The Chapel Office was scheduled to present a forum Tuesday about the complex topic of eating disorders and the sexualization of women in the media.
Killing Us Softly, a documentary series, is being shown as part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week facilitated by We Are Not Alone, an on-campus support group for students who have or have had an eating disorder.
Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker, author of Sexualized Media Messages and Our Children: Teaching Kids to Be Smart Critics and Consumers, will be available after the forum to moderate discussion and answer questions.
Shewmaker’s book dives into the often-hushed topic of media messages and their increased sexualized themes over the years.
As a mother to three daughters, Shewmaker noticed marketers were reaching out to children her daughters’ age with a much higher focus on romance and appearance, which inspired her to write the book.
“Everywhere I looked, I noticed the same old story; that a woman or girl gains her value from her ability to be sexually attractive and that boys and men gain value from being seen as sexual aggressors or players,” said Shewmaker, associate professor of psychology.
Killing Us Softly breaks down more than 160 television and print advertisements that pertain to the idea that the media influences and creates false expectations for society’s adolescents.
Steve Rowlands, director of the Weber Medical and Counseling Care Center, said he hopes people will take away more than just two Chapel credits from the forum.
“I would love for us all to gain a core sense of our value and the beauty that God has created in all of us,” he said.
Shewmaker has dedicated several years of study to this topic and said she wants others to understand what sexualized media can do to not just adolescents, but adults as well. She hopes the film plants a seed in the audience’s brain that allows them to see themselves in a different light -a light not produced by the media.
“Media is powerful,” Shewmaker said. “It can influence the way the audience thinks and feels, and when done with a social conscious such as the Killing Us Softly films, it can bring us a new awareness or enlighten us.”
The decision to show the film was not difficult given the topic is so controversial, Rowland said.
“The movie was recommended to us, and after we previewed it, we felt it was a powerful documentary that would help create a positive conversation,” he said.
The documentary is one of four events occurring this week regarding the topics of image and identity as part of NEDA Week.