‘From Objectification to Dignity – Positive Media Representations of Women and Girls’

This side event during CSW 58 was a collaboration between the Mission of Ireland to the United Nations and a number of faith based NGO’s including Good Shepherd. It took place on March 18th, 2014 in Conference Room C in the United Nations.   Andrew Tarantowitz, an intern with the Justice Peace office attended the event and wrote the following report.

  • H.E. Tim Mawe – Deputy Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations.
  • Leif Coorlim – Executive Editor at CNN International and Editorial Director of CNN The Freedom Project
  • Pauline Moreau – Ireland, Department of Justice, Gender Equality Representative
  • Youth Activists – Students from the Academy of the Holy Angels in Demarest, New Jersey, who created Project Stay Gold

There are pervasive societal issues that need to be addressed before we can change how women are perceived.  Society holds women to a standard of attractiveness, with less focus on more important qualities such as intelligence.  Women are portrayed in advertisements as body parts.  This is partially the fault of the advertising industry and also society as a whole.  Advertisements attempt to entice you and to change your perception on a product, but the root of this enticement is in how society views that product.  Women are therefore objectified as a result of the way society views them, in selling products that are related and unrelated to women and girls.

Men are also expected to keep to a certain standard.  There are advertisements that display how to be manly.  This affects men and women, as attributes are assigned to women and are shown to be negative to the male image.  This demonizes women and ensures that they stay objectified.

A great way to fight this perception is to contact MISS Representation.  It is a non-profit that aims to curb the growth of harmful advertising.  They are active on social media as well with #notbuyingit.  They were instrumental in changing the focus of the godaddy.com ads that portrayed women in an unnecessary, sexual light, just to sell their product which has nothing to do with women.  The outcry at this harmful portrayal was effective in making change, proof that our voices can be heard.

There is also an inherent problem in the media where in an effort to increase the amount of stories on the air, the integrity of some stories is sacrificed.  Focus is sometimes given instead to the quantity of stories, not their quality.  This prioritization can make it difficult to focus on important stories that are related to women’s rights or on human trafficking.  The fact that the many people still do not know about the human trafficking and prostitution that occurs during large sporting events such as the Super Bowl is an example of the media’s lack of focus.  If the media can begin to shift its focus to telling stories with more depth, such as with impact journalistic initiatives like The Freedom Project at CNN, then there can be a change in the perception of women.  This will make the problem of trafficking harder to hide.

The genesis of The Freedom Project was a story that Leif Coorlim and fellow CNN journalists were chasing in Cambodia.  They went undercover to a Karaoke bar that had a selection of prostitutes in the back of the building.  There were girls with different colors representing whether they were Cambodian or Vietnamese.  The CNN crew chose the girl that they believed to be the youngest.  They brought her up to a room and interviewed her.  What they found was that she was 14 years old and had been trafficked.

The next step was to contact the Human Trafficking division of the police in Cambodia.  This led to a plan of a raid on a Friday.  When CNN showed up to this raid, the police told them that it was cancelled as the girl had paperwork that identified her as 19 years old.  The frustration over this injustice spawned The Freedom Project.  Eventually, it was discovered that the head of the Human Trafficking Division was involved in the trafficking and a light was shown on the corruption of the government.

Project Stay Gold is an initiative started by students and now facilitated by both students and teachers from New Jersey that want to stop human trafficking and the sex trade here at home.  They are active on social media and have the bonus of being peer educators to youth in America.  This can really affect students and begin the process of educating the new generation on the problems that face the world.  This will create young activists who can make it their mission to change the world.

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