On any given day, a young girl can turn on the TV and be confronted with images of plastic surgery, “drama,” and girls younger than ten years old in full makeup (and that’s just on one of the six Real Housewives series). The fact that these shows are sandwiched between cosmetics, clothing, and shoe advertisements aimed specifically at young consumers beautifully illustrates society’s rapidly shifting expectations of young women.
During a recent talk at the Wisconsin Women’s Network, artist and activist Kelly Parks Snider addressed how the media’s effort to mold girls into over sexualized consumers has inspired her to take action.
Project Girl, Snider’s effort to combat the media’s effect on young women, combines the voices of girls and women’s role models in an artistic workbook designed to emphasize a world outside of material possessions.
Some of Snider’s greatest insights exist in her commentary on the pervasiveness of brand names. In one section of her workbook, she asks the reader to list all the brand names and tree species they know. Obviously for most, the brand names will far exceed the trees, demonstrating a widespread implicit preference for certain omnipresent brands.
Snider maintains that the greatest problem posed by the prevalence of brand names is the “image” affiliated with the brand. It has become clear that in our society, sex sells. However, when this mentality is adopted by toy companies and stores for young girls, the result is pole dancing dolls and low self-esteem. According to Snider, even companies with larger demographics attempt to appeal to the public by objectifying women.
In her workbook and workshops, Snider utilizes art to enable girls to see themselves in a “free thinking space” away from the media. She has no agenda other than to compel girls to question the standards society has put forth for women. The results of Project Girl have been largely positive. Snider states that when forced to reflect on women in TV, the girls she works with can “never identify positive female relationships.” However, “they have no trouble naming unhealthy ones.” This revelation has been the catalyst for girls to look outside of reality TV and magazines for role models.
As for the girls involved with Snider’s project, they say, “it teaches girls to show their power regardless of what the media tries to tell us. It teaches us to stand up to those who try to put us down.” Changing an entire society’s manner of treating girls cannot be done immediately. However, the work of Snider and others similar to her will be the force that empowers girls to create an alternative to the sex and media driven culture we currently live in.