We began our series on enjoying embodiment by developing an “Embodied Perspective.” This perspective broadens how we think about our bodies to include all the parts that make us who we are: our thoughts and ideas, our emotions and desires, our relationships and social activities, our spirituality and creativity. As we develop an Embodied Perspective, we can take back our bodies. We can define our own values, liberating ourselves from the ever-present media.
Speaking of the media, how does Media Literacy encourage an Embodied Perspective? How can we critique our media-driven culture from an Embodied Perspective, rather than criticizing our bodies from the media’s perspective? After all, we are the best experts on ourselves, despite what advertisers want us to think! Or are we? Have we let the media take over how we experience our own bodies?
Let’s take a look. Justthink.org, a media literacy website for teens, lists these research findings on teens and the media:
• The average 8-18 year old in the US spends almost 6 1/2 hours consuming media (TV, radio, magazines, billboards, and other public displays) in a typical day.
• The average person sees between 400 and 600 ads per day. 1 of every 11 commercials has a direct message about what it means to be beautiful (not counting indirect messages).
About-face.org, a media literacy website for girls and women, shares these recent findings:
• Viewing TV ads with images of unrealistic thin-ideals for women caused adolescent girls to feel less confident, more angry, and more dissatisfied with their weight and appearance.
• Women who looked at ads with stereotypically thin and beautiful women showed more signs of depression and were more dissatisfied with their bodies after only 1-3 minutes.
These research findings really illuminate how the media influences how we feel about ourselves as girls and women. Sadly, most media messages encourage a “disembodied perspective,” in which relationships with our bodies are built on the media’s values, rather than our own. This perspective robs us from our own experience of truly being in our bodies, bursting with possibility, life, creative expression, and beauty.
How can you help your daughter take back her body from the media? How can you help your daughter feel more confident and satisfied with her body–and herself? What are some things you as a parent can do to promote Media Literacy and help your daughter accept, appreciate, and actually live in her own body?
Be an example to your daughter:
• Examine and challenge your own beliefs about your body and how the media has influenced you.
• Learn to appreciate your own body, including how your body works, how it looks, and how you are aging.
• Speak body affirmations (about how your body looks, feels, and works) out loud. Say things like, I’m really enjoying my new hairstyle. I love how I feel when I wear this color. It felt so great to be able to bike up that steep hill! (Steer away from phrases like, This outfit makes me look so fat!)
• Help your daughter to appreciate living in her body and to become a “Cultural Critic.”
• Use billboards, magazine ads, CD covers, and TV shows as springboards for conversation about how our culture defines beauty. (And remember, these conversations can be very brief). Be your own 15-30 second commercial!
• Have an Embodiment Party for your daughter and her friends and watch a movie that depicts truly embodied girls and women (I recommend Whale Rider, Mulan, Real Women Have Curves, Ever After). Afterward, have a discussion on how the heroines embodied a real girl’s spirit and defied media images.
• Get on the internet with your daughter and check out some Media Literacy websites. Many of these include activities and games, teaching resources, and reviews of movies and video games. Further, they provide links to websites and resources that promote empowering values for embodied girls! Check these out:
Please note: Nothing in what you find here should be construed as medical advice pertinent to any individual. As is true with all written materials, and especially information found on the internet, you must be the judge of what appears valid and useful for yourself. Please take up any questions you might have regarding the content of this website with your psychotherapist or physician.