To be skinny or to be overweight? To wear Uggs or workout shorts or maybe even both at the same time? Can tights be worn as a simple substitute for pants? Media and merchandising reduce the broad range of issues that women actually face into a small subset of petty, beauty-intense concerns that are ultimately useless and detract from the pursuance of dreams. In reality, women are concerned with the ultimate goal of becoming smart, successful and compassionate individuals, but the numerous channels of television and the long pages of advertisements in magazines tell a different story.
I’ll admit that I pore over these magazines and get sucked into the daze of television, waiting on the tips of my toes for a magical solution to all my fashion and appearance problems (and I have since concluded that tights are not pants). However, I can’t help but look to how the conflict between the expectations of the media and myself changes over the years.
The marketing starts early on too, while girls are still reasonably impressionable. I spent most of my youth playing with plushie dogs and teddy bears; I hated dolls because they were too high-maintenance, since picking out my own clothes was (and still is) stressful enough. Furthermore, I abhorred the dolls that would eat, drink and produce excretory waste. Once again, caring for myself is stressful enough. As the years went by, I even got the vague impression that these dolls would subtly promote youthful pregnancies; perhaps the simplicity of caring for an emotionless piece of plastic with stagnant growth makes caring for a living, growing and very emotional child seem that much easier. Note that this applies only to girls who are still transitioning from the impressionable to the less gullible, usually the time frame of unwanted pregnancies.
When I was little, I loved watching movies about adventures Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen would take across the world. In retrospect, while these movies focused on twins who were successful private investigators or globally-minded girls, they also stressed the ever-romanticized idea that every girl will meet the love of her life on the other side of every door she walks through. These kinds of movies would end with a glorification of the romantic interest, rather than the recognition for attempting to make the world a better place, which should be the ultimate message of the film. These scriptwriters seem to assume that romance is the only go-getter for watching a movie. They have such little faith in the minds of their young female audience that such movies should focus on finding the perfect boy.
And while Mary-Kate and Ashley ran my youth, Hannah Montana (aka Miley Cyrus) controls the televised world today. Admittedly, Hannah Montana as a television show truly focuses on issues centered on family and friends, more appropriate to a young girl’s life. In a world where everyone is literally plugged into a computer, Miley’s lifestyle takes a new spin on influencing the female youth, as inappropriate pictures rampage the tabloids and music videos involving questionable clothing and raunchy dance moves around an American flag and the back of a pickup truck make their way to the front page of YouTube.
On top of that, Miley is sensationalized by publishing an autobiography by age 16; in my mind, the writing of an autobiography occurs after one has made the world a better place, but while participating in a multi-million dollar industry and marketing affordable clothing at Wal-Mart, her work as a popstar has perhaps not effectively improved our lifestyle. Because I don’t know the inner workings of a popstar’s life, I won’t immediately assume the decision-making is always left to Miley, but how do the agents come to the decision of fast-forwarding her lifestyle by ten years?
I won’t comment on the private lives of the aforementioned stars or even the merchandisers; they, too, are human beings and are subject to the fallibility of mankind. However, what girls should draw from the experiences of public figures, not the so-called “successes” behind failed decision-making. Simultaneously, the ultimate goal of the media should be to market to smart, self-sufficient girls and women, and not to the truly nonexistent personas of damsels in distress, living in deflated castles in the sky.