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The Power of Media Literacy

By Gisselli Rodriguez--Small waist, long legs, voluminous hair, big breasts. I was programmed to believe these were the ideal traits a girl must have to be deemed valuable. As a child, I was frequently exposed to Barbie, Victoria’s Secret advertisements and novellas—all of which repeatedly perpetuated the same beauty ideal.

Being a heavy media consumer did not help with constructing healthy role models either. I internalized mainstream media’s messages that reinforced a standard beauty ideal. As a result, these messages influenced me to have body image dissatisfaction. Before I had even entered high school, I had developed an unhealthy relationship with myself. I would pray and hope that I would magically be gifted these idealized features overnight.

My high school experience was unenjoyable to say the least. I despised my short height, frizzy medium-coarse hair and, most of all, my small breasts. I consistently saw images of women with large breasts on TV and in Cosmopolitan. I envied them and I envied the girls who mirrored these images at my school. I even believed that altering yourself through surgery was a norm after watching reality shows that promoted plastic surgery.

I battled with many self-confidence issues. I had let the hegemonic patriarchal systems bully me into believing who and what was valuable, desirable and successful in society. I was unaware of all the damaging messages the media create for their own profit. I was simply a multi-billion industry’s vessel willing to splurge on the latest trends in order to be accepted by society.

Even though my family was struggling financially, I persistently asked my mother to buy me breast implants for my 18th birthday. Somehow, my unhappiness with my body felt more important than my family’s fundamental survival needs. That is how powerful the media is to the vulnerable consumer.

I am grateful to have been exposed to media literacy in college. By understanding that the power structure maintains stereotypes and chooses to over-represent a particular image in order to reinforce social values, I am able to decolonize myself from the hegemonic status quo. By understanding that what I had observed and internalized from the media was in fact a smart, premeditated ploy by media creators, I have become cognitively aware of the power structure’s dependence on playing upon our insecurities. With this awareness, I am able to rewire past thoughts that clouded my self-perception and instead critically analyze the content creator’s purpose for their messages.

We are constantly bombarded with media. It is important to be cognizant of media’s purpose and messages; without critical thinking skills, they can create a negative self-perception and negative perception of certain groups. Once I got into the natural habit of implementing media literacy in my media consumption, I have had a much healthier relationship with myself. Although it is an ongoing struggle to repel unhealthy media messages, by attempting to reject messages I have overcome many of my own body image issues. As a practice of self-care and self-love, it is crucial to acquire media literacy skills for a happier, healthier life.

Now that you’ve reached the end of this post, check out the Get REAL! Digital Media Literacy Toolkit. It’s time to Get REAL! about media and body image and use media literacy to be Proud2Bme!

How have you challenged unrealistic body ideals? Tell us in the comments below!
 

About the blogger: Gisselli Rodriguez is a feminist writer based in Los Angeles. She advocates for healthy body image and fair representation of people in media. She also enjoys inclusive yoga.

For more on media literacy, check out:

Are You Media Literate?

Okay, So What IS Media Literacy?

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

Proud2Bme was first launched in the Netherlands by Riverduinen, a mental health organization that has licensed the concept to the National Eating Disorders Association. Unless otherwise noted, all original content on this site is copyright The National Eating Disorders Association. The Proud2Bme brand, logos, and trademarks are property of Rivierduinen.