Are you Normal?
Do you see yourself re-imaged, re-presented, or depicted as you truly are in media? Your hair texture, the shape of your nose, the natural shape of your body or even your natural tone-color, and texture of your face with all of its wonderful imperfections? And finally, what about your social class or even the dialect that you speak with or have you been erased?
After spending some time away from my dissertation topic and traumatic life events; body image seemed so meaningless until I realized that it was my search for answers because of my own erasure in media and as I ultimately discovered the same was true in academic studies.
I still remember reading bell hooks call to black women to face the forces that constrain us and now understand that those forces are social, political, cultural and also spiritual and self imposed due to colonization of the mind. However, in a media saturated world, when colonization is the socially acceptable, politically correct and tolerable norm who are those of us that know still living in the margins (unlike our beloved hooks to her own credit) to say much of anything too radical, lest we get out of our place…fearing the loss of our livelihood. Risk.
What can I risk to self disclose to my audience of one, NORMAL, blog. This is what I have been contemplating for some time. I started this research because I had questions, but now as a critical researcher I am compelled to, obligated to teaching a willing audience by giving back what I have learned. I can not, risk, not, giving back the ways in which I understand how media teaches body image.
Media creates for you a version of the body that you must attain regardless of the color of your skin or the social position you stand on with your paycheck, dialect, religious and political affiliations. It does not even matter what sex or gender role you belong to, there is a body out there made just for you in the school of media because with each exposure, audio, pixel to picture formation, your brain is processing and being taught by media products which include radio, television, advertising, sitcoms, movies and the like.
And just because you don’t “think” you see “yourself” being represented, you are being persuasively created unconsciously nevertheless. The more you deny that, the more you are the most likely victim and if you are a parent, your children. Please become media literate and understand what media is doing to your body and support NORMAL because this organization is at least not erasing other aspects of the body. It is not picking apart and selecting certain aspects of eating disorders or body size, color, etc. I am attracted to the meaningfulness of the mission to reach all that fight body image from diverse perspectives and this is just one of them. I hope you will join us.
Dr. Angela Mensah, PhD