Interacting With the Media

Students will critically respond to advertising and media found in their environment.

As the image above states, advertising images have amazing powers of influence. You saw some of the ways advertising affected young women in Miss Representation. In this assignment, you will be seeking out advertising images YOU see every day, and responding.


The first step in the assignment is finding images and advertising you are exposed to in your everyday life. Perhaps you see images of extremely buff men in underwear (like the first image) or you see pictures that say "real women have curves" (which is debunked in the above comic). Some days, you probably aren't consciously aware of the images. Other days, the images probably make you feel inadequate.

The second comic does a great job of showing what advertising does to us. Years of advertisers showing "the perfect woman" being skinny made women who were not skinny feel bad about themselves. So some people started saying "real women have curves" to try and combat this premise. But, of course, "real women have curves" isn't true either. Men and women come in all different shapes and sizes and they all deserve to feel beautiful and happy in their own skin. We are all "real" regardless of our appearance. However, when we experience advertising without a critical eye, we may begin to believe that we need to be skinny or muscular to be attractive. We may cling on to statements about curves to make ourselves feel better instead of asking what the message is REALLY saying.

In this assignment we figure out what advertisements are really saying to us, and we will critically respond.

finding images

To find images to use for this assignment, look around you. The goal is to find images that YOU are exposed to. For some of you that may be print magazines or newspaper ads, but it is more likely you will be exposed to advertising and images online: Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. Once you have found images that speak to you print them off or cut them out.

Responding to Images

Just like you did for "Analyzing Statistics" use a critical eye to see what the image is really saying. Is it using sex, violence, power, shame? Is it designed for men or women? Is it sexist, racist, homophobic? Where is the ad placed? Ask yourself these questions and more as you view the ad.

Once you have a concrete understanding of the ad, you will be writing some of your observations on top of the ad. If you also want to draw, or interact with the ad in another way, that is also excellent.

Below are some examples of interacting with advertising from the blog Critiquing Advertising. Feel free to explore the blog in depth before starting your assignment to see different ways advertising uses problematic subconscious messages.

Finishing Up

You should finish this assignment with 3-5 images that you have written or drawn on. You can explore a variety of issues (sexism, racism, objectification) or you can concentrate on one issue that resonates with you.

At the end of this unit, you should now have a better idea what types of messages we consume in our day to day lives, and how to critically engage with them. I want to leave you with this final thought when it comes to the media: