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Healthy MEdia

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Date posted: April 16, 2012

Today (April 16th) a new report, Elements of Healthy Media, was released at the NAB convention in Las Vegas. The report helps define positive and healthy media of and for girls. This definition includes for central elements:
• Healthy Body Images
• Active and Diverse Female Characters
• Equal and Healthy Relationships
• Increased roles for women and girls

This definition grew out of research about media images of girls and women conducted by the Girl Scouts of the USA. It was drawn up by the Healthy MEdia Commission for Positive Images of Women and Girls.* The work has been led by commission co-chairs by Geena Davis, actress and Founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and Deborah Taylor Tate, former FCC Commissioner, and an impressive group of 35 commissioners from the fields of public health, advocacy, and media and, of course, “the voice of girls.” The commissioners hope this report will “increase the number of female characters in the media and ensure that female roles, images, and portrayal are authentic, balanced and healthy.”

While the definition of what constitutes healthy media images is the same across all platforms, from movies and TV, to You Tube and Facebook, to magazines and billboards, it is not a “one-size-fits-all” definition. The report does not suggest that all portrayals of female characters should be positive and inspirational. The world is full of men and women who maybe good or evil, weak or strong, great or terrible role models. People come in all sizes, colors, shapes, abilities, and beliefs. Our stories and our media should reflect that.

Both the Girl Scouts of the USA’s and the Geena Davis Institute’s research shows that women are underrepresented in media, on both sides of the camera, and in both the executive suites of the fictional television shows we watch, as well as the media companies that produce them.

In media literacy, we think about and analyze the things we see and hear. Equally important, we ask what we’re not seeing or hearing and the implications of those missing factors. The prevalence of powerless female characters says one thing. The relative absence of powerful female characters sends a powerful message, too.

While there are more strong and inspiring female characters than ever before, work remains to be done. And that’s next on the agenda for the Healthy MEdia Commission for Positive Images of Women and Girls. Stay tuned.

* In addition to the Geena Davis Institute, other partners include the Girl Scouts of the USA, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Creative Coalition. For a complete list of commission members, click here.