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Media does not just influence our culture. In many ways, it is our culture. It is not practical to tell people to ignore or boycott all forms of media to protect themselves from unwanted messages. Instead, we want people to become aware of and understand what messages they are receiving and be able to have a conversation about how they feel about the messages and what impact those messages have on others.
Once you can identify what is being conveyed by the media, you can begin to access the messages you want and sort through the ones you don’t. This is not to say that you can or have to avoid all negative messages. Rather, you will now recognize those messages, process them, and move on.
As parents, teachers, etc., we can educate our communities that images and messages of violence in the media contribute to a culture that tolerates actual violence. We can illustrate how hypersexualized images of women promote the idea that women want and are made purely for sex. We can point out that the hypermasculine and hyperviolent images of men endorse the idea that men need to exhibit the same behaviors in order to be a “real man.” The way that the media portrays men and women interacting, especially in relationships, dictates how relationships “should” look.
Knowing these connections, we can look deeper into messages that contribute to a tolerance and acceptance of sexual and domestic violence. We can examine how media impacts gender socialization and normalizes violence, how media perpetuates a culture that is tolerant of sexual violence (i.e., a "rape culture"), how pornography is related to sexual violence, and other connections.
By educating ourselves and our communities on the impact of negative media messages, we can start to seek and create counter messages. The desired outcome is a shift in culture—one that no longer tolerates interpersonal violence. As new media messages and outlets emerge, we have the unique opportunity and responsibility to help shape those messages.