What’s going on?
If you were an alien trying to learn about humans by watching music videos, video games, or ads… what would you think men and women are like? You might have some strange ideas about what we look, act and dress like, for starters!
Did you know that Australian young people watch an average of 34 hours of media messages (including gaming, TV, ads, videos etc) per week? When we watch that much it “desensitises” us to what we are seeing and hearing – it makes it all seem normal. But, if you take a closer look at all of the ‘normal’ stuff you start to see a few things that are, to put it mildly, messed up.
Men are usually fully dressed, for a start. They are strong, aggressive, violent, and powerful and have half naked women dancing around them. ‘Real Men’ in games, in music videos and in advertising don’t show feelings (unless its anger, of course) – they never cry, show fear, love or loneliness – and if they break any of these rules they are shown as the ‘loser guy’ who never gets a girlfriend.
Women in these videos or games are shown as half naked, skinny, tanned, chicks who don’t mind dancing around fully clothed men, or going on dangerous missions wearing hardly anything. How many mosquito bites do you think poor Lara Croft gets in those costumes?
Otherwise, women are shown as young, innocent, victims that need rescuing. They might be clever but they certainly don’t have the strength of character to look after themselves without the help of a ‘Real Man.’ It’s so confusing! Sometimes women have to be try to be both of these things at once, which is a real trick!
So what’s wrong with all of this? It’s rubbish – that’s what. These super narrow images of men and women are so small and two dimensional that a normal, a real-life human doesn’t stand a chance of fitting into them. Imagine how confused our alien friend would be after 34 hours of videos and gaming!
Just remember that whether you are a boy or a girl, you have so much more to offer the world than these stupid images show. But that’s where the problem is, see. Because these images are everywhere we start to think they are normal and we start to compare ourselves and our friends to them. Men and boys feel like they should be muscled, aggressive and violent men who try to control women and other men. They feel like they aren’t allowed to show that they feel sad sometimes, or silly or embarrassed, or that they need help sometimes, or that they really love their family – things that a real life human (of any gender) experiences.
From these images, women are encouraged to become objects whose only talent is in their bodies and their attractiveness. They has to do what they are told, even that doesn’t match their values, feelings, wants or needs. Men and women, boys and girls can feel like they need to be more like these people they see in the games and videos, instead of the exciting, challenging, intelligent, colourful people they are meant to be.
How can this situation lead to unsafe situations?
Well, if everyone is trying fit into these images and we think they are ‘normal’, we might think it’s ‘normal’ for women to be controlled by men and just be there for men’s entertainment. It might seem like it’s ‘normal’ for men to be violent and to solve all of their problems with force. It might also seem ‘normal’ for men to control women and tell them who they can hang out with or how to dress.
But if we see these images for what they are – fake, silly, narrow images that are nothing like the real world or real people, images made up just to suck us in – we can make up our own minds and have real power to decide for ourselves how we want to look and act. That’s the kind of power we should all have. And our alien friend? Well maybe we need to introduce them to some real people!