From magazines to marketing campaigns, media and retail industries bombard girls today with negative stereotypes and limiting images. These messages teach girls that their worth is tied to their appearance and also shape their ideas about gender roles, sexual behavior, substance use, and violence.
The American Psychological Association’s Report on the Sexualization of Girls (2007) found that three of the most common mental health problems among girls, eating disorders, depression or depressed mood, and low self-esteem, are linked to sexualization of girls and women in media. Furthermore, girls and women of color are disproportionately absent from mainstream media. The Girl Scout Research Institute survey, Girls and Body Image (2010), found that only 32 percent of African-American girls think the fashion industry does a good job of representing people of all races and ethnicities. An additional problem is the depiction of violence against women and girls in the media. The Parents Television Council reports that between 2004 and 2009, violence against women and teenage girls has increased on television programming at a rate of 120 percent compared to the 2 percent increase of overall violence in television content.
Girls Inc. supports initiatives to improve girl’s media literacy skills and promote positive messages about girls and women in the media, including e healthy and diverse body images, positive and active female role models, and equal and healthy relationships between female and male characters.
One such initiative is the Healthy Media for Youth Act that was first introduced in 2011. This bill would provide grants to encourage and support youth empowerment groups and media literacy programs to educate youth on how to apply critical thinking skills when consuming media images and messages and promoting healthy, balanced, and positive media depictions of girls and women. The bill also would fund research on the impact that depictions of women and girls in media has on youth and establish a national task force on women and girls in the media to develop voluntary steps and goals for companies to take to promote healthy and positive depictions of girls and women.