Last week, a new reality show aired on NBC which shows women competing for the best body to be photographed in the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. The program, "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search", consists of six, one-hour episodes, airing Jan 4 - Feb. 16, 2005 in prime time. Not only do judges rate and berate women's bodies on the air, but all TV viewers are encouraged to judge each woman and vote on whose body "outrates" the others.
A national coalition of education and advocacy groups is speaking out against the program and its message to viewers of both genders, and is encouraging others to do the same. The coalition is comprised of the Girls, Women + Media Project, Mind on the Media, Dads and Daughters and the National Organization for Men Against Sexism-Boston Chapter.
"This program moves a few steps --- really unhealthy steps --- beyond traditional beauty contests or shows featuring women in lingerie or bikinis" says Tamara Sobel, of the Girls, Women + Media Project. "By encouraging any viewer, a young boy or girl, or an adult, to take on the role of judging a woman by her breast or waist or buttocks or leg size and shape, NBC, Sports Illustrated, and all their corporate sponsors are sending a really negative message about women,about sexuality, and what we consider acceptable in the way men and boys treat women, and in the way girls and women treat themselves. And its interesting to ask why aren't we rating mens bodies like this all the time if its perfectly OK." Even if these women are just strangers on a TV screen, even if they might be doing it for a chance to win loads of money, if we watch it, and support the sponsors, it reflects what is OK to do in our society.
Joe Kelly, President of Dads and Daughters suggests we ask the CEOs of these companies: 'Would you be so eager to put production and marketing dollars behind this show if it was your own daughter who had her body verbally dissected on national TV?' "
Caroline Ticarro-Parker, Exec. Director of Mind on the Media and the "Turn Beauty Inside Out" Campaign, adds that we must ask networks and corporate sponsors to change the message they are sending that "beautiful" is defined by a particular sized body and how little clothing a woman wears.
Jack Kahn, Co-chair, National Organization of Men Against Sexism, Boston Chapter, adds "We would like to see media and entertainment that encourages us to grow in our acceptance of others, rather than perpetuating unrealistic views of body image and men's views of women as sexual objects to be appraised."
What you can do: Speak out against sexist programs at NBC -- it just takes a minute or two!
Tell NBC and their corporate sponsors that programs that promote inspection and competition of women's body parts are sexist and unhealthy. (Feedback that is strong and informational but still civil is usually what gets heard.)
1. Pledge to stop watching NBC until February is over (February is "sweeps" month when networks calculate how many people watch their show and how much money they can make from advertising)
2. Write an email to or call NBC letting them know you think their shows make an unhealthy sexist statement for women and men, girls and boys, and that you won't be watching their network. Contact: email@example.com OR phone (212) 664 -2333 or (212) 664-4444.
3. Write to the programs corporate sponsors and let them know your objections to the program and that you won't support companies and their products if they are affilitated with this type of programming.
To give feedback, go to: Feedback for America Online
To give feedback, go to: Feedback for Nautica Clothing
To give feedback, email: James Gerace, Vice President, Verizon Wireless
4. If you are a teacher, community leader, or parent-talk about what message this kind of program sends especially to young people, boys and girls. Does the act of rating women's bodies and their sexuality make women's bodies just like other "products" that are evaluated and sold to the public? Is that OK? Are there double standards for females and males?
Take action....Let your voice be heard!
The Girls, Women + Media Project
The Girls, Women and Media Project is a 21st century national consumer initiative and network working to promote media literacy, consumer activism, and fairer, healthier, more positive images of girls and women in the media. For more information, please visit our website or email:firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe or unsubscribe from this list, please put "subscribe" or "unsubscribe" in subject heading.