CMN 3104: Reading #5 Jan 24th 2014
Audience Stories: Women with physical disabilities, body image, media and self
self conception a subjective fluid practice shaped by messages from media and people around them
shaped their thoughts and feelings about themselves and their bodies.
Gerbner and his colleagues have been arguing for decades that television plays a significant role in a
cultivating a shared reality.
As reminders of what is “right” and as sources of cultural ideals of beauty and bodies, television circulates
cultural standards that shape how we see ourselves.
Some described the cultural ideal as sexual, powerful, strong, and confident; others compared her to
Barbie, a Playboy Bunny and a calendar girl.
Recalled women in the media who began acting decades ago
Media Representation and Exculsion:
Extreme Home Makeover paternalistic, “overcome” their disabilities.
Participant 35: “ was disappointed that she never saw anyone she could relate to in a dramatic setting
Participant 41: was frustrated by the lack of sexuality in representations of women with physical disabilities,
limited representation Finding traces of difference
Women with disabilities are excluded from mainstream media they experience what Gerbner and Gross and
Tuchman refer to as symbolic annihilation. Being represented in mediapositively or negatively it’s a form of
power because at you exist. Exclusion is tantamount to being symbolically annihilated from the cultural
Perhaps the most striking here is that so many participants expressed positive body image feelings
The participants positive feelings, however, were challenged by how other people responded to them.
Because other people could not see them without first seeing their disabilities their disability was their
“body image” to other.
Even when participants tried to blend in, their disability drew unwanted attention.
Being Born with a disability vs. Having an acquired disability
For several participants, acquiring a disability brought about a process of selfacceptance.
Thinking About Disability in Everyday Life:
One in five Americans has a disability
Although the general population sees disability as an exception to life, in fact it is a natural and normal part
Kinch 1963 reports, other peoples responses to us are powerful, they affect how we think and feel about
ourselves. For many of us this is a lifelong struggle. CMN 3104: Reading #5 Jan 24th 2014
5.9: The More you Subtract the More you add: “cutting the girls down to size in
relentlessly exposed to unattainable ideals of physical perfection and that women are portrayed as less
powerful than men.
The girl in the ad is very young and very thin reinforces another message, a message that an adolescent
girl constanlt gets from advertising and throughout the popular culture, the message that she should
diminish herself, she should be less than she is.
The loss, the subtraction and the cutting down to size also refer to her sense of her self, her sexuality, her
need for authentic connection and her longing for power and freedom.
Teenage women today are engaging in far riskier health behaviors and in greater numbers than any prior
generation▯ double bind
Ex: “If this is your idea of a great catch” says an ad for a cosmetic kit from a teen magazine featuring a cute
boy, “this is your tackle box”
Although some men develop eating problems the predominant cultural message remains that a hearty
appetite and a large size is desireable in a man but not so in a woman.
Nearly 80% of fourthgrade girls are dieting
Girls made to feel so terrible about themselves that they would rather be dead than fat.
Although eating problems are often thought to result from vanity, the truth is that they, like other addictions
and compulsive behaviour, usually have deeper roots.
The magazines and the ads deliberately create and intensify anxiety about weight because it is so
profitable. CMN 3104: Reading #5 Jan 24th 2014
On a deeper level, however, they reflect cultural concerns and conflicts about women’s power. Real
freedom for women would change the very basis of our male dominated society,
It is not surprising that many men (and women) fear this.
the obsession with thinness is most deeply about cutting girls and women down to size.
At the same time there is relentless pressure on women to be small , there is also pressure on us to
succeed, to achieve, to have it all. We can be successful as long as we stay “feminine” (ex: powerless
enough not be truly threatening)
One way to do this is to present an image of fragility to look like a waif.
This demonstrates that one is both in control and still very feminine.
As if eating for women were a privilege rather than a need
Girls are urged to be barely there beautiful but silent. Make a statement without statement without saying a
Somehow girls are supposed to be both innocent and seductive, virginal and experienced all at the same
time. As they quickly learn, this is tricky.
Females have long been divided into virgins and whores, of course. What is new is that girls are supposed
to embody both within themselves.
We must must work hard and produce success and yes at the same time we are encouraged to live
impulsively, spend a lot of money and be constantly and immediately gratified.
Girls are promised fulfillment both through being thin and through eating rich foods, just as they are
promised fulfillment through being innocent and virginal and through wild and impulsive sex.
A cigarette provides a symbol of independence. A pair of jeans or sneakers conveys status. The right
perfume or beer resolves doubts about femininity or masculinity.
it seems that advertisements conceive a kind of power that isn’t manipulative and exploitive or a way that
women can be actively sexual without being like traditional men. CMN 3104: Reading #5 Jan 24th 2014
Women who are powerful in advertising are uncommitted. They treat men like sex objects
Girls are not supposed to have sexual agency.
This contributes to the strange and damaging concept of the good girlas the one who is swept away,
unprepared for sex, vs the bad girl as the one who plans for sex, uses contraception and is generally
Most tragically, girls are told that they must give up on each other, give up on close, supportive female
Enter into hostile competitions for the attention of boys and men
A young woman seems to have only two choices:
1. She can bury her sexual self and be a good girl give into what is called “the tyranny of kind and nice”
(and numb the pain by overeating, starving or cutting herself or drinking herself into a drunken stupor)
2. She can become a rebel, flout her sexuality, seduce inappropriate partners, seduce everyone, smoke,
drink flamboyantly and use other drugs.
Both of these responses are self destructive, but they begin as an attempt to survive, not to self destruct.
A feminist in public, involved in an abusive relationship or lost in a sadomasochistic fantasies in private. Ex:
a lawyer by day, a barfly by night.
Doing well in school, but smoking in order to have a sexier, cooler image, being sexual only when drunk.
Of course, the empowerment, the enlightenment, is as impossible to get through products as is anything
else love security, romance, passion.
The thin and prtty young women featured with her boyfriend is a perfect example of “femininity”
her attitude is nothing to fear she’s just another sex object
Good thing, because a lot of people are especially scared of powerful Black women.
The solution to any problem always has to be a product.
Change, transformation is this inevitably shallow and moronic rather than meaningful and transcendent.
These days, self improvement seems to have more to do with calories than with character, with abdomens
rather than absolutes, with nail polish rather than ethics. CMN 3104: Reading #