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January 2013 Archives

January 2, 2013

Violence and the Media

Sylvia Estafan

Sylvia Estafan is Program Specialist for the Hollywood, Health & Society program at the Lear Center

Sylvia1.jpgAs President Obama gears up for a new term in office, he's vowed to tackle the important and timely issue of gun control. The tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut quickly became the unfortunate impetus for a conversation about gun violence in the U.S., in which the President outlined several approaches to address the complex issue. Among his points, Obama mentioned the impact of exceedingly violent images that have become mainstream in our nation's culture. The President said the country needs to tackle a "culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence." Although most of us tend to see violence as a criminal justice issue, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have long recognized violence as a serious public health problem in our country.

The public health community has a number of evidence-based tools under its belt to address violence. It's not unusual to see a complex problem approached using a multi-faceted intervention. Indeed, violence is one of these complex issues. Improving access to mental health services is an important component, but changes in healthcare clearly take time. How about gun laws? Those certainly won't change overnight either. But what if we want to use our momentum to make an impact sooner rather than later? Luckily, the framework is already in place for a large-scale intervention to begin now. An educational instrument exists that has the potential to change the public's knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors in regards to violence. In fact, this tool already reaches millions of Americans each day. What is this highly sophisticated instrument? It's your television.

TV audiences are being regularly exposed to violent images not only during news coverage, but also during their favorite

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January 11, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Lingerie Football League

Kendra Smith
Kendra Smith recently received her Masters degree from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

The passing of Title IX, which mandated equal funding for girls' and women's programs and sports helped encourage women's participation in athletics, complimenting the growing number of women seeking higher education. The creation of the Lingerie Football League, a professional women's football league in which women play tackle football in lingerie apparel, led me to examine how this league fits into the paradigm of today's sports culture. Are women still battling to define themselves as legitimate athletes? Do or should women exhibit femininity and/or sexuality in their image in order for their athletic ability to be recognized? My study focuses on how women audience members respond to media images, specifically sexualized images of women athletes, using the LFL as a case study.

I used focus groups to survey female students to discuss how they felt about women's sports and to gauge their reactions to the Lingerie Football League.

My results suggest that women audience members view athletes as positive role models, mainly because of their athletic accomplishments and the ability to fulfill multiple roles in their lives, i.e., successful athlete, mother of two, etc. Words such as "graceful" and "girly" were used to describe femininity, while "aggressive" and "confident" were applied to their sexuality. One interesting point I found was that most participants felt they liked a female athlete to display some level of femininity, depending upon the sport played.

Finally, the results suggest that participants reacted negatively towards the LFL for three reasons: the level of aggression, the lack of safety, and the high level of objectification of players. When compared to women in other forms of popular entertainment, however, such as those in fashion or music, the participants' views of the LFL players became more moderate.

So what does this all mean? Women make up the majority of buying power for athletic consumer goods. The results of this study can help brands create material that appeals to female consumers, without offending them. For communicators and journalists, these results can instigate a dialogue for women within sports that does not currently exist to discover ways to positively frame female athletes in the media without sexualizing them and diminishing their athletic abilities.

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