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One can argue that there are three major social issues plaguing America’s youth, and these are cyberbullying, addictive behaviors, and teen suicide. It is interesting to note that all these problems share common ground as indirect outcomes of how teenagers view themselves either through media representations or peer pressure. At the heart of the matter is an invisible process of shaping identities, expectations, and behavioral outcomes through male and female stereotypes. It is critically important to redefine gender concepts in order to stop the current social decline, as evidenced by the significant increase in the number of victims of violent and desperate behavior as a consequence of poor self-image. It is imperative to confront the careless use of male and female stereotypes in order to preserve decency, community, and the lives of children and teenagers.
Where is our society headed?
In the absence of an effective intervention strategy, the statistics on teen suicide, violent deaths, and addictive behaviors will continue to rise unabated. In a film entitled The Mask You Live In, the producers were able to focus the spotlight on the destructive impact of false gender conceptualization (Newsom, 2011b). The film’s purpose is to document how popular culture and mainstream media are shaping a boy’s worldview when it comes to socially accepted behavior in a world of men. It was a disheartening occasion for the viewer who valued the importance of respect and honesty, seeing images of adults pressuring boys and teenagers to disconnect from their emotions (Newsom, 2011b). Viewing the film was not a pleasant experience for those who are opposed to the practice of objectifying or degrading women. Nonetheless, the production team was able to capture the ugly truth of how boys are unconsciously trained to adopt values that are counterproductive in the long run. These young and impressionable minds were forced to accept lies about their gender.
In answering the question as to the path created by these false ideas, consider the glorification of violence as an integral part of America’s masculine culture. As a consequence, young boys and teenagers are prone to using aggression and excessive force as tools in dealing with conflicts. Men are also subconsciously trained to perceive women as mere objects that they can use. Thus, the evening news and news articles are filled with stories of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases. This is the slippery path that this particular society will fall into if a counter-movement is not initiated soon. Nonetheless, there is hope for change.
Is it too late for change?
It is too early to raise the white flag and surrender the struggle, allowing the status quo to permeate the still unblemished parts of American society. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to understand why many people are thinking of giving up. In a film entitled Miss Representation, another project that was written and directed by Jennifer Newsom, the producers peeled back the covers to reveal how America’s mainstream media developed a persuasive message saying that a woman’s value and power is limited to her external appearance, youthful looks, and how attractive she is to the opposite sex (2011a). Those who are going to make a stand and make a commitment to transform this current mode of thinking are up against formidable foes, such as, the titans of the movie industry and the captains of advertising agencies, because these leaders are going to sell their products at the expense of women. These are formidable opponents. However, it is not wise to give in and give up.
It is not too late to change because of the contributions of Jennifer Newsom and people who shared the same personal values. The said filmmaker graduated with honors from the prestigious Stanford University and the equally famous Stanford Graduate School of Business. Her academic background assures her of corporate riches, and yet she decided to use her skills to make a difference in the lives of women and children. In her films, one can observe the participation of influential women known all over the world as leaders in the field of politics, mass media, and business. They inspire ordinary people to take up the challenge and do something to change the status quo.
What are we going to do?
It is high time to confront the destructive practice of shaping worldviews through male and female stereotypes. However, improve the probability of success by arming the attack with intelligent strategies. One of the pragmatic ways to change the minds of people is to educate them and reveal to them how films, advertising campaigns, and mainstream media are shaping their core values when it comes to the way they perceive men and women. A good example was the project sponsored by a social media entity popularly known as BuzzFeed. In the said endeavor, four women were given a chance to undergo a professional makeover, and this process required the application of skills from makeup artists and photoshop experts (Gilkey, 2014). Through this project, young women received a powerful education with regard to how the mass media use tools and tricks to create fantasies. In other words, people are now aware of the truth behind the glossy magazine covers.
It is also a sign of an effective strategy to widen the base of support and encourage the participation of men and women from all walks of life. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is to use humor in the presentation of an inherently serious message. In a video shared through an alternative media site, serious topics like women’s ideal weight and body-hugging clothes were reduced to humorous lines, such as, “all that I am don’t fit prettily in polyester and spandex” and wanting to be a vampire in order not to see the flaws on the mirror’s reflection (Warren, 2013). Humor draws people in and ensures a wider reception of the intended message.
America is headed into an era filled with the stories of the broken lives of young boys and young girls as a result of violent confrontations, brutal murders, teen suicide, drug addiction, and fragile self-esteem if no one dares to confront the careless use of gender stereotypes. There is still time to turn things around, as evidenced by projects, films, and alternative media presentations exposing the truth behind the subconscious shaping of minds and identities through mass media and peer pressure. However, it is best to confront the current mode of thinking and unmask the evil consequences of male and female stereotypes through intelligent methods. It is prudent to use well-crafted strategies that are also enhanced by humor in order to ensure a wider reception of the intended message.
Gilkey, M. (2014). Makeover of their dreams … and then hate the results [Video file]. Web.
Newsom, J. (Director). (2011a). Miss representation [Video file]. Web.
Newsom, J. (Director). (2011b). The mask you live in [Video file]. Web.
Warren, R. (2013). Watch these 4 girls destroy the female stereotypes like the monsters they are [Video file]. Web.