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Panelists discuss media, body image

9/23/2011

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

The media long has used extreme examples of beauty to market programs and products.

However, many believe those examples sometimes go too far and negatively impact youth.

Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland has been one of the major advocates against this marketing, which uses sexual images and thinner models, arguing the practice leads to low self-esteem and eating disorders, especially among young girls.

On Thursday, Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland hosted a roundtable discussion with four panelists from the Hays community in the Robbins Center at Fort Hays State University.

Jill Arensdorf, chairwoman of the FHSU leadership studies department, moderated the panel, as they took questions from the audience.

Mary Martin, who is an associate professor of marketing at FHSU and has researched the effects of advertising on children, was the keynote speaker.

"I try to get (my students) to think about how to be a responsible marketer," Martin said.

Martin said low self-esteem is a major problem for girls, noting one in five girls between the ages of 12 and 18 can't stand to look at themselves in the mirror.

She also said people should contact their representatives to support media reform measures, such as the Healthy Media for Youth Act, and push for the media to feature girls more accurately.

According to a survey conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute in 2010, 90 percent of girls surveyed said the media places a lot of pressure on girls to be thin, 60 percent of girls compare themselves to models, 55 percent of girls admit they diet to lose weight and 31 percent admit to starving themselves or refusing to eat as a strategy to lose weight.

Panelist Becky Kiser, executive director of Eagle Television's Street Beat, said it is important for girls to be skeptical about what they see in the media, because photos are airbrushed and videos showcase women wearing heavy makeup.

"What you see out there isn't necessarily the truth," Kiser said. "It might not be real."

In her retail clothing store Simply Charmed, panelist Tammy McClellan said she has witnessed some of the results of this marketing when girls go prom dress shopping.

"What I see is frightening at times," McClellan said. "I've seen girls cry in the dressing rooms."

For more information about Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland's advocacy for media reform, go to advocacy.kansasgirlscouts.org.