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Episode 18

In the first episode of our two-part conversation with Caroline Heldman, we discuss how femininity and masculinity is being constantly defined by the media we consume. We discuss how gender roles in society may be shaping economy today. We also touch on the double-edged sword of social media in creating social movements vs. hindering socialization.

Caroline Heldman is a Professor of Politics with a specialty in media, gender, and race — and the president of The Representation Project.

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Sasza Lohrey

Thanks so much for being with us here today Caroline, really excited to chat more with you. I guess I’d love to just get started by having you give us a bit of background on how you came to be where you are today and what personal experiences have brought you there. 

Caroline Heldman 

So I’m the executive director of the representation project, which uses film and media in order to shift gender norms and damaging gender stereotypes. So our first film misrepresentation looked at how women are represented in media, how they’re objectified, how they’re raised, how they’re presented in very stereotypical ways, that sends girls and women really damaging messages. A lot of those messages are that their bodies are the most important things about them, that that’s where their self worth and where their worth in society comes from. And also messages that women aren’t supposed to be in positions of leadership. They’re not supposed to be in charge. So a lot of those damaging messages, you know, affect us, especially when they enter our consciousness when we’re very little. And then our second film, the mask you live in, looks at how pressures to be a boy or a man and be very masculine are actually very damaging to boys and men. So, men are taught that in order to be a real man, they have to be in control at all times. They have to be emotionally bereft, right, they have to, to separate their head and their heart, that they can’t have emotions that they can’t show emotions, and also that they have to use aggression or threat or force in order to maintain control and so all of these messages end up putting boys into what we call the man box, where they are very limited in terms of human expression. 

Sasza Lohrey 

How important is this and from both sides: for girls and women to understand the issues that men face. And then you know the complicated factors of masculinity. And on the other hand boys or men to not think, Oh, well, this is an episode since it’s about girls and women for them versus No, this is about culture. And this is, you know, how important is it to understand underlying realities of what it is we’re talking about, that people are going through.

Caroline Heldman 

Boys and men are not only taught to devalue feminine values, I would argue that everyone is, right. So we as a culture don’t actually value feminine values, men and women alike. We don’t value caring and empathy, to the extent that we should. I think that if we did as a culture, we would see very different public policies. Because the way in which you know something is valued in a culture is if it’s paid, at least in US culture, right? So the way in which you value something in a capitalist society is that you pay for it. So the higher the value, the more that a culture places on something, the more that particular thing is paid. So for example, you know, higher salaries are a reflection of our value system, but also where our public dollars go where politicians choose to allocate funds, is a reflection of what we value as a society. So for example, US culture very clearly values the military, because we spend more on our military than then the next almost 40 countries combined. I mean, it’s, it’s a remarkable ratio, right? So we know what a culture value is based upon where it’s money goes. We don’t value things like health care, long term care, education. We don’t value things that we associate with being feminine. And this is men and women alike. Anytime you have a social structure in place, like our gender system, or patriarchy where you value men more than you value women, that’s something that all of us uphold. If 51% of the population, meaning women in the US decided that they didn’t uphold that system, it could possibly change pretty quickly. But at the end of the day,  any system that’s in place that’s been in place for a long time, and that is very dominant, like patriarchy, where you value boys and men more than you value girls and women and what they do, and it means that everybody is kind of holding that system in place. So we as a culture, value masculine things much more than we value feminine things. And we know that because we just follow the money and see where it goes. And at the end of the day, it’s a real shame because men and women alike are empathetic. Men and women alike care about caregiving and taking care of people. And yet because that’s associated with femininity and what women do, it’s simply not valued as much in our culture, so and this has a lot to do, I think with, you know, to, to wag a finger at second wave feminists in the US who really encouraged women to move into masculine domains in the 1970s 80s and 90s. So we had women moving into, you know, military positions, moving into education, moving into medicine, science, moving into politics, but we didn’t have the same mirror value of getting men to move into the home to value homemaking to value caregiving to value the raising of our children to value education. So we have this big push to get women into masculinized domains. But we didn’t have the same big push to get men to have the freedom to come into domains that were feminized. And so you know, men who want to be in feminine domains, not only are they going into something where they’ll be paid less and it won’t be valued because of the ways in which we patrol and police men to stay in the man box, it means that they’ll get a lot of, you know, pushback from other men about not being quote unquote, real men. And how constraining is that. I mean, at the end of the day, at least women get to go in a masculinized occupations, and certainly will face backlash, and we’ll face criticism, but we don’t face anything remotely like the threat and the ridicule that men face from other men, when they engage in feminine actions. 

Sasza Lohrey 

Right? It’s difficult but at least it’s admired versus…

Caroline Heldman 

 Versus completely shut down, dismissed and used as a moment to degrade men. I think our film, the mask you live in has been such a profound, you know, influence in the lives of young men because they find out ‘Oh, this isn’t natural, like these are rules that are just put on me.’ And they also find out that they’re not alone. You know, in in sixth or seventh grade when they’re feeling all this pressure from other boys tend to lower their voices and to act more aggressively than they feel comfortable acting and to shut off their emotions and the parts of their life that they enjoyed, like maybe music or theater or creative performance, where they’re, you know, they’re encouraged to not you know, girls have cooties. They’re encouraged to reject women or girls, unless they’re sex objects, all of that, like that’s a painful, painful process for boys. Where we as a culture, little literally stripping away aspects of their humanity, and asking them to be less human, in order to be more of a man and there’s something really wrong with our culture, if that’s how we define what it means to be a man.

Sasza Lohrey 

I love that last line.

Caroline Heldman 

And I got here, I think primarily because I had a very sexist patriarchal father. And I actually grew up pentecostal evangelical and for folks who don’t know what that religion is, it’s a religion that is very kind of gender stereotypical. So for example, I wasn’t allowed to cut my hair or wear pants as a child. I was also homeschooled, and so I wasn’t allowed to talk to boys let alone to fraternize with them or be friends with them. I also wasn’t allowed to speak in church. I was allowed however to read you know, things I could get my hands on that my my Auntie’s and different people in my life were slipping to me in order to kind of challenge maybe some of the the ideas and messages I was learning in the home about what it means to be a girl or a woman. And my awakening was actually when I received Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, as a child and the book really goes into feminism. The idea of gender inequality in society, and how because we value boys and men more, and we think of them as natural leaders, that girls and women end up getting left behind and being treated like second class citizens. And so I remember getting the feminine mystique and sharing a lot of these lessons in Sunday school with the girls I was teaching, kind of secretly, obviously, because it was a challenge to everything that we were learning from the preacher at the pulpit. I came from a very rigid religious background, and ended up doing a 180 degree turn when, you know, I got my hands on materials that told me that I didn’t have to be a second class citizen. 

Sasza Lohrey 

I love that that kind of just really reinforces the idea that knowledge is what holds the power and and kind of what both of us are trying to do through the media to diffuse that knowledge and be able to reach more people with it so that they can hopefully have the same experiences as you? 

Caroline Heldman 

Absolutely. 

Sasza Lohrey 

You mentioned being homeschooled. And I’m wondering, how do you think, how hard was that to make that transition? In kind of realize that what you had learned or hadn’t learned due to being kind of protected from it went against everything. Maybe your family thought or you had thought yourself. And especially, I wonder what you think because a lot of people are homeschooled or protected over protected, but it often has this kind of counter effect that almost seems ironic in the sense that it’s always you know, the people who go to college and party the hardest and are drinking the most are the people who were never allowed to before so I don’t know to kind of point out the ineffectiveness of strategies like that.

Caroline Heldman 

I think it’s incredibly ineffective for parents to try to shape the behavior of their children, given that it’s such a losing battle with mass media. Children now spend more time engaging with social media and entertainment media than they do with their parents. They also spend more time engaging with the media than they do even with homework and classroom time. So we know now that 10.4 hours per day is spent intermittently on, you know, consuming media for young people. And so this has, I think, a bigger effect in shaping the way in which they view the world than their parents than educators. And it intensifies the peer pressure, right? Because you’re dealing a lot with social media, and so you are putting yourself out there but also being judged by your peers in ways that are much more structured now with social media, but at the end of the day, it really is a losing battle. And it’s nothing that, you know, is planned per se, it’s much more about, you know, marketers and in entertainment media producers trying to reach an audience. But at the end of the day, it means that the media essentially has more power to shape the hearts and minds of young people than parents or educators. 

Sasza Lohrey 

I’m still in shock by the, from the 10.4 hours and that kind of the reality of that.

Caroline Heldman 

And that’s oftentimes I should note that that’s a cumulative oftentimes, it’s happening all at once so you’re on your phone, you’re watching you know, something on Netflix, or Hulu on your laptop, and then maybe you you have your iPad out and you’re looking at your Instagram accounts. So it’s not, it’s happening simultaneously.

Sasza Lohrey 

Why’d you always just chilling hanging out as if it’s casual, non stressful, that’s stressful. 

Caroline Heldman

It has become a way of life for young people out there media consumption is, I think the biggest shift from previous generations. And it’s especially troubling and I’m not alarmist about social media. I think I see the good and bad, but it’s especially troubling that we’ve introduced this new technology for humans, which has profound effects that we simply don’t know the outcome of, right. So we know, for example, that young people are more reclusive and anti social, and they’re having less sex, all of which are a function of engagement with social media, and the norms and values and ways in which they’re learning to interact, because they’re interacting more with technology, oftentimes than humans. And so there are a lot of studies out now finding that, you know, the social media engagement of young people and being raised and basically being born into this world where using social media is like breathing. It has profound human effects that we don’t really understand, you know that short term, medium term or long term effects of… I love the fact that it provides this medium to shape hearts and minds because it holds the potential to produce a much better culture, if we were to infuse it with those values. But at the end of the day, the values that young people are getting are coming from people who are trying to sell them products. And so those values are not really going to lead to the gender justice or socially just utopia that I can imagine. 

Sasza Lohrey 

Right, especially now with the power of, as was recently mentioned, in one of my interviews, half of trillion dollar industry of beauty. I think one of my friends the other day, one of my favorite places in Marin, the ridge where I used to go often. There was nobody there and recently when I go there, it’s kind of packed and I began to realize that I think a lot of it is because of social media. And I would go there and it’s this beautiful sunset. And there are a lot of really young people who are just on their phone or even facing the other direction taking selfies. And I went with a friend and she commented, how glad she was that when she was a young like a high schooler, she only had to struggle very intensely trying to figure out who she was, but didn’t have to also worry about what other version of her she wanted to be on social media, because it’s so hard as it is alone. You mentioned this kind of intimacy crisis, which, you know, with the cover story on the Atlantic a couple months ago and a lot of kind of mainstream media companies really kind of catching on and beginning to shed more light on this, I was wondering if you could kind of speak to that, the intimacy crisis in the younger generation. But then on the other hand, I do wonder, because a lot of people seem very preoccupied by these negative consequences if they’re also kind of some more positive ones, and that this younger generation perhaps does have a certain perspective or knowledge about gender, politics, this sort of thing that, you know, it’s not all bad, and they actually might have a leg up in some other sense.

Caroline Heldman 

I would say, there’s no doubt that Generation Z, which is defined as being now 24 years old and younger, is much more conscious about the social construction of gender. Meaning that you know, that the categories that we impart on men and women, you know, masculine and feminine, that those things shift over time and over culture in a way that indicates that we as human beings kind of decide those categories rather than those categories coming from nature or being predetermined. And so you saw you see as a result of that, you see an increasing amount of gender fluidity. So for example, over half of Generation Z, so 56%, identify either as gender fluid or as sexually fluid meaning that they’re not identifying as, you know, male, female, they’re not identifying as, as heterosexual or homosexual. They are identifying as something that crosses categories. And that’s really exciting. And it is a direct result, I think of, of social media and entertainment media, being much more open to the idea of gender fluidity and sex, you know, sexuality, fluidity. I think it gets us closer to where the world actually is. And it frees us up from the constraints of these socially constructed categories that aren’t just innocuous categories, right they’ve been put into place in order to maintain hierarchies because as soon as you put people into categories, you tend to write them in your mind. So especially, you know, two categories like dichotomous categories like male, female, heterosexual, homosexual, you know, black, white, you end up immediately counter, you know, putting them in a hierarchy, which is what human beings do with categories. And so it’s really great to see Generation Z challenging that and that has so much to do with the media landscape that they’re exposed to. They are also Generation Z is also more socially conscious and socially aware, beyond gender justice and beyond gender fluidity than previous generations. They’re more activist, they’re more concerned about things like climate change and racial injustice. They’re also far more likely than any previous generation to know what the term intersectionality means. Which simply means that whatever category of oppression or marginalization you happen to be looking at, let’s say gender, it means that you understand that that category doesn’t operate alone. So for example, you know, the wage gap. For Asian American women, it’s 88 cents to a white man’s dollar. For white women, it’s 81 cents to white man’s dollar. For all women, it’s 78 cents to white man’s dollar for black women at 65 cents. And for Latina x women, it’s 54 cents to a white man’s dollar. So young people understand the importance of something like unpacking the category of woman to say, Well, actually, it also it’s not just women at differs by race. And so intersectionality is something that Generation Z really owns. And a majority of young people know what that term means. And that’s really important because it means they understand the complexity of oppression and marginalization and understanding that complexity is actually the first step in truly addressing it.

Sasza Lohrey 

I wonder in terms of you mentioned that they are greater activists, and how much that is advanced and empowered versus inhibited by the large presence online, because as much as social media and all of this has the power to start revolutions, it also kind of only goes so far and it’s quite easy to believe oneself to be an activist when you post all these things. But really the effort it takes, you know, to dedicate one of however many things a person might post within a single day to something activism related, but not really back that up with their real world conversations nor actions, etc.

Caroline Heldman 

Yeah, that’s a great way of thinking about that. The beauty of Generation Z is that They are more active than previous generations. Certainly millennials and Generation X when it comes to both real world activism, meaning attending protests and voting when they’re old enough, as well as kind of the armchair activism, which would be the online activism. But as somebody who studies different types of activism, the term armchair activism is typically used to kind of dismiss the impact or power of social media activism. But what we do know is that you know, for lack of, to be really simple Money makes the world go round. And so what social media has given young people is an incredibly powerful tool for activism in the form of consumer activism. So even though consumer activism which is boycotts and buycots and those sorts of things, even though boycotts and buycotts have been around, really before the founding of our nation, they have never been more effective than they are today. Meaning that young people are much more likely to go after companies for political reasons. Because they can. And they have this powerful tool online to do it. And so they’re holding corporations accountable in a new way, which is while you know any, any corporation worth its salt is now hiring people to basically try to manage young people who will come after their product or their brand online for political reasons. So young people, even though it’s armchair activism, actually have an incredible amount of power online. But it does lead to a lack of intimacy and it also leads to incredible pressure to be someone who you are not and to perform a curated self, as I call it. And those pressures are enormous. I mean, we’ve always had girls who you know, we’ve raised girls in this country for a very long time to hate their bodies. But that is way more intense with social media, where you have the before and after you have you know, three years ago, you have this constant, you have a structure that encourages you to compare yourself to who you were previously. And to compare yourself to other people. We also have a lot of apps that allow you to make yourself literally perfect. So you see these people around you who are smoothing things and shaping things. And it’s having a profound effect in the real world and that we now know that the rate of people having hand surgery so it looks good on Instagram has increased. The rate of surgeries have gone up simply so people look better online. And that those stats are startling. My interest is in changing the culture that encourages girls and women to hate their bodies. I have nothing but empathy for women who feel pressure to buy into the larger culture that says that their bodies are their primary value and for girls and women who go under the knife and risked their lives in order to appear more, you know, sexually attractive. So at the end of the day when people say I’m doing this for me, so I feel sexy. Okay, well, there’s a huge difference between being sexy and being sexual, right? Being sexy is for other people, being sexual is for yourself.

Sasza Lohrey 

I think it’s important to distinguish exactly what you said, the difference between well Oh, this is something that will make you feel good about yourself. But if that means taking away your capacity to feel good, and that sense of pleasure, or even on the sense of inside, not on a surface level, Instagram level, but truly like being connected to oneself is generally what helps someone feel good about themselves and trying to really help people understand the difference and I loved the comment you said about the deserted island and is this really a choice people would make otherwise and while they might truly believe that it Is their choice, That’s only because so much information and and media and everything in our culture has managed to kind of seep its way into our minds without us even realizing.

Caroline Heldman 

We definitely take in the idea that our bodies are a primary form of value well before we’re conscious of being conscious, and that the idea of being conscious about the fact that you are a human being who is conscious happens somewhere between ages, you know, seven and 10. And by the time you’re seven years old, you already have a worldview. You have, you know, your social DNA already reflects what the broader culture tells you. I want to live in a culture actually, that doesn’t tell girls and women that they have to be beautiful. I think that yardstick is the most damaging thing that we have in our culture, this pursuit of beauty. I want to live in a culture that actually values girls and women for what they do and not what they look like. Especially when the standards For feeling good about yourself are impossible to obtain. So not only is it the standard itself, really not meritorious, it’s not about what you do. But it’s about you know, basically what you’re born into the world with. It also is completely unobtainable, right. And so even women who look like they’ve obtained it are still really, really unhappy. And then, of course, there’s the caveat that every woman’s going to age and get older, if she has the luxury of living a long life, right. And so it’s literally a game that is rigged against us so that we are never happy in our own skin. And we spend the amount of time that it takes to get two PhDs over the course of our lifetime worrying about what we look like, and so that’s the world we’re born into. I want to get rid of the whole idea that that beauty is a measure for anything.

Sasza Lohrey 

What do you think should be the yardstick we should measure girls and women by Or perhaps humans in general, because I think a lot of people might be wondering, oh, well yardstick for men yardstick for women, or should it just be one yardstick for humans?

Caroline Heldman 

It should definitely be one yardstick for humans. I’m always suspicious when different standards are used for men and women. In the same way. I’m suspicious when different standards are used for white people versus people of color. You know, I, anytime there are different standards used for different groups, it makes me wonder how that’s contributing to the hierarchy of those groups. So yes, we should definitely have one standard. And I would love that standard. To be multifaceted. I would love it to be certainly you know, how hard you work and what you’re producing in the world and by how hard you work. Not everybody has the same abilities. So it would really be a measure of, you know, what you are producing creatively or otherwise in the world based upon what you are working with. But it would certainly be based on something meritorious, like your effort, like your work, like the empathy that you show for other people, so kindness as a yardstick would be incredible that would revolutionize the world. If we valued people based upon the amount of empathy that they show to other people based upon the amount of service they performed for other people in other groups or even based upon you know, more traditional things like productivity and work although I you know, there’s some there’s some issues there because of differences in ability but I it would be meritorious, it wouldn’t be something as as surface and skin deep as beauty.

Sasza Lohrey 

Yeah, perhaps simply how kind of caring somebody is and their intentions measured by intention more than your natural born merit of any kind.

Caroline Heldman 

Yeah, I mean, even if men are held back to a certain extent by their value their yardstick being economic, when you consider that, you know, wealth is intergenerational and about 50% of the top 1% inherited their wealth. It’s still not a meritorious measure. And it’s really heartening when, when people who have incredible wealth privilege note that right? And then and then do something about that in the world, but at the end of the day, you know, men’s standards are more meritorious than women’s standards, but there’s still a long way to go to actually have a system of merit. And so when we talk about, you know, rewarding people and in the United States being this land of opportunity, where all you need to do is work hard and get ahead and pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Well, some of us, you know, don’t have boots. It’s not you know, it’s a myth, right? It’s the, essentially the myth of the American dream. That’s that everybody can simply move ahead based upon their merit. I would like to move to a system where merit is the art you know, meritorious behavior is the yardstick by which we measure humans, rather than superficial things that they don’t control.

Sasza Lohrey 

I think for men too, part of the issue is that when you know you, as you mentioned, are being measured by your income or financial success, not even success in a career which could, by so many other measures not be defined by finances. It really leaves you with kind of narrow options if you would otherwise, you know, in a social vacuum or on an island be pursuing life as an artist or life doing any other job that perhaps wouldn’t have the same if you didn’t have those same pressures to really be that provider to be, you know, living up to that that measuring stick that takes away your freedom to follow your passions or legitimate interests and then if you end up kind of living in this less kind of connected and more living for other people’s standards life that can only have so many other consequences in terms of, you know, happiness and demeanor, etc that Yeah, kind of feed back into that cycle.

Caroline Heldman 

I imagine a world where humans can achieve their full potential, but it would require a real radical change right? We have allowed marketers and people who are trying to sell us things, an inordinate amount of power over shaping our values, what we value as a culture. And so what do we value? we value wealth, we value competitiveness and you know, winning and we value control and aggression. We value very masculine things in our culture, men and women alike, value very masculine things in our culture. And our institutions reflect this. So our institutions being politics, media, education. So the institutions that are socializing one generation to the next are reflecting values that I think are fundamentally incompatible with human happiness. And I say they’re fundamentally incompatible with human happiness because if you look at the happiest times in your life, or the happiest people it’s much more about connectivity and community and empathy and caring. We know what makes people happy. We now have two decades of happiness studies, right? We know what makes people happy. There are really two primary things once you have your basic needs taken care of. The first is connecting with other human beings. So we know the more close friendships and intimate friendships you have, that you will be happier. We also know that the other thing that makes people happy is service, right? So the two primary things that make us happy are close connection with other human beings and serving other human beings. So imagine a world premised on that right, which is antithetical to consumption and consumerism, and marketing and corporatism. Right. So imagine a world based around serving other human beings and doing your full achieving your full potential and serving them, whether that’s art, whether that’s project management, whether that’s car repair, whatever it is, serving other human beings, and connecting with other human beings. I think at the end of the day, the biggest obstacle to humans achieving human happiness is the fact that we’ve given over the reins of determining what we value as a society to marketers and to corporations, to entities that want to sell us something. And so that creates a world in which humans, each successive generation of humans is less happy than the one before. And we have, you know, now 50 years of evidence that shows that young people, each successive generation, are less happy than the one before. And if you want to look at kind of a root or meta cause, you would have to look at the values that are being transferred from corporations to human beings, which have much more to do with us buying things than they do with human happiness.

Sasza Lohrey

Thought back, as I had mentioned to you, I just moved back to the US from Chile. And when people say kind of, are you happy to be back or what will you miss? Obviously, this is a generalization but what I say is that the simple life is the good life. And what I realized is that life here is impossible to be simple, and there are just so many things that I took away from that experience and that will contribute to the way that I want to live my life. What we get in lawn barbecues, okay? Where you basically like pay no money and don’t have to go anywhere and there’s no scheduling and you just meet up in a place you know, in somebody’s in somebody’s backyard or, and you just eat good food and hang out with good people and it’s just kind of passively, you know, enables this, this happiness that comes from those close relationships and sharing with those people we care about in a way that doesn’t involve you know, renting a bus to go wine tasting to pay hundreds of dollars for a couple hours and lots of logistics and effort and stress. That doesn’t even live up to be that much at the end of it anyway, so Going back to what you said about each generation as life becomes more complicated and I think it we lose sight of that perhaps the simple life is the good life.

In part two of our conversation with Caroline, we continue our discussion and speak directly about the mental heath crisis of millennials, tools to help us all disconnect a bit from social media, and some helpful resources to find good media. We hope that you enjoy and ponder the question: What are the consequences of living a distracted life?

Mental Health Crisis

Millennials (ages 25-39) have been experiencing higher rates of depression than previous generations. Humans are becoming less connected because of media and social media consumption, which leads to more antisocial attitudes and behaviors. We also know that the more time you spend curating your “self” on social media the higher the rates of depression. The
baggage of performing on social media is having real life negative effects on self-esteem.

Ideas for Disconnecting

  • Unplug from devices when you can
  • Limit your screen time
  • Reconnect with your friends IRL
  • Put your phone in your trunk when driving
  • When out to dinner: whoever looks at their phone first pays for the whole meal

We are losing our ability to be present and we know that having a few close friends with whom you can share your feelings does increase your happiness. So take time to disconnect and be present.

Paradox of Social Media

Online interactions are not equivalent to IRL interactions. Despite being more connecting and politically activating, online friendships don’t create closer and more intimate relationships. It’s really a double edged sword.

What are the consequences of living a distracted life?

Parenting Equality

Caregiving is feminized in our culture and because of this, we don’t give it the value that we should. Since women still do the bulk of the parenting, Chase Bank has conducted research that found that the value of a woman’s work in the home – cooking, cleaning, driving, caretaking – would equate to a $140,000 per year salary.

I would love to see a world in which we actually compensated caregiving.

In the perfect world, parenting would be a job that is compensated. This could help people take it more seriously and put more resources behind it.

Good Media Sources

No additional resources found for this episode.

About the Expert

Caroline Heldman

Caroline Heldman

Dr. Caroline is the Executive Director of the Representation Project and a professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles. She is also a Senior Research Advisor for the Geena Davis Institue for Gender in Media. Her research specializes in media, the presidency, and systems of power (race, class, gender, sexuality, ability)

Episode Discussion

Home Forums Episode 18 & 19 – “Sex Sells? Or Insecurity Sells…” with Caroline Heldman

  • Episode 18 & 19 – “Sex Sells? Or Insecurity Sells…” with Caroline Heldman

  • Valentina 

    September 21, 2020 at 8:40 am
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    • What did you learn about yourself?
    • What did you learn about culture?
    • What was your favorite quote?
    • What surprised you most?
    • What is one way you can enact what you learned in your own life?
    • How can we each help shift the culture and the conversation surrounding this topic?
  • Amy

    September 21, 2020 at 12:16 pm
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    The thing that I learned about myself while listening to these episodes was that at a young age I was exposed to sexual images and played with Barbie dolls that exposed me to the standards of beauty that women are told to live by. The thing that I learned.about culture is that at a young age girls are exposed to sexual images that tell them that they have to look a certain way to impress a guy and that sexual images tell women to buy a product to live by a certain standard of beauty. The thing that surprised me most was that sexual images have been around for years and that there is pressure on women to live up to those images. The way that I can enact what I learned in my own life is to tell my future children that those images are not something that they need to live up to and that being themselves is what will get them further in their lives. The way that we can shift the culture and conversation around this topic is to educate young people about how companies oversexualize images to sell a product and that those images do not define them. We can also let young people know that being themselves is okay and that no one can tell them otherwise.

    • Hope

      September 28, 2020 at 8:52 am
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      I had my brother listen to this podcast with me and this is how our conversation went:

      Hope: Yeah, did you even realize how at such a young age women are set up with expectations on how they’re supposed to look starting with some of the first toys we pick up and play with. We are expected to read magazines because it is “feminine” and all these magazines do are demonstrate ways we need to be more like the women society accepts. I just feel like it is beyond important for men to understand the side that women are coming from and it is just as important for the women to understand the men. We don’t take enough time to acknowledge the pressure society puts on anyone, not just a specific gender or group of individuals.

      Cole: Wow, no I didn’t think of that. But similarly to women, men are also expected to fill society’s roles starting as young as when we pick up our first toy. Soldiers, action figures, trucks… all of these toys are supposed to represent the masculinity men are “supposed” to have. Then you think about sex ed and how the whole lesson practically discusses masturbation and how boys can look at porn to get them through puberty…so boys are then expected and encouraged to expose themselves to sexual images at a very young age because society wants us to be men quicker. I do agree though, I think I need to pay more attention to everyone as a whole, versus what men just experience so I can get a greater understanding of what women go through.

  • Sarah

    October 16, 2020 at 1:21 pm
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    It was eye opening to realize how our society does not value feminine things versus masculine things because they do not provide the same monetary value. There was a big cultural push to get women into masculine roles, but did not push for men to engage in feminine actions. Therefore, men are more constricted in their sexuality in this “man box”, making them be less human to be more of a man. Also– I love that Caroline mentioned the Feminine Mystique, I learned about the book during a history class in college and found it very inspirational!

  • Sarah

    October 16, 2020 at 1:26 pm
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    “Children spend 10.4 hours on Media.” This statistic is extremely shocking to me, and we are still not completely aware of the repercussions on our social interactions especially concerning relationships and our abilities to be intimacy. It’s saddening because I’m apart of the generation that really saw the birth and evolved as social media evolved and I notice within myself how much social media has influenced my life in both negative and positive ways.

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