Several years ago, singer Pink came out with an outlandish, yet very accurate song entitled, "Stupid Girls." She lamented, "Where, oh where, have the smart people gone?" What happened to the dream of the girl president, she asked? She's in the video dancing next to 50 Cent. If only we could call the song a "throwback." Yet, unfortunately, the state of women's empowerment in the media still seems to lag. Just look at the latest episode of The Bachelor, and we see catty is the operative word being used to describe women. Mean, spiteful comments get airtime and viewers, despite how much it makes many women cringe.
Previously, there was much debate as to why the media cast women as passive and demure. The tide then shifted into the sexualization of women. Did it make a difference? A recent study examined the effects of media images of sexually empowered women (2011). According to the results, "sexualized representations of women in the media are associated with equivalent levels of weight dissatisfaction as passive, objectifying images and are more strongly associated with self-objectification (p. 43)." But is it possible that the tide is turning once again?
American's fascination with the royal family may be a contributor, and actually a good thing. It may provide stronger young female role models than what the U.S. has seen of late. After all, who really wants their daughters following in the footsteps of Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan? Though the media has tried to wrap up Duchess Kate Middleton in fashion talk, the message has been clear. She recycles outfits, and has her own style independent of what is "in." At the end of the day, her essence can be captured in one word: classy. And, finally we see the hemlines dropping. From the time Britney Spears had midriff exposing tops, and low-rise jeans, flaunting it seemed to be the thing to do. Finding attire that did the opposite was a needle in the haystack excursion. Yet now, shows such as Revenge have leads with elegant dresses that re-introduce the age-old notion of women maintaining some of their mystery.
Whether it is because of the princess fantasy that so many young girls have grown up with, or the legacy that Princess Diana left behind, the entire world is watching the royal couple, and many times with an eye on Middleton. But as we see her making appearances at charities and living a relatively low-profile life for now, it appears she may represent much of what has been missing in the media. A seemingly composed, confident, and humble young woman with an eye toward improving the lives of others. Time will tell what legacy she may contribute to, but at the very least we would hope that with the coverage of others like her in the media, one day Pink's words will no longer ring true. Stupid, sexy, and flashy will be replaced with classy, elegant, and strong.
Halliwell, E., Malson, H., & Tischener, I. (2011). Are contemporary media images which seem to display women as sexually empowered actually harmful to women? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35, 38-45.