Media vs. Mums

A common moral panic that exists in today’s society is the allegation that the media is sexualising children. Society is putting the media at blame for the commercial exploitation of children and the sexualisation of images of young children, in catalogues, magazines, television shows and movies. The panics that are arising, develop from the issues of children being dressed in inappropriate clothing for their age, children being photographed in ‘adult’ poses and images of children containing sexual connotations.

One example of how the media is alleged to sexualise children is Toddlers and Tiaras, an American reality television show that “showcases the competitive world of child pageants, as three families have their children judged on beauty, personality and costumes.” Take a look at this video, a scene from an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras whilst keeping in mind how to media is blamed for the sexual exploitation of children.

After watching this video, do you really think it’s the media’s fault for the appearances and actions of these little girls? It seems to me that the parents are forcing the children to participate in these pageants, dolling them up to the nines, covering them with makeup to match their spray-tanned bodies, gluing in hair extensions, forcing the youngsters to sit still in a chair whilst their innocent baby faces are transformed into that of a 20-something-year-old. Seriously, these are children under the age of 5 we are talking about… So is the media the cause of the sexualisation and exploitation of these children? I think not. Who is really to blame here appears to be the mothers of the children in the pageants.

Children learn how to behave through the actions of adults. Little girls learn how to grow into adults by viewing how their mothers and other female adults behave. If the children grow up in an environment like the one depicted in Toddlers and Tiaras, covering up their natural appearances with everything from fake tans to fake teeth, they will be brought up believing this is a normal thing for females to partake in. Their sexualised exteriors will continue to unfold during their childhood as this is the way they have been taught to behave.

Every little girl loves to play dress ups and wear make-up and high heels. But is Toddlers and Tiaras just taking it too far? Or is the parents of the children who are the ones taking it too far. In this case, I believe it’s the latter. Society is blaming the media for media for the social panic of sexualising children, however in some scenarios, the problem evolves from somewhere a little bit closer to home, that being the very own homes of these children.

Sometimes we need to look at the bigger picture, take a step back and think outside the box. Society is constantly accusing society of creating moral panics, but are they always the ones at fault?

Think about it.

– Sophie

(Image via: pinterest.com)

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Riddled Racism

Public opinion is extremely prevalent in today’s society. People are feeling the need to more frequently voice their thoughts and views on issues that they feel are present in society. More often than not we hear of debate and protest arising due to controversial issues that are challenged by the media. One of the main issues that tends to spark great debate is racism.

“Racism is defined as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior”

But how often do we hear of people being discriminative towards people of the own race? Not very often right? Well that exactly what Youtuber Neel Kolhatkar did in his video Australia in 2 Minutes. The video shows Neel imitating and exaggerating the stereotypes and actions of certain groups of people in Australia, which to some, comes across as being racist towards his own country.

The video was intended to be a humorous parody of the behaviours and characteristics of Australians, but turned out to be a text of great debate and controversy. Of course Neel didn’t create the video with the purpose to offend Australians and our culture. He simply and innocently took stereotypes present in our society, threw a bit of comedy and exaggeration into the mix, and addressed the racial issues present in Australia (that no one really talks about) in a clever and hilarious way.

However, not everyone saw the funny side to the video. With racism being such a prevailing topic in today’s society, offense to the video would naturally arise. Although not only did people become offended, those who were offended were being put down for merely not enjoying the video. A great debate rose in the comments on the video ranging from comments applauding Neel on his efforts, to people taking great offense and even people abusing others for being offended.

“I’m Australian and I find this racist”

“This is the perfect impression of us Australians”

“I never knew how offended Australians could get, I’m from Australia and I found this funny. It’s a f****** joke”

“I love this video! So accurate”

“Wow this is so offensive”

Even though Neel made this video with the intention of making his viewers laugh, the issue of racism is no laughing matter. To some, that was the connotation they perceived from the video. But if this video wasn’t made, and this ideology wasn’t challenged, would the debate still occur? I think not. It seems to me that debate and controversy arises only when ideologies are challenged by the media. If issues such as racism weren’t so exposed and highlighted by the media, the effects of racism on people would be much less.

Public opinion is always going to exist. People will always want their thoughts to be heard. But if the media didn’t put so much on emphasis on issues like racism, would it still be such a big problem?

Think about it.

– Sophie

Media Ownership Mayhem!

Does it really matter who owns the media? Does the ownership of media really have that much control over our lives? How does this affect us as everyday media users?

Well, to a degree, I believe it affects us. But how?

Whoever owns the media has a certain amount of control over what is shown to its audience. This affects us because what we see, hear or read is determined by the owner of that particular media form. They also have control over what is done with the media, how it is shown, when it is shown, and whether or not it is shown at all.

Take for example Fairfax and Newscorp. Together, the two news corporations, own 11 out of 12 of Australia’s capital city newspapers. It is evident from this figure that Australia’s media ownership is extremely concentrated. Fairfax and Newscorp both have a significant amount of control over our newspapers, including the information inside them. Having such a high ownership concentration considerably eliminates diversity in the media. Without diversity the issues of biased opinion, lack of variety and limited access to information can arise. This directly affects society, particularly those people who rely on newspapers as their main source of information.

The media ownership concentration in Australia is so high that it’s slightly alarming. “How is this fair?” you might ask, “is it even allowed?’. In saying that, there are actually a set of laws as a part of the Commonwealth Legislation regarding media ownership regulation in Australia. The reason the laws are put in place is to “prevent the common ownership of newspapers, television and radio broadcasting licenses that serve the same region” and to “encourage diversity in the ownership”. Even with the implementation of these laws, the media ownership still appears to be concentrated. Providing that Fairfax and Newscorp don’t own over a certain percentage of newspapers in each region, they are still by all means entitled to own 11 out of 12 of the newspapers in capital cities. It still seems very unfair to me.

In saying that, there are so many other ways to receive information these days that concentrated media ownership of newspapers isn’t that big of a problem. The technological advancements of today enable us to receive information by searching on the internet, from new applications on our phones and even on social media. So why worry about biased opinion and lack of variety in newspapers when the internet provides us with so much diversity and freedom?

Despite concentration of media ownership causing biased opinion, lack of variety and limited access to information, there are many other ways to gain information from other sources. Even though media ownership of newspapers does affect us, the internet provides us with a whole new way of obtaining important information. So should we really be worrying about just one form of media?

The choice is yours.

– Sophie

References:

Commonwealth of Australia 2006, Media Ownership Regulation in Australia, Parliament of Australia, viewed 29 March 2015
<www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Publications_Archive/archive/mediaregulation>

Fairfax Media 2015, Fairfax Media Network, Fairfax, viewed 28 March 2015
<www.fairfax.com.au/network-map.aspx>

News Limited 2015, News Corp Australia, News Limited, viewed 28 March 2015
<www.newscorpaustralia.com>

Read Between the Scars

Everywhere we go we come across photos, drawings, paintings, signs and advertisements that send a certain message to the viewer upon first glance. The denotation, or literal meaning, is the initial interpretation of the viewer. Numerous images can have deeper meanings, or subliminal messages. This is called the connotation and refers to an associated or secondary meaning that is implied, but not initially clear to the viewer.

Take for example, this photograph here: Scar face

Upon first glance at this image, we see a woman who appears to have been beaten, the most obvious indication being the black eye. However her hair, makeup and clothing is in complete contrast. Aside from her severely bruised eye, the woman’s appearance is strikingly beautiful. Her make-up and hair are done to perfection. The red lipstick makes her appear powerful and confident. The red dress gives off a passionate and sensual vibe. After first viewing the image, it seems that the woman is embracing that fact she has been physically abused. She does not appear to be affected by the obvious violence she has suffered. The glamorous appearance and sensual red dress make it seem as though the composer was attempting to glorify violence against women. But was that really the case?

The images, taken by photographer Vasil Germanov and published in 12 Magazine, sparked great controversy amongst society. A range of opinions evolved regarding the ‘Victim of Beauty’ photoshoot ranging from hatred for the images to complete admiration. After viewing the images from the shoot on 12 Magazine’s website, there were a range of comments left by the public in regards to the women who had appeared to have suffered from abuse.

“To me this is amazing!! While some may think that this glamorizes violence, to me it says while a woman can be scarred, she can in fact still be beautiful.”

“Not is this troubling & stupid, it’s boring. A brick has more creativity.”

“This is the glorification of violence against women dressed up as “art”. It is demoralizing to women and offensive to anyone who has ever experienced violence.”

See more comments here. The common factor in all of these comments is that each viewer believes the images reflect abuse and violence against women. I agree, that is what we see at first glance. The image denotes the idea of physical abuse and women in abusive relationships. However, this is just what we see on the surface. This is only the initial message we receive. Is there another message or a deeper meaning to the image?

The message behind this photograph was not stated by the composer, it seems as it was left for the viewers to decide on that themselves. After examining the image over and over again, I started to pick up on a deeper message, particularly after decoding the text next to the image, ‘Victim of Beauty’. What if the purpose of this photoshoot wasn’t to glorify violence, or make a statement about the strength of abused women at all? Perhaps there was an underlying message no one had picked up on.

The connotation I interpreted was that women are victims of beauty due to the effects of the media. In today’s society, the appearance of women is such a publicised topic. Magazines, television commercials, websites and newspapers are all portraying the beauty of a woman as such an important thing. Women are feeling threatened to keep up to the appearances and stereotypes they see in the media. They feel victimised by these ‘barbie-doll look-alikes’ and feel to need to have the latest hairstyle or foundation or the newest mascara or most expensive handbag. The beauty we see in the media is the threat, and women are the victims. The woman’s black eye may not have been from physical abuse, but could in fact be a metaphor for the amount of pain and suffering women have to go through to keep up with the latest fashion and looks. It seems to me that there was in fact a hidden message, and this was the message perceived by myself as a viewer.

They say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, does the same quote apply for images? To me, it does. Always read between the lines. Or in this case, between the scars. You never know what message may be hiding beneath the surface.

– Sophie

(image via: 12mag.net)

Anti-social Media – An Online Existence

“The more social media we have, the more we think we are connecting, yet we are really disconnecting from each other”

The wise words of JR, a French artist, accurately describing the ways of today’s society. It seems that the world we now live in has become an online existence. From social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, to online dating sites, online car sales sites and even a site that exists that is literally just an image of a potato, it seems everything we do in life, exists online. But with the expansion and introduction of new media forms, comes anxieties about the media and how its effecting people’s lives.

So why do these anxieties about the effects of media exist? It is the media that purposely causes these anxieties? Or is it the way that society perceives what the media does, that brings about anxiety?

With every new media form, anxiety arises. The online social networking site, Facebook, was launched by creator Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004. At first the site was viewed as a marvelous technological advancement. Facebook can be used to connect with people all around the world, it increases people’s social skills with the ability to make new friends and it’s a great way of sharing experiences and stories with family and friends.

But with the good comes the bad, and after a while anxieties about the effects of Facebook become prevalent. People started to worry that Facebook was ‘addictive’ and that the social networking site encouraged ‘anti-social behaviour’ from young people. Parents are constantly stressing about their children “spending too much time on that bloody computer” (direct quote from my mum).  A study carried out by Hart Research Associates for the Family Online Safety Institute, found that “most parents believe Facebook is a bad influence on their kids”. 43% of the parents interviewed agree the negatives of social media outweigh the positives, 31% were undivided over the issue and the remaining 26% believe social media is beneficial to their children.Read the full article here. So is Facebook really a bad invention? Is it really corrupting the lives of children and making them anti-social and addicted to social media? Or is it that society is just overreacting because of the way information from the media is interpreted? I believe the way the individuals decode messages sent from the media has a very strong impact on these anxieties that exist.

In 2011, Evan Spiegal, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown, three Stanford University students at the time, launched a new application by the name of Snapchat. Snapchat is a photo messaging application used to send photos or videos, often referred to as ‘snaps’,  to friends and family. Users of the app set a time limit on how long the receiver can view the snap for. After the snap has been viewed, it is deleted from the receiver’s mobile phone, and also from Snapchat’s servers. The app became very popular, very fast. According to a study conducted in September 2013, Snapchat has roughly 100 million monthly active users, a whopping average of 400 million Snapchats are sent every day and 71% of people under the age of 25 are using the app. Check out more statistics here. But as we know, with the good side, there is always a bad side.

In 2012, Cosmopolitan, a magazine aimed at teens and young adults, published an article titled ‘New app made for sexting?’ The article claimed that “..the one main reason anyone would want their picture to destroy itself, seconds after it has been seen” is for sexting purposes, the act of sending sexually explicit photos or messages via mobile phone. The article went on to explain that the app has an official rating, stating that users must be over 12 years of age due to “mild sexual content or nudity”. This, of course, would generate a great deal of anxieties within society. Parents would immediately assume that if their children have Snapchat, they are using it for sexual purposes. However, if the media had not drawn attention to this, would it still be an issue? Have the anxieties that society has about the effects of the media just added to the problem?

These are a few questions to think about. Society is always blaming the media for something, whether it is causing their children to become addicted to computers or exposing them to sexually explicit phone applications. Anxieties about the effects that the media has upon society are always going to be present. But is the media really the blame? Or is it the mind of the individual?

Think about it.

– Sophie