It’s Not Just Adults,Your Daughter Is Also Tired Of Being Sexualized

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As a mother, you may be well aware of the sexualization of girls in ad campaigns and the rampant sexism that dominates most children shows but what about your kids? Mother Geena Davis has spoken openly about how she discusses the problematic depictions of girls and female character with her kids, but once they reach a certain age there is nothing preventing them from taking part in the discussion of media as well.

Elisa Kreisinger, program coordinator at the Women’s Media Center, is offering a free webinar on September 14th 5-5:30 PM EST to teach girls ages 12 to 18 how to use social media to do more than upload pictures and post status updates. The feminist video-remixer will be teaching girls how to be activists in the social media space, using tweets and Facebook organization to create campaigns against what they don’t like seeing on their screens and in their magazines. Kreisinger will also teach girls how to blog with certain political objectives in mind, reaching their audience with clarity while also connecting with their like-minded peers over issues that matter to them.

The Women’s Media Center, founded by Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda in 2005, continues to be a forward-looking institution with regard to the depiction of women and girls in the media. Kreisinger chatted with me about her objectives for the webinar and why girls using social media is so important.

I often read so much about how damaging social media is for young people, specifically for young girls. How is teaching girls where their peers are in the space more beneficial to them?

Social media is one space where teens dominate. According to a recent Forrester Research Study, 51% of young teens (ages 12-17) are joiners, joining existing social networks. 49% of young teens are spectators in those spaces, reading blogs, watching peer-made videos and downloading podcasts but not necessarily joining them by creating their own account.

This is significant because there’s a wealth of content out there that speaks to the teenage millennial experience. This is especially true for girls who have literally taken over the blogging site Tumblr. When we show female joiners and spectators where their peer creators are, we increase the likely hood that they’ll move from being a passive consumer of new media to an active creator of it. That’s an important distinction to make as most of our media landscape contains man-made content. And we all know who’s view that represents.

Girls often communicate with their friends and like-minded peers on Twitter, Facebook, etc. How is what you’re teaching them different than simply chatting with their friends?

It’s not all that different. As we’ve seen throughout history, commonality sharing is an extremely important part of being a women. When we talk to other women, we realize that what we are experiencing isn’t at all odd, weird or our sole cross to bear. In this webinar, we’re encouraging girls to take these chats and discussions seriously and collectively brainstorm ways to put new media tools to good use for career, activist and/or feminist endeavors in their communities.

Why is it important to teach girls how to use social media for more than updating their relationship status?

We want to make women visible and powerful in the media. If we won’t meet girls where they are already at with the media- in online spaces – we run the risk of disempowering their voices.

Simply put, there is a crisis of representation in the media. We live in a racially and ethnically diverse nation which is 51% female, but the news media itself remains staggeringly limited to a single demographic. While women hold less than 25% of all new media jobs created from 1990 -2005,despite constituting 65% of all undergraduate and graduate journalism and mass communications students.

You write that the “goal of this webinar is to encourage girls to become active participants instead of passive consumers of new media.” How does a more educated use of social media help girls accomplish that?

A more educated use of social media means that girls remain consumers of new media but they take on the roles of critic and creator as well. So girls are no longer consuming without participating. Girls are highly critical of the world around them and that’s a great quality: they should be. Encouraging them to create something is always the hardest part, but we’ll be focusing on creating blogs, websites and videos that again, meet them where they are already at.

This webinar is one way in which the Women’s Media Center is trying to change things. What girls want – what we all want, regardless of our gender – is the direction and encouragement that our creativity, thoughts and ideas are important and are valued.

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(photo: Shutterstock)