As social workers, we are well aware of the critical impact of self-image in assisting a person choose to be productive, happy, creative, engaged and proud. Nonetheless the U.S. media empires, as well as our own fascination with celebrity cultural norms, contribute to the woeful effects of “make believe” and racist perfection on our youth who grow into adults rejecting themselves and what they are. They live in fear of being too far from the norm of what is perceived as beauty, and as a consequence, woefully accept images, sounds and ideas that are a far cry from their own class, race, and sexual orientation. In other words people who live outside what is considered the “norm” are forced to comply with these false perceptions, which is detrimental to the society as a whole and the individual in particular. Without a doubt, there needs to be a push for change in all areas of society to reinforce and recognize “the realness” of people’s lives, beginning with images of men and women that promote a positive and supportive portrayal, of those people who look and act like the people in our daily lives. All people should feel that they are not inferior because they are of a different race then what is portrayed in our modern media.
Throughout the years, several media campaigns have worked to broaden the concept of beauty. “Dove’s Real Beauty” commercial, for example, is an effort to make women less anxious about their bodies and or their bodily lack of “perfection.” In effect, the commercial is addressing what we have long witnessed as the forced acculturation to images that are less like ourselves. Even in these commercials portraying beauty differently than we are accustomed, we still see woman African American women, Latina American women in light skinned portrayals. What is missing are the dark women and their beauty. This is because even in accepting the different sizes of women lighter is still better. We only have to remember the white doll phenomenon that was cited in the Brown versus Board of Education; black children who are barraged with images that are harmful to their self-image and self-worth, begin to suffer inferiority and self-hatred. We as social workers and as a society need to work towards putting forth images that range in a whole spectrum of color, religion, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Without these powerful images of beauty, and normalcy, we will live in a skewed and distorted world, harmful to everyone.
To have change in media we as a community must work to have these seemingly innocuous images banned from the media. When a community is vocal about the racism and sexism that exists in the media and exerts pressure to counter these images change can occur. There must be movement by the people to ask, “where is the person like me” or “where is my family, relationship in that media.” When we have to ask these questions because we are not represented, we must stand up for ourselves.