My few followers know I’ve been planning a media literacy conference for the last year. It came to fruition this weekend. Over 125 attendees attended the 16 workshops, two panels and a keynote. The keynote was informative, compelling, depressing, and educational. For those of you unlucky enough to miss it, I’m going to recap some of the information passed on to the group over the next few weeks.
Dr. Caroline Heldman is a professor of Politics at Occidental College and bad-ass feminist. She is also a political commentator for MSNBC, Fox Business News, RT America, and Al Jazeera English.
Professor Heldman earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University and specializes in the American presidency and systems of power. She previously taught at Whittier College, Fairfield University, and Rutgers University. Professor Heldman graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Business Management from Washington State University, and has worked extensively in the private sector, including as the General Manager of Bio-Energy Systems and Research Manager for Consumer Health Sciences. Dr. Heldman’s work has been featured in the top journals in her field, including the American Political Science Review, the Journal of Politics, Political Psychology, and Political Communications. She co-edited the popular book, Rethinking Madame President: Is the US Ready for a Woman in the White House? (2007). Dr. Heldman’s work has also been featured in popular publications, including the New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, Ms. Magazine, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Beast. She has also been active in “real world” politics as a congressional staffer, campaign manager, and campaign consultant. Professor Heldman drove to New Orleans the week after Hurricane Katrina to assist with rescue and relief efforts. She co-founded the New Orleans Women’s Shelter and the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum.
One of the major points of her talk “The Sexy Lie” was the notion that young people have been so saturated by women’s bodies being used as sex objects that they cannot discern when it is actually happening. So she (and some colleagues, I believe) developed The Sex Object Test. Use this to critically examine what you are seeing on TV, in the movies, and particularly in advertising.
1. Does the image show only part(s) of a sexualized person’s body?
2. Does the image present a sexualized person as a stand-in for an object?
3. Does the image show a sexualized person as interchangeable?
4. Does the image affirm the idea of violating the bodily integrity of a sexualized person that can’t consent?
5. Does the image suggest that sexual availability is the defining characteristic of the sexualized person?
6. Does the image show a sexualized person as a commodity (something that can be bought and sold)?
If you can answer YES to any of these questions, you are looking at a person as a sex object and thus someone who is not a whole human being. The prevalence of this type of advertising and marketing leads to not only women’s self hatred, but a continued dismissal of women’s power and leadership abilities in our culture.
If you find this fascinating, see her full talk here:
We were blessed by the feminist goddesses to get to see her live and in person!
To see Tweets on the conference, search #educating4change.