocacy continues, she will devote herself to this cause and allow little girls of all ages to have more opportunities than she was afforded in her career.

Emmy Award winner and Academy Award nominee Alfre Woodard closed the day with a powerful declaration, inspiring women to make a difference, emphasizing the roles each and everyone in the room must play in helping young women embrace who they are and how they can achieve their dreams.

The Girl Scouts, AWM, and NAB Youth Summit was truly an inspiring event. Everyone was challenged to speak out, mentor, and make a difference. Hopefully, the Summit’s messages will resonate among all women, and the wisdom it provided will reach a wide audience.

  • Lucy Pierre-Louis

    Lucette Pierre-Louis is an Attorney and graduate from FAMU College of Law who strives to serve the public good and represent the less fortunate. In law school, Lucette earned the title of Senior Editor of the Southern Region Black Law Journal and has authored articles ranging from Abortion to Rape in Third World Countries.

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  • Tonia

    It is poignant to acknowledge that the media has played a pivotal role in defining women. However, parents have a greater force in shaping the mindset of their children. This is true because parents have the power to inculcate in an earlier stage of their children lives the values and philosophies that cannot be easily influenced by the media. A child is only limited by his/her mindset, which can be shaped by their parents, the media, environment or friends. I do believe that parents have more influence in shaping a child’s mindset before it is infiltrated by the negative contents and images of the media.

  • DianneG

    Positive images and messages are so important for our impressionable young
    women. I am truly grateful for organizations like the Girl Scouts of
    America.

  • Guest

    It’s amazing what a person can achieve with an education and self-esteem. It is wonderful that these organizations have come together to encourage young women to realize their potential by building confidence and work towards changing unhealthy media images and societal expectations. Any event that promotes mentoring and empowers women, minority, and low-income citizens to be successful should be applauded.

  • Jonette L.

    This sounds great. I sometimes watch the t.v. and wonder what hope to kids, especially girls, have today when they are bombarded with images, such as those from Jersey Shore or 15 and Pregnant. Luckily, as a child of the 80s and 90s the women that I saw on T.V. were people like Laura Winslow or the Cosby kids. These kids can’t look to the media for many positive images, so we as adults must create those images, on and off the screen.

  • Sara

    It’s so refreshing to hear that people are uniting for such an important cause. Women are capable of much more than just being “pretty faces” with “attractive bodies” — they are integral players in society as a whole. Diversity in the workplace drives enhanced innovation and females who are strong/confident are especially key to our society’s future. Working together to ensure that the media encourages women to accept themselves and embrace their dreams will ultimately create a better world. Kudos for the Summit event & this article for recognizing this important issue!

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