By: TARA SPRICKERHOFF
On Friday March 8, Carleton University celebrated International Women’s Day with a series of events focused around the theme of women in the media.
The goal was to examine how mainstream media contributes to gender stereotypes and the underrepresentation of women in positions of power.
“I think it’s really important to talk about the power media has in our lives, and to question how media representations shape our beliefs,” said event organizer Christine Ackerley.
The keynote presentation was a talk and a panel hosted by Aliya-Jasmine Sovani, MTV News anchor and “1 Girl 5 Gays” talk show host.
There were no seats left in the room while Sovani talked about her own struggles with the perceptions of women in the media.
Because of a car accident that almost resulted in the amputation of her arm, Sovani has multiple scars all over her body. Sovani started to turn to plastic surgery as a result of the pressure to be perfect that she felt the media forced on her.
However, through her work teaching English to Afghan women and children, Sovani saw through these perceptions.
A young girl, who had recently learned the word ‘perfect’ used it as she pointed at Sovani — her face, her hair, and then her scars.
“She related to me.. because I had also gone through a struggle,” Sovani said. It was at that moment Sovani began to love her scars.
Even now, she said, she still has to argue with others in the media business who want to edit them out because of their expectations of perfection.
Sovani also said she fights constantly against the idea of beauty vs brains in the media.
This, she explained, is the notion that you can’t both look good and be taken seriously.
“I never saw those things as mutually exclusive,” she said. “Why can’t you be hot and do the news?”
Emilie Lapointe, a second year Carleton student who attended the Women’s Day event, said she also feels the pressure media places on her — especially as a journalism student.
“I tend to be more critical and aware of the calculated ways that women are essentially reconstructed, but I do catch myself getting sucked into these kinds of ways of thinking,” she said.
“It’s very difficult to self-regulate when you are constantly bombarded by images that tell you how to dress or how to act, or simply what it means to be a woman.”
Carleton’s Women’s Day also featured workshops on sexual health, and self-defense as well as presentations about women in the fields of science and business.
Everything was well attended, said Ackerley,
“I hope people left with new ideas and opinions they hadn’t had before about feminism and women.”