Girl In Media: Lisa Cox, media commentator and author of Does My Bum Look Big in This Ad?
In response to Tuesday's post 'Healthy cover girls, glossy ideals and hypocrisy', one commenter noted: "It just seems so futile to constantly say, 'I wish the media was this way' when it's always going to be a different way."
Though I believe apathy about the media's affect on body image, and its implications for the mental and physical health of women and men is dangerous – like pretending smoking isn't bad for your health, but doing it anyway – it's a sentiment I've grown to agree with (see my January post, 'Raising the bar on body image').
And it's a view also shared by Lisa Cox, author of Does My Bum Look Big In This Ad?, an empowering little book that should be stuffed in the schoolbags and satchels of all girls (along with Rebecca Sparrow's Find Your Tribe and Kaz Cooke's Girl Stuff). Cox's take-home message is about empowering young women to become discerning media consumers. "It may feel like popular culture controls us but we ultimately control media content and how it impacts our body image," she told UP! magazine.
With degrees in business and media, which she parlayed into a successful career in copywriting before personal health complications changed her path, Cox decided that rather than being a part of the problem she would be part of the solution – her work now sees her speaking to school groups about media literacy, body image, role models and narrow definitions of beauty.
Sensing their desperation for information, Cox condensed all her academic and empirical knowledge into Does My Bum Look Big In This Ad? ($12.95 @ museinthemirror.com.au) which is tailored for tweens and teens.
"I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel and produce another academic text," she says. "When I was a 13-year-old kid, I certainly wouldn’t have been busting to sit down with a thousand-page textbook written for adult academics. I’ve never set out to dispute any of the academic and medical literature that’s available on these matters. Plus, I was careful not to ‘dumb-down’ the content for a younger audience."
The cute, CD-sized book, "your ultimate must-have accessory for cruising through popular culture", is pitch-perfect; uncomplicated but authoritative, it's a great refresher for adults as much as an entree into media literacy for teens. Cox helps readers identify the signs of positive and negative body image and shines a light on practises and unrealistic standards in the advertising industry.
The chapter titled 'The Lipstick Revolution: Women in popular culture' is Feminism 101 in two pages. In 'Media smoke and mirrors' Cox writes of airbrushing, "It's a problem when the altered images are passed off as how a 'normal' body should look." But she also writes, "It is often easy to just blame airbrushing, parents, peers, the media, advertisers and marketers for poor body image. But at some point, we must step back and take responsibility for our own actions. We must personally accept a degree of blame."
Helpfully, Cox tells her readers how to be a part of the solution: "If you don't like the messages you're hearing, reading or seeing in popular culture, don't support the brand, the product, and the company with your hard-earned dollar. As a single consumer, you are more powerful than you can possibly imagine... So don't buy the magazine, do change the channel, close the website, and leave the product on the shelf... there's no excuse for fueling the distortion of body image with your spending habits."
The fact that Cox has such a positive body image herself might be attributable to her healthy disconnect from the glossy media: "It’s a wonder I ended up working in media considering how little I had to do with commercial media in my youth," she says. "I’m a self-confessed news junkie and could never understand why anyone would want to read about such trivial things (what Oprah eats for breakfast, for example) when there were so many other things, of serious consequence, happening around the world."
Cox captained her volleyball team to win gold at the nationals, went on to apply her academic knowledge in the media industry (she won an advertising scholarship) and has built a veritable media brand that has a positive impact on young women, despite her physical ailments (she contracted a virus before her 25th birthday that resulted in a number of complications):
"I had several reasons to use my new disabilities as an excuse. I’m 25% blind, I had nine fingertips amputated and for a bunch of other reasons, I’m now in a wheelchair," she says. "I’d always wanted to write a book (before I got sick) and didn’t want to use my disabilities as an excuse not to pursue my passions and goals. No amount of feeling sorry for myself was going to change what happened. The only thing I had control over was my attitude to how I chose to deal with it."
Her book is well worth the investment of your hard-earned dollar. Buy it here now.
Girl With a Satchel