This advocacy plan proposes an institutional-level change that is aimed at the improvement of Canadian media literacy curricula. It includes preliminary research, assessment of powers, opportunities, and threats, and provides an overview of the goals, strategies, and tactics that can be identified at this stage of the plan development.
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In this section, the results of an initial campaign research are presented. They should be expected to be further expanded, and the research should remain an ongoing process since the developments in the political and social environment might affect the advocacy (Minieri & Getsos, 2007).
Problematizing the Issue: Scientific Evidence
The media has a very significant impact on people, especially children and youngsters, who are not yet taught to assess the presented imagery critically. As a result, the issue of objectification and sexualization in the media is concerned with the effects that it has on people’s minds since childhood. The fact that media imagery can have negative effects has been well-documented and proven by experimental evidence (Dakanalis et al., 2014).
The most typical outcomes include self-objectification (thinking about one’s body from an onlooker’s point of view) and the internalization (adoption) of the appearance ideals witnessed in the media. This combination of effects may later lead to dissatisfaction with one’s appearance, self-esteem issues, and harmful dietary habits. For example, in Canada, girls’ self-esteem experiences a noticeable drop between the 6 and 10 grade; 60% of girls who are objectively too thin believe that they are too fat (Canadian Women’s Foundation, n.d., para. 1), which, in turn, can result in the mentioned negative outcomes.
The media imagery is objectively gendered, and even though the effects are noticeable for both genders (Dakanalis et al., 2014), attention is most often paid to girls’ experiences (Galdi, Maass, & Cadinu, 2013; McLean, Paxton, & Wertheim, 2013). Still, boys can also be objectified in the media, which leads to all the mentioned undesired outcomes (Vandenbosch & Eggermont, 2013). Apart from that, the study by Galdi, Maass, and Cadinu (2013) shows that the exposure to the objectifying imagery of female characters in the media also affects boys by fostering stereotypes and promoting sexism and harassment. It appears logical that the reverse effect (girls adopting particular stereotypes about boys and their ideal appearance) is also a possibility.
It can be concluded that media-based objectification and sexualization results in the internalization of appearance ideals that are close to impossible to achieve and the development of gender stereotypes and sexism. These outcomes are found in boys and girls, and their consequences can be most harmful. However, as shown, for example, in two studies conducted by McLean, Paxton, and Wertheim (2013, 2016) with 469 and 246 adolescent girls, media literacy noticeably reduces the risks that are related to media imagery. As a result, media literacy is regarded as a well-known solution to the issue, which, however, is not being used to its full potential at Canadian schools (Canadian Teachers’ Federation, 2016, para. 2).
Canada and the Issue
Media literacy in Canada is being addressed to an extent. The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (2016) believes that the current presence of media literacy in the curriculum is insufficient and promotes its increase and development (para. 2). Together with the Media Awareness Network, the Federation carries out the Media Literacy Week (2014) event, which takes place every year during the first week of November.
This project is awareness-raising rather than educational, and it features a number of workshops that highlight some of the aspects of media literacy. One of the current workshops is the Half Girl, Half Face (n.d.), which is meant for the girls who study in the 7-9 grades. It addresses imagery issues, including related social expectations; it can hardly be classified as a workshop that is devoted to objectification, but it invites girls to discuss the problems that they encounter with respect to the media. The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (2016) also promotes the MediaSmarts website, which is maintained by the Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy that also supports media education in Canada.
In particular, the website hosts free workshops and lesson plans as well as related research, including the Media Literacy Policy suggestions by Hoechsmann and DeWaard (2015). Unfortunately, the latter does not dwell on objectification specifically, but it does suggest a new understanding of digital literacy as the complex of technology-related skills and “soft skills,” the latter of which include critical thinking and responsible behavior as “prosumers,” that is, “producers and consumers of information” (Hoechsmann & DeWaard, 2015, p. 1). Also, the Policy contains the Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy framework for education, which involves three stages: use, understand (which includes critical evaluation), and create and communicate.
Apart from the mentioned initiatives, the As We Are Project of the Canadian Women’s Foundation (n.d.) should also be discussed. It presupposes the popularization and implementation of workshops that are specifically aimed at empowering girls (aged 9-13) to perceive the imagery of the media (especially that supporting gender stereotypes) critically. The workshop involves the presentation and discussions of the materials concerning media imagery and its messages as well as brainstorming, ideas sharing, and the designing of a T-shirt with inspirational and empowering messages (Jones, Butters, Malcolm, Moss, & Stenberg, n.d.).
So far, more than 100 T-shirts have been created by the workshop’s participants (Canadian Women’s Foundation, n.d., para. 1). This workshop is not a part of a curriculum, but it has been developed with the help of educational, technological, and artistic consultants and psychologists; the idea was discovered and developed by a teacher from Toronto. It focuses on girls and does not involve boys.
To sum up, while the issue of sexualization and objectification in the media is addressed to an extent within Canadian media literacy curricula, it remains underdeveloped.
As demonstrated by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (2016) and the Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy, the teaching society of Canada is pro-media literacy education. Hoechsmann and DeWaard (2015) inform that Canadian schools have a history of integrating technology in education, but they believe that the understanding of digital and, therefore, media literacy is often deficient in the country.
Media Literacy Week (2014) events are aimed at changing this situation. In general, the educational community is demonstrating noticeable effort in promoting media literacy. However, as a part of media literacy, the problem of objectification and sexualization does not appear to receive significant attention in the policies and notable workshops and programs. If the issue is addressed, it is typically done with female students, which, as was shown above, is a very one-sided view of the problem that reduces the effectiveness of the initiatives. The mentioned organizations and institutions are important powers that can assist in the advocacy advancement (Minieri & Getsos, 2007), but their awareness and understanding of the issue need to be raised
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Canadian legislation addresses the issues that are related to the media (like copyright), and individual provinces and territories may have additional laws that, for example, prescribe the promotion of respectful and responsible relationships in schools (which affects, for instance, cyberbullying education) (Hoechsmann & DeWaard, 2015). In Canada, there is no federal legislation that prescribes the introduction of media literacy in curricula, but provinces and territories do mandate it.
As a result, media literacy education remains a matter of local policies, and, as stated by Hoechsmann and DeWaard, many of them are still developing; that is, they are incapable of providing sufficient guidance yet (p. 6). Despite this, the effort is being made; for example, Manitoba and Northwest Territories develop a holistic approach termed Literacy with Information and Communication Technology, which is infused across the curricula, while in New Brunswick, a similar course is granted a separate curriculum.
It can be concluded that the political landscape is largely beneficial for the development of media literacy, but there is still much work to do. Also, it is difficult to insist that a unified effort towards the development of best media literacy practices is found on the governmental and policy-making level; rather, it is dispersed territorially, which causes disparities. Therefore, these efforts need to be united in order to consolidate their power, which is likely to be used to promote the advocacy.
Choosing a Target
The goal of this advocacy consists of developing and spreading the best practices in raising media literacy with an emphasis on objectifying and sexualizing imagery throughout Canada. The campaign goal is based on the vision of uniting the dispersed efforts of Canadian educational institutions and policy-makers in order to work jointly to improve the education in Canada continuously. Therefore, the targets of the advocacy are educational policy-makers all over Canada (Module 4 Week 4).
However, the targets should eventually become agents, who can change the situation. Also, their actions and decisions will be informed through the activities of teachers and researchers, who should be regarded primarily as actors, but who are also likely to be targeted at the point of promoting the research on the issue. In other words, the advocacy is going to have “hybrid” target-actors (Section 7. Developing a plan for advocacy, n.d.).
As pointed out by Lakey, Lakey, and Robinson (1995), effective mobilization targets social circles, which, in this case, encompasses the teachers, who are conveniently involved in the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. Also, interested people (researchers and volunteers) can be found via the Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy as well as the organizations and movements that specialize in eradicating sexism.
The advocacy is unlikely to have active opponents, but we might need to emphasize the fact that we do not plan to eliminate the differences between providences and territories and that our goal is limited to research and education. Still, this aspect runs down to creating and communicating clear goals, which is a requirement for the stage of planning.
However, the advocacy is likely to have the barriers of the lack of awareness, understanding, and engagement. In particular, a noticeable and widespread misunderstanding that excludes boys from the victims of objectifying and sexualizing imagery results in discrimination is visible in the two workshops described above. These barriers will be held in mind while implementing the advocacy.
Strategies, Tactics, and Goals
A strategy is a plan of achieving a goal while tactics involve the specific actions and activities that should be undertaken throughout the implementation of the strategy (Module 5 Week 5). Goals can be likened to milestones in the advocacy progress; they need to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Activating, Realistic, and Time-Specific (Module 2 Week 2; Section 7. Developing a plan for advocacy, n.d.). These qualities allow to plan and track their implementation and also serve as a motivating tool, which is especially important for a non-profit advocacy.
The primary strategy that we plan to use is the advocacy (especially research-based) as described by Minieri and Getsos (2007). In other words, we will foster research that will provide the opportunity for the improvement of the system of education. As pointed out by Minieri and Getsos (2007), this fact implies that we will need to gain some noticeable results and then attempt to reach policy-makers.
However, the target and the government are most likely to be interested in positive outcomes, which justifies this choice of the strategy. Also, the side-effect of the strategy, that is, the production of evidence-based curricula justifies our intents are well. Apart from that, we will need to build alliances with the mentioned organizations and institutions (Minieri & Getsos, 2007). It is justified by the fact that advocacy is a very resource-consuming strategy. Therefore, the latter strategy provides us with the capacity and ability to undertake the primary one, which, in turn, will let is to move the target.
The following short-term goals and tactics can be suggested.
Within the first month, an organizing committee needs to be recruited and established (Minieri & Getsos, 2007). After the establishment, it will need to specify the plan of the advocacy and prepare it for the alliance-building activities.
Within the second month, the organizing committee will contact the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy, Canadian Women’s Foundation, and other organizations that may be interested in the advocacy. The organizing committee will directly contact them and provide them with the finalized advocacy plan. The allies will be used to engage people (primarily teachers and researchers but also volunteers), attract the attention of the population as well as political and public figures and raise funds.
By this November, the organizing committee will launch our web-page or website depending on the funds available. A web-page can be hosted by one of the allies’ websites (like the As We Are projects appears on the Canadian Women’s Foundation (n.d.) website). It will be used to provide the information about the advocacy and its initiatives and to raise funds. The first initiative will involve the creation of a digital journal on the best practices in media literacy with particular attention paid to the problem of objectification and sexualization.
An analysis of the political landscape might suggest political figures who may be engaged at this point to become actors in promoting and sponsoring research.
Intermediate goals and tactics will include the following points.
In one year, the organizing committee will be already developing the journal initiative. The committee will encourage teachers to provide reports and articles on their personal experiences in media literacy development in children. These articles will be included in the online journal. Each edition will come with an editorial. Also, the teachers and researchers will be provided with an opportunity for communication on the website and in the following editions of the journal.
In one or two years (depending on the funds available), the organizing committee will begin to host conferences all over Canada. It will invite teachers and researchers, present the reports from the journal, and foster communication between specialists from different parts of Canada.
In five years, the gathered and systematically analyzed data will be summarized to be presented to political figures. At this point, the organizing committee will be able to request the funding of the development and testing of a first best practices-bases curriculum.
Long-term goals and tactics include the following points.
Ten years from now, schools all over Canada will be provided with evidence-based (tested) curricula suitable for the diverse population of Canada that will include the modules on objectification and sexualization in the media.
Ten years from now, the communication between the teachers, researchers, and institutions all over Canada will be established in the form of the online journal and conferences. We will be able to maintain the communication between specialists and policymakers all over Canada in order to fulfill other goals that would be in line with our vision.
It should be pointed out that the advocacy needs to remain flexible (Module 2 Week 2; Section 7. Developing a plan for advocacy, n.d.). As a result, continuous assessments of the achievements, needs and changing landscape will have to be carried out. Still, the presented strategies, goals, and tactics characterize the proposed advocacy and explain the logic of its development.
Canadian Teachers’ Federation. (2016). Media literacy. Web.
Canadian Women’s Foundation. (n.d.). As We Are Project. Web.
Dakanalis, A., Carrà, G., Calogero, R., Fida, R., Clerici, M., Zanetti, M., & Riva, G. (2014). The developmental effects of media-ideal internalization and self-objectification processes on adolescents’ negative body-feelings, dietary restraint, and binge eating. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 24(8), 997-1010. Web.
Galdi, S., Maass, A., & Cadinu, M. (2013). Objectifying Media: Their Effect on Gender Role Norms and Sexual Harassment of Women. Psychology Of Women Quarterly, 38(3), 398-413. Web.
Half Girl, Half Face. (n.d.). Web.
Hoechsmann, M., & DeWaard, H. (2015). Mapping digital literacy policy and practice in the Canadian education landscape. Web.
Jones, L., Butters, A.M., Malcolm, B., Moss, P., & Stenberg, L. (n.d.). As We Are Project Workshop Guide. Web.
Lakey, B., Lakey, G., & Robinson, J. (1995). Grassroots and nonprofit leadership. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.
McLean, S., Paxton, S., & Wertheim, E. (2013). Mediators of the relationship between media literacy and body dissatisfaction in early adolescent girls: Implications for prevention. Body Image, 10(3), 282-289. Web.
McLean, S., Paxton, S., & Wertheim, E. (2016). Does Media Literacy Mitigate Risk for Reduced Body Satisfaction Following Exposure to Thin-Ideal Media?. J Youth Adolescence, 45(8), 1678-1695. Web.
Media Literacy Week. (2014). Web.
Minieri, J. & Getsos, P. (2007). Tools for radical democracy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Section 7. Developing a plan for advocacy. (n.d.). Web.
Vandenbosch, L. & Eggermont, S. (2013). Sexualization of Adolescent Boys: Media Exposure and Boys’ Internalization of Appearance Ideals, Self-Objectification, and Body Surveillance. Men And Masculinities, 16(3), 283-306. Web.