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Promote Healthy Body Images. Support the Healthy Media For Youth Act

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Urge the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and President Obama to pass the Healthy Media For Youth Act (H.R.2513/S.1354).

What is the Health Media For Youth Act?

The Healthy Media For Youth Act (H.R.2513/S.1354), sponsored by U.S. Representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-WI 2) and U.S. Senator Kay Hagen (D-NC), is a bipartisan legislative bill that establishes a national task force that would develop voluntary guidelines and other measures to promote positive media images of girls and women. 

The bill would support media literacy programs, promote research on the effect of media images on young people, and encourage the adoption of voluntary guidelines to promote healthier media images for youth. The Healthy Media for Youth Act is part of a Girl Scout effort at the federal, state, and local level known as Live Healthy, Lead Healthy, which seeks to engage policymakers and community leaders around key health and well-being issues affecting girls

The Healthy Media for Youth Act will empower America's young girls by:

-Supporting age-appropriate education on negative effects of the sexualization of young girls, adolescents and adults.

-Promoting healthy, balanced and positive images of girls and women in the media.

-Building up young girls' confidence and self-esteem and rejecting messages that sexualize and objectify them.

The Problem


According to the Girl Scout Research Institute, girls feel pressure from the mainstream media to have an ideal body type, and only 34 percent of girls report being very satisfied with their bodies.

Research has shown that, sixty percent of teenage girls compare their bodies to fashion models and almost 90 percent of girls say the fashion industry places a lot of pressure on teenage girls to be thin. This same research finds that body dissatisfaction leads to unhealthy eating and dieting habits.

Effects on health

More than half of girls (55 percent) admit they diet to lose weight, 42 percent of girls know someone their age who forced themselves to throw up after eating, 37 percent know someone who has been diagnosed with an eating disorder, and 31 percent admit to starving themselves or refusing to eat as a strategy to lose weight. According to the Girls Inc, Even young girls, 3rd through 5th grade, worry about their appearance (54 percent), and specifically their weight (37 percent).

The American Psychological Association's Report on the Sexualization of Girls (2007) found that three of the most common mental health problems among girls, eating disorders, depression or depressed mood, and low self-esteem, are linked to sexualization of girls and women in media. 

Effects on relationships

Competition over narrow beauty standards and attention from boys also damages girls' friendships. Damaging girls' friendships can have serious health consequences since their relationships are crucial to their social and emotional health.  Sexualized messages and images of girls and women also negatively impact boys. These negative effects include boys' developing unrealistic and unhealthy expectations of girls' and women's physical appearance, and may impair their ability to develop healthy relationships with girls and women.

Sexting epidemic

The American Psychological Association's Report on the Sexualization of Girls (2007) also said frequent exposure to sexualized media images of girls can have negative consequences on their sexual health and avoidance of sexual risk including the dangerous, new phenomena known as sexting, which means sending an explicit message or photo over a cell phone. The group AK Teens found that 30 percent of girls ages 9 to 15 have sent a sext. The Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 19 have texted partially or completely nude pictures of themselves or someone they knew.

Effects on girls and women of color

Girls and women of color are disproportionately absent from mainstream media. The Girl Scout Research Institute survey, Girls and Body Image (2010), found that only 32 percent of African-American girls think the fashion industry does a good job of representing people of all races and ethnicities.

Leadership roles in the media

Women and girls continue to be underrepresented in leadership roles in the media.  According to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media, less than one in three speaking characters in children's movies are female. One study found that only 10 percent of Sports Illustrated photographs were of women during a 3-year period, according to the American Psychological Association's Report on the Sexualization of Girls (2007). Fifty-seven percent of music videos feature a woman portrayed exclusively as a decorative, sexual object.

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media also found that the majority of female characters in children's movies are praised for their appearance or physical beauty rather than their personality, intelligence, or other talents, and are often short-sighted and narrowly fixated on romantic relationships that lack substantial connections or courtships. Girls and boys watching children's programming may vicariously learn that beauty is an essential part of being female and critical for gaining attention and acceptance.

As a result, girls' aspirations are limited as they begin to associate power, acceptance, and success with physical appearance rather than academic or extracurricular achievements.

Effects on violence against women

Violence against women continues to be prevalent throughout media. The Parents Television Council reports that between 2004 and 2009, violence against women and teenage girls has increased on television programming at a rate of 120 percent compared to the 2 percent increase of overall violence in television content.

The Parents Television Council warns that by depicting violence against women with increasing frequency on television, or as a trivial, even humorous matter, theses images may be contributing to an atmosphere in which young people view aggression and violence against women as normative, even acceptable.

The Solution

By passing the Healthy Media For Youth Act it will supports efforts to ensure youth improve their media literacy skills and consume positive messages about girls and women in the media that promotes healthy and diverse body images, develops positive and active female role models, and portrays equal and healthy relationships between female and male characters.

What wil the Healthy Media For Youth Act do?

The Healthy Media for Youth Act (H.R.2513/S.1354), supports aimed at helping young girls reject the negative media images targeting them while encouraging the media to offer healthier and more positive messages for all young people.

It takes a three-pronged approach to promote healthy media messages about girls and women. First, the bill creates a competitive grant program to encourage and support media literacy programs and youth empowerment groups. The bill also facilitates research on how depictions of women and girls in the media affect youth. Finally, it establishes a National Taskforce on Women and Girls in the Media, which will develop voluntary standards that promote healthy, balanced, and positive images of girls and women in the media for the benefit of all youth. 

Under the Healthy Media for Youth Act it would direct;

-the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants to nonprofit organizations to provide for the establishment, operation, coordination, and evaluation of programs to: (1) increase the media literacy of girls and boys; (2) support the empowerment of girls or boys in a variety of ways. Permits giving priority to grant applicants providing non-federal matching funds.

-the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), acting through the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and in coordination with the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, to review, synthesize, and conduct or support research on the role and impact of depictions of girls and women in the media on the psychological, sexual, physical, and interpersonal development of youth.

-the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to convene a task force, to be known as the National Task Force on Girls and Women in the Media, to develop voluntary steps and goals for promoting healthy and positive depictions of girls and women in the media for the benefit of all youth.

What can you do to get the Healthy Media For Youth Act passed?

Please write to and/or call your U.S. Representatives and Senators and President Obama tell them to pass the Healthy Media For Youth Act (H.R.2513/S.1354).  Also ask your U.S. Representatives and Senators to co-sponsor the Healthy Media For Youth Act.

Also please sign the petition below.



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