College Women’s Reflections on Media Representations of Empowerment

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Abstract

Representations of girls and women in the media have been critiqued for their limited scope, their sexualization and commodification of girlhood, and their impact on the viewer. Some scholars have advocated for media literacy programs as a way to protect girls and young women from the negative effects, yet little research has explored how participants process media literacy information and how they conceptualize media messages about empowerment. The present qualitative study (n = 18) examines written reflections composed by college women engaged in a media literacy course exploring representations of empowerment. Five domains emerged from the data analysis including (a) general understanding of the media, (b) media portrayals, (c) impact of the media, (d) responses and critiques, and (e) possibilities for change. Our findings suggest that college women at times are concerned about media representations of girls/women, and at other times minimize the role of media in their own lives. Implications of the findings on research and clinical work with girls and women are discussed.

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