Sunday, January 31, 2010

The NEXT Plague: Mtv's Sexual Objectification of Girls and Why It Must Be Stopped

This next reading (pun intended) reading was a student essay written by Maribeth Theroux. The thesis of her essay is that MTV's reality show NEXT, girls are taught to be sexual objects through seeing contestants forced into that role and that the show polices female appearance and behavior in specific, harmful ways that rob girls of their control, power and worth as individuals.

In this show 5 girls are placed on a bus and a male "dater" one by one calls the girls out for "dates". If the girl does not meet his liking, he calls "Next" and the girl is summarily dismissed back to the bus and the next girl "date" is sent out. The girls get rewarded one dollar for every minute they spend with the "dater" before being "nexted". If the dater chooses a girl for a second date she must forfeit any prize money before opting for the second date.

The author notes that this reality show is seen in the male dater with 5 females, female dater with 5 males and in the homosexual mode involving both sexes as well. Her point was that MTV is the number one cable network for viewers in the 12- to 24-year-old demographic range with viewers in 342 million homes nationwide. She also notes that 12- to 19-year-old girls make up over 30% of the viewers. This seems to support her stance that MTV's influence on our society's young is compelling.

She presents a strong and startling argument that not only does the format of the show objectify girls, the commentary by the female narrator, the girls participating and the the commentary and actions of the male dater further "police" and enhance the objectification. Specifically, she uses one statement made by a male dater who states that he "nexted" a girl simply because "I just had to see what else is on that bus". Not "who" else, the author notes, but "what" else. This, Theroux notes, "exemplifies the blatant objectification that occurs on actual episodes of NEXT.

As I have three teenage girls in my household ranging from age 14 to 17. MTV is what's on frequently when I walk into the house after class or work. I have seen NEXT and find that I have to agree with the author. The way the girls dress, act, speak and are portrayed in the show are offensive to my personal view of how I my daughters treated and viewed by society. The essay also suggests that because of MTV and other influential reality TV such as "Girls Gone Wild" and "MTV Spring Break" contests conflict with feminist values.

This added to the statistics quoted by the essay's citation of Catharine MacKinnon noting that "only 7.8% of women in the United States are not sexually assaulted or harassed in their lifetimes." That statistic blew me away. To say that my daughters have a 92.2% chance of being sexually assaulted or harassed in their lifetime is scary to me and indeed has already occurred with my 17-year-old. So, how do we fix this?

Theroux calls this trend a plague. And as such should be "eradicated". If the young women of our society today are going to assert their worth in society as something more than that of a sexual object to be used and abused, that eradication of such societal influence must be eradicated. Otherwise they will never further the empowerment established my the women of our past. And that empowerment, states the author, is not only so deserved, but so rarely given the chance to achieve.

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