The messages we receive about relationships on television, in music, in literature, in video games, and on the internet often support and perpetuate sexual harassment, abusive relationships, and sexual assault. Popular music is filled with messages which equate “being in love” with dominance, control, violence, and sex.
Many media images convey the idea that romance requires jealousy, passionate arguments, and infidelity. The message sent to young girls is that unhealthy relationships are normal and better than no relationship at all. The message to young boys is that females are readily available and need to be dominated by men. Few images in our culture provide a realistic impression of the time, effort, and commitment that healthy relationships require.
Given these messages, it is not surprising that many teens (and adults) are confused about relationships.
Why become media literate?
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.
What are the connections to us as students?
As students, we can educate our communities that the 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.
By educating ourselves and our communities on the impact of these 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 the messages.
To learn how or for more information, visit www.medialit.org.