It’s not often that I glance in the mirror and don’t feel the immediate need to fix something. Whether a strand of hair is out of place, a necklace is lopsided or my makeup could use some touching up, rarely does the thought of adjusting my appearance ever so slightly not cross my mind.
This is incredibly vain. To spend even the sparest of moments worrying about such vapid concerns is ultimately a waste of my own time. But by zooming out and understanding the larger context as to why such futile things seem to also matter to so many others and myself, we can get a better of the society we live in.
When it comes down to it, we are wired to think this way. Modern-day Americans are exposed to thousands of advertisements each day. And based on their nature, these advertisements are each encrypted with a message telling us how we should act, look and feel. But while this is acceptable to an extent, forms of media that deliberately alter reality in order to heighten the appeal of their product are dangerous and damaging to society.
This becomes evident after spending thirty seconds flipping through a magazine. I found myself doing this the other day, and in the process I happened upon more negative subliminal messaging than I ever thought possible. Women are altered to look “perfect”: photographers remove blemishes, strategic lighting hides imperfections and the mere layout of the page can misconstrue women to be seen more as objects than as people.
It’s more important than ever that we recognize this, especially as we raise a new generation of female leaders. I volunteer as a coach for a girls running team, and twice a week 16 elementary-aged girls and I discuss things that affect their everyday lives. The other day, I had the opportunity to give a lesson on the affects of media on how we perceive ourselves. Even at the ages of eight and nine, these girls are incredibly wary of the media’s trickery. By the end of the lesson, they knew to be skeptical of the images around them and understood that what is presented to them is not always accurate.
As an advertiser, I would hope to keep these young girls in mind as I created messages for the masses. The way people perceive themselves is directly correlated with what the media teaches girls to be “correct,” and this can lead to self-esteem issues and depression. A distorted image can lead to a society full of distorted minds.
These girls give me hope, though, that eventually undistorted images will become what are considered “cool.” Even now, campaigns like “#aeriereal” are garnering attention and gaining traction for their honest portrayals of women. And with more and more women getting a say in what’s right and wrong, these forces become unstoppable.