Member blog post: How misogyny, body shaming and hypersexualization in media skew modern perceptions of female beauty

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By Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn, JAWS member

IMG_7454For our November regional event, Southern California JAWdesses partnered with Ms. Magazine to host a public forum on women, body image and the media at the Feminist Majority headquarters in Beverly Hills. More than 60 attendees – many of them journalism and media students from area colleges and universities – braved the early Saturday morning chill for the 90-minute presentation, “Mirror, Mirror: How Misogyny, Body Shaming and Hypersexualization in Media Skew Modern Perceptions of Female Beauty,” moderated by So Cal JAWS member Amy Lieu (editor, SoCal Connected).

IMG_7531The discussion explored the decades long media misrepresentations of beauty ideals that continue to shape the public’s notions of the female body and assumptions on beauty that lead to discrimination, hypersexualization, stereotypes, biases, and violence against women, featuring a welcome diversity of perspectives from the panel’s esteemed journalists: writer-editor Ramona Gonzales (TheRevista Magazine, pLAywritinginthecity.com); Ms. Magazine senior editor-author Michele Kort (“Here Come the Brides: Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage“; journalist-author Evelyn McDonnell (“Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways“); and Kelly Redmond, founder of Impact Media & Entertainment Coalition.

While the panel began, not too surprisingly, with a dissecting of Kim Kardashian’s Paper magazine expose – the week’s online trending topic – the discussion quickly veered from “booty beauty” to feminist networking (with Kort encouraging feminist bloggers to pitch Ms. for cross-content posting), village building (McDonnell noting the importance of surrounding ourselves with positive images of women in our own lives) and self-empowerment. “It’s important to care for our bodies as part of ourselves,” said Gonzales, “not beauty reasons.”

IMG_7603A robust audience Q&A was then followed by a reception and an author book sale and signing featuring McDonnell, Kort and author Melanie Klein with contributor Joni Yung (“Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery and Loving Your Body“). Ms. also generously provided free copies of the Fall 2014 issue.

The organizers wish to send a special thanks to Pia Guerrero, founder of Adios, Barbie, for facilitating our live tweets during the session with immediate past president Lauren Whaley and other SoCal JAWS members. We extend a huge note of gratitude to Karon Jolna, managing director of Ms. in the Classroom; Susie Gilligan head of west coast media for Ms. Magazine and the Feminist Majority Foundation; and Ms. intern Brianna Kovan and to our eager volunteers from Klein’s Women’s Studies classes at Santa Monica College.

For more on the panel, follow the Twitter discussion at #jawsbodyimage.