Join the Dialogue on Healthy Images for Women and Girls

by Deborah Taylor Tate on August 18, 2011

Last fall, there was one day where most everyone in Washington was in agreement. And that’s a rare sight.

The Girl Scouts of the USA, the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Telecommunications and Cable Association, and The Creative Coalition hosted everyone from competing media companies to Democrats and Republicans to spend a day focusing on the incredible impact that media has on all of us, especially our children. And we all agreed: We must take action.

Researchers have long provided statistics about the increasing amount of time our kids spend engaged with media. With the prevalence of mobile and handheld devices — “screenagers” — are spending upward of 10 hours a day consuming media (Kaiser 2009).

And, what are they seeing? Some healthy and some unhealthy content, especially when it comes to portrayals of women and girls in the media. For example, when female characters do exist, most are highly stereotyped and hyper-sexualized. Consider this: Female characters in G-rated films wear virtually the same percentage of sexually revealing clothing as female characters in R-rated films (Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media).

One of the most passionate people examining the influence of media on girls is Geena Davis. Geena is one of those rare stars who has never let accolades and Academy Awards go to her head. Instead, she has been firmly committed to improving the film medium, encouraging casting of girls and women in roles that are strong, healthy, active, and yes, even presidential.

According to her Institute on Gender in Media, despite being 50 percent of the U.S. population, in family films and television, male characters outweigh female characters by nearly three to one — a statistic that has remained the same since 1946. Only 27 percent of speaking characters are female. And females are over five times as likely as males to be shown in sexually revealing clothing.

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute, girls compare themselves to fashion models, with 55 percent of girls admitting they diet to lose weight, and 31 percent admitting to starving themselves or refusing to eat.

It’s time to take action.

Spearheaded by the Girl Scouts and our partners, Davis and I are proud to co-chair the Healthy MEdia Commission on Positive Images of Women and Girls. The Healthy MEdia Commission will host the national dialogue on what we are showing our children, as well as craft a blueprint with the media on ways to promote positive, healthy and realistic depictions of women and girls as well as healthy relationships and positive role models on screen.

We are proud that so many people from the media industry have joined with this effort, and you can, too! We are asking the public to help by joining us, by hosting a forum, writing a letter to the editor, commenting on blogs or social media, tweeting about it, or talking to your children about the content they see on TV.

It will take all of us to help create the next generation of leaders. I hope that one day, with more healthy images and role models for girls to see and emulate on screen, my new BFF will not be the only female commander-in-chief that our daughters have ever seen!

This article by Hon. Deborah Tate originally appeared on the Tennessean.

Deborah TateDeborah Taylor Tate is a member of the MMTC Board of Directors, co-chair of Healthy MEdia: Commission for Positives Images of Women and Girls, and a former FCC commissioner.

  • S.W.

    What a great piece by Former Commissioner Tate! I’ve long admired Geena Davis for her work with women’s issues and her efforts to create strong, smart, passionate female role models. Glad to see this call to action for us all to join both Tate and Davis in addressing this important cause…

  • John_Q_Public

    This is a wonderful initiative. Thank you for writing about it. I look forward to any updates you can provide.

  • R T Wilson

    A serious issue — healthy images of women of any age are hard to find.

    Fashion models are extreme — they punish themselves to get that way.

    Certainly not “models” that anyone should follow or emulate. They look … freaky.

  • Think again

    This is great. Thank you so much Commissioner Tate for co-chairing such a wonderful initiative. 

    You are right- we all have a role to play, especially parents.

  • herbal tea

    All the girls are really conscious for their appearance. They could do anything for their appearance, Even 45% women underwent surgeon’s knife for their appearance. 

  • Mona

    I feel the little girl in the picture’s pain. Aside from the Cosby Show and very few others, there wasn’t much for me to watch growing up where I saw people like me. The quality of black TV got better in the 90s with shows like Living Single, Girlfriends, and a Different World, but when these were canceled, we didn’t get much to replace them. It could be the death of the sitcom, the death of UPN, or a combination of any number of factors, but I imagine kids today have the same problem I did growing up – not a lot of role models they can relate to on television today.

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