HagRags: I’m [Not] Too Sexy

Posted: September 12, 2011 in fashion, style

From the Department of Du-uh, No Kidding:

A study by University at Buffalo sociologists has found that the portrayal of women in the popular media over the last several decades has become increasingly sexualized, even “pornified.” The same is not true of the portrayal of men.

I don’t mean to mock. Kudos to the social scientists at Buffalo for quantifying what most of us know already: Women’s images in the popular media have been steadily creeping (and I mean CREEP-ing) toward the pornographic and the utterly unattainable.

The researchers used a simple, unique and surprisingly effective measure for their study:

[They examined] covers of Rolling Stone magazine from 1967 to 2009 to measure changes in the sexualization of men and women in popular media over time.

Using their own formula to compare the evolving images of both men and women, they discovered that photos of women celebrities over time have become more and more sexual or “hypersexualized” in the media.

“What we conclude from this is that popular media outlets such as Rolling Stone are not depicting women as sexy musicians or actors; they are depicting women musicians and actors as ready and available for sex…

And if that isn’t bad enough, this trend is reaching down into hypersexualized images of teens and tweens. Sexy is one thing, but pedophilia is quite another. (If you don’t believe me, google “Emma Watson” and watch what the years and media expectations have done to our little Hermione.)

And what about us? We women of a certain age aren’t even part of the picture. In this little universe, we don’t exist.

Do I need to point out why this is a bad thing?

“Sexualized portrayals of women have been found to legitimize or exacerbate violence against women and girls, as well as sexual harassment and anti-women attitudes among men and boys,” [said one of the researchers]. “Such images also have been shown to increase rates of body dissatisfaction and/or eating disorders among men, women and girls; and they have even been shown to decrease sexual satisfaction among both men and women.”

And, looking at it from an almost reverse perspective, it only gets worse: How can the fashion industry make the feminine ideal even more unattainable? Use male models. Perfect. No hips. No breasts. Nothing to get in the way.

It’s nuts. We absolutely cannot win.

Just how long are we going to put up with this? I don’t understand how we can let a runaway media and fashion extremists create impossible ideals and further dictate how we are to feel about ourselves. I believe I’ve earned the right to dress comfortably, using my own well-crafted fashion sense, without fear becoming fodder for Tom and Lorenzo or of winding up on a Glamour Don’ts page.

What’s your fashion philosophy? How do you deal with all the unrealistic expectations?

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