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Media Mindful: putting a stop to sexism in the media.

This week, Girlguiding Scotland have launched their Media Mindful Challenge Pack and Gender Equal Media Scotland is delighted to host this blog from 15 year old Catriona Manders explaining why it's so important to challenge media sexism and stereotyping.

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From Tik Tok to TV adverts – the media, especially social media, is a huge and unavoidable part of life in the 21st century. It can be a healthy space to enjoy different forms of entertainment as well as an educational tool, but due to certain types of content it can also be overwhelming and, at times, dangerous.

Although the ways we consume news and entertainment have changed, the fundamental problems young girls face at the hands of the media remain the same - harmful beauty standards, stereotypes and representation. Girlguiding Scotland’s research found 68% of girls aged 11-21 feel newspapers, magazines and influencers need to do more to stop reinforcing gender stereotypes. With this in mind, Girlguiding Scotland’s Speak Out champions launched our new campaign, Media Mindful, on 5 October. This new campaign aims to give girls and young women the skills they need to identify and challenge harmful gender stereotypes and sexism in the media.

As girls grow up, they’re exposed to more and more sources of information, both online and in print, which shape the way they see the world, their gender and themselves. Our world revolves around media and without the skills to think critically about what you consume it can bring about serious mental health issues. It’s a known truth that social media can negatively affect girls’ body image. The forthcoming Girls in Scotland 2020 research found that 51% of girls aged 11-21 have seen adverts that made them feel pressured to look different and in 2018, 55% of girls aged 13-25 knew someone their age with an eating disorder. This can’t continue to be accepted as normal, something has to change!

As well as teaching girls and young women how to recognize harmful content, the Media Mindful campaign also calls for girls to fight for the change they want to see. That change could bring about a world of more diverse media, where platforms don’t reinforce gender stereotypes but instead address negative content so girls grow up knowing that whoever they are, whatever they look like, they can do anything. We think this could become reality if we can reach the next generation of girls and encourage them to reject harmful media as normal and fight for the respect and representation they deserve.

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We’ve worked with Gender Equal Media Scotland and Strathclyde University to create the Media Mindful challenge pack. This pack in full of activities designed to get more girls talking about gender representation issues, and in turn, influence their peers and the wider community. The activities are suited to different ages from age 5 and up and include everything from games to writing letters. To make the pack as accessible as possible all the activities are fully adaptable for an online setting and anyone can take part. We want this to go far and hope it will also reach parents, media outlets and decision makers so they are alerted to what’s going on.

You can get involved too! Why not try to fix a sexist news headline for our #ChangeTheHeadline challenge on social media during our week of action from 23 – 29 November? You could also take a photo of yourself with our Media Mindful sign (available on the Media Mindful hub on the Girlguiding Scotland website) or write to your local MSP, MP or media outlet telling them about the campaign. Whatever you do, I challenge you to think about gender in the media - where you see women and where you don’t, and how you see them, because as soon as you recognise the problem you can help with the solution.

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