Does it matter what you watch on TV?
Does it matter if your kids have role models in media?
Does watching movies with diverse casts, with diverse groups of directors, with diverse messages make a difference?
Yes, yes and yes.
Even for those of us who aren’t huge movie buffs, or TV fanatics – we are all influenced by media in one way or another. Maybe it’s traditional print media, billboards, YouTube, Netflix – whatever – it’s hard to escape media’s influence. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. What IS bad is when the media you are consuming isn’t reflective of who you really are. Instead it’s full of stereotypes or unhealthy (physically and psychologically) portrayals of people you identify with. Here are a few examples:
- TV and print commercials focusing solely on female’s looks (or cleaning abilities) as a way to identify them
- TV sitcoms portraying a large proportion of men as lazy, selfish, and intellectually inferior to their wives
- Movies including women in only supporting roles to more powerful men
- TV, movies and print media encouraging cultural/racial/ethnic stereotypes by type-casting actors
The list could go on and on.
Why should you care? Because media matters. And when we see stereotypes reinforced over and over again, they become more ingrained in all of our brains – even if we don’t want them to! And in our increasingly diverse world, it’s important for us to get past stereotypes and see each other (and ourselves) for the unique individuals we are. Nobody’s mental health is improved by narrowly defining ourselves and others. Understanding and accepting diversity (again, in ourselves and others) is a key piece of overall psychological health.
So, now what?
I am excited to announce that I have joined with Public Radio International (PRI) and SheKnows Media in their partnership to shed light on global news stories highlighting women. Follow along and be a part of the news coverage that will change the lives of women. You can also follow the stories #womenslives
Want to know more about diversity, psychology and why any of it matters? Check out this FANTASTIC video made by psychologist Dr. Ali Mattu: