Stockholm Syndrome in Media

mcyrus.jpgContributed by Nancy Gruver, the author of “How To Say It to Girls,� Founder of the international publication, New Moon for Girls and CEO of New Moon Girl Media, Inc.
Cross-posted at Girl Media Maven.
You can imagine that the sexed up photos Vanity Fair published of Miley Cyrus have been a topic of discussion at New Moon, just as on [the organization's blog]. Thanks for all the thoughtful comments so far on the topic – they’re well worth reading.
Kathleen Kvern and I were talking about how the prevalence of sexualized images of girls in our public culture creates an atmosphere of impersonal, silent, constant harassment for girls.
Like an iron grip in a velvet glove, the hypersexualization of girls in the media holds actual girls hostage under the pretense of entertaining and informing them. And, like in the Stockholm Syndrome, it’s not surprising when girls start to identify with the all-powerful culture that’s holding them hostage.
It feels more subtle than verbal or physical harassment, but that’s part of its stealthy effect. It’s like a neverending buzz in the background that you try to ignore but can’t. Gradually, sub-consciously, more and more of your energy and attention is spent on trying to ignore the buzz.
Girls are barraged by sexualized images all around them and everyone they come into contact with in daily life is also surrounded by those images. The images viscerally teach “the importance of being sexy” if you are female. The images teach all of us that acting sexy is how girls/women can have power without being rejected as domineering or bitchy (see media coverage of Hillary Clinton for the way “non-sexy” female power is conveyed).
Now imagine the extreme confusion girls feel when they are surrounded by images promoting the power of female sexiness and at the same time are told that it’s bad for girls to be interested in sex, to act sexy themselves, to dress sexy, etc. The real message being conveyed, of course, is that girls shouldn’t want to be powerful.
The conflicting messages about personal power create an epic inner struggle for girls that stays with us into adulthood, sapping creative energy and focus that would be better used in changing the culture and making our world a better place for everyone.
I believe media oppression of girls and women via hypersexualiztion is one of the most serious barriers standing between us and full equality. We need to break that barrier down and release the power it’s holding back. That’s why I work with girls’ media and bringing girls’ voices to the world at New Moon.
How would you do it?
Note: The above post does not necessarily represent the opinions of Feministing or its bloggers.

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