Technology and the Sexualization of Young Women
Table of Contents
Objective: This lesson plan is intended to help students better understand how social media sexualizes young girls and women in ways that have long-standing and detrimental impacts on society. While it is intended for students in grades nine through twelve, we imagine that a broad range of readers may find it useful. This lesson plan includes a powerpoint full of visual examples along with an explanation on each slide. It may be beneficial to use a powerpoint format as an introduction, as there are handouts and activities to follow. There are also four homework assignments provided, two short readings, two videos, instructions for a debate, and a worksheet.
Why: Students are using technology every day and it is our responsibility as educators to teach them how to safely use the technology they are exposed to and to be informed consumers of information. This lesson plan teaches students about how technology sexualizes young women while using real-life examples to help them recognize this in their own lives. After this lesson and conversations, students can then share this knowledge with those who have not been exposed to this lesson and hopefully make social media a bit of a safer space.
Who We Are: Our names are Tai White, Aleeza Cohen, Hannah Dwyer, and Gabriela Evola. We are four students at SUNY Cortland who presented this lesson to our peers in a course called Digital Divides. In this course, we critically review how digital technologies can generate societal challenges that revolve around inequalities of race, class, and gender. After a two week process of researching this topic and preparing this project, we brought our knowledge and content to a classroom and successfully led this exact lesson plan.
2. Framing Activity
Why?: The homework assignment is set up as a framing activity for the students to complete the night before the given lesson. This assignment contains material for the students to read over and receive a better understanding of the topic, as well as some background knowledge before coming to the next class. Each student’s response is entered through the class’s private blog but can be seen by their peers as they each incorporate their reflections into the discussion board.
Homework Assignment: Read these articles and write a one-page reflection about your feelings towards theses readings and topics. Paste digital example to a blog post before class that displays the issues we discussed. This digital example can come from any social media source or any website about the topic.
Source: SUNY Cortland students Jackie Chanchee and Kianna Acevedo
3. Powerpoint Slides → Access to Powerpoint
This slide defines sexualization, and it can be used to introduce the lesson. Using this slide as a lead, you can ask the class:
“Do you see examples of this in your daily life?”
Responses may include twitter, Instagram, music, TV, friends, and family.
Do a think pair share with this question, then have those who are comfortable share out.
This slide is useful to follow up for students in the class who may or may not be familiar with the topic. For those who are familiar with the topic, you can ask the class:
“Did you play with these as a child?”
“Did you wish to look like them?
“Did anyone around you ever made comments about their bodies?”
These unrealistic expectations stem from unrealistic proportions, large breasts, narrow waists, etc.
This is a great time to allow students to draw out and build upon each other's knowledge.
The slide’s visuals can encourage students to speak out about their encounters with digital sexualization and how they feel towards this issue. You may use this slide to generate a class discussion where students can share and connect through their different experiences.
You can ask them questions such as:
“Do you recognize any of these examples?”
“Are there any more examples that you have personally witnessed online, or heard stories about?”
“What are your feelings toward this digital trend and what are some things we can do to fix the increasing conflict with women being falsely advertised?”
This slide shows the consequences that social media has on younger girls and women. Talk about:
How social media increases women's anxieties about their appearances, which can lead to eating disorders and other mental health problems such as depression.
Go through the flow chart and discuss how women can be objectified by men and society which continues the cycle of over-sexualization.
Discuss how these issues of anxieties lead to more potential problems of women being on high alert of their safety.
Then show the youtube video: The video is about a young woman who is constantly changing her body as a result of the effects of media and even though she has all of these procedures done she is still unhappy and continues to change her looks.
This slide reviews key points from the assigned readings. You may want to go around the room and have the students read each bullet point.
For the section labeled “pages 7 through 13,” make sure students understand that magazines and movies contribute to the sexualization of young girls.
For the section of bullets below the first section, make sure students understand that women of color tend to be more sexualized, and are often sexualized differently than white women in the media.
A question for the class: Can anyone share a specific example from movies or media sources where you have seen women being oversexualized? How do your examples relate to the readings and examples we have discussed?
This slide reviews the videos that were assigned the night before. You may want to go around the room and have the students read each bullet point. In addition to reviewing the main points from these videos, which are listed above, you might open the floor to ask what else students learned from the videos.
Youtube still can’t stop child predators: The main idea to take out of these bullet points include the algorithms that are harming people. It may be helpful to introduce or review “algorithm” as a key term. Algorithms are the process or set of rules to be followed in calculations, especially in a formula or set of instructions.
The bottom section: The main idea to discuss here is that women are dressed a certain way in the media on purpose, mainly dressed in the way men would want to see them.
Questions to ask: Think about your favorite movie, is there a female character that is dressed similar to our discussion? If so, think about the main male character, how is he dressed? Do they drastically contrast each other personality-wise, clothing-wise, do they fit under the topic of our discussion?
This slide includes examples submitted by our classmates at SUNY Cortland. We incorporated these examples and analyzed them through the assigned readings. If you are implementing a version of this lesson, consider adding examples supplied by students and going over these in class.
The first picture to the left is about toddlers and tiaras and how these tv shows and pageants often sexualize young girls with their outfits, fake teeth, and makeup.
The second picture is sexually depicting the woman as being "wild" due to her skin color.
In the third picture, there is a shift in which the “ideal body types.” Throughout time ideal body types are changed depending on different tv shows, movies, and other forms of media.
The fourth picture on the far left shows how women can create a separation between each other and the differences in how they dress.
The middle picture bottom row shows how even in younger kids' movies many of the female characters are dressed in sexual outfits.
The last picture on the right on the bottom row is sexualizing women in a food advertisement.
All these pictures symbolize how younger girls and women are continuously objectified throughout the media, advertisements, tv shows, and even in person as well.
4. Class Debate:
You may want to use a classroom debate to encourage discussion. Studies have shown that classroom debates are an effective way to teach. Debates open up doors allowing students to critically think, cooperate, and they also create an enthusiastic learning space. Michael D. Evans, the author of "Using Classroom Debates as a Learning Tool" tells the importance of having debates at the ends of a class lesson. Evans believes that “holding debates at the end of a study unit provides an alternative form of evaluation, in lieu of a test, to help assess how well students have learned the material.”
SAMPLE DEBATE TOPIC: How should we understand the hypersexualization of young women in society?
Side One: The hypersexualization of younger girls/women in technology is an educational issue.
Side Two: The hypersexualization of younger girls/women in technology is a generational issue.
First, introduce a debate topic that has at least two contrasting sides.
Second, separate your students into two sides. Alternatively, you can allow them to choose their sides.
Third, give each side a position that they will be defending in the debate. Allow the students to have 8 minutes or so to discuss amongst themselves to think of ideas.
Give the students about 15-20 minutes to debate each side.
At the end of the debate create a 5-10 minute slot allowing for students to comment on the other side's debate or to pitch in a comment relating to the lesson overall.
Each Side: The classroom will be split into two sides so that there can be clear arguments going against each other. One side will be looking at the debate topic from an educational viewpoint, tell the students on this side they have to argue that there is not enough education on how often women are sexualized on different media platforms and that people aren’t aware of the effects or how this is an issue. The other side will discuss the generational side of the argument, and tell them they have to argue how the hypersexualization of younger girls/women is a generational issue that is a product of society that is recycled onto digital platforms.
5. Handout: Social Identity Wheel
The Social Identity Wheel handout is to be passed out at the end of class to allow the students to reflect on their different identities.
Social Identity Wheel (adapted from "Voices of Discovery" )
Why?: Students and society must be aware of social identity and how it affects us. Students should be aware of how their identities are different from the people around them. People's identities affect how they are treated or perceived. The social identity wheel also draws attention to certain privileges people have over others which can benefit them or normalize their own identities in comparison to others.
Image description: The chart features a circle that is separated into 11 sections. Each section is labeled: (starting at the top and moving clockwise around the circle) ethnicity; socioeconomic status; gender; sex; sexual orientation; national origin; first language; physical, emotional, developmental (dis)ability; age; religious or spiritual affiliation; race. In the center of the circle, there are five numbered prompts: (1) Identities you think about most often; (2) Identities you think about least often; (3) Your own identities you would like to know more about; (4) Identities that have the strongest effect on how you perceive yourself; (5) Identities that have the greatest effect on how others perceive you.
Instructions: Students will be instructed to match each section from numbers 1 through 5, based on their personal opinions. They will take about 5-8 minutes doing so and when the whole class is done with the handout, they will be asked to turn to the person next to them and share what they have put down. Afterward, the class will have the opportunity to share their answers with the class and express their thoughts about the similarities or differences they have noticed within each of their handouts. Once the students are finished, remind them that through these intersections of race, class, gender, and more people are treated differently by others in person but also digital spaces.
Ask and allow the students to share any comments or to ask any questions before the lesson is over.