Course Description

It has been argued that there was a lot of sexism involved in the media coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Women's athletic accomplishments were sometimes attributed to their husbands; some commentators praised women athletes by comparing them to men, and NBC's chief marketing officer patronized female viewers by suggesting they don't actually care about sports.

Yet sexist coverage is not unique to sport; similar arguments were made in Hilary Clinton's Presidential run; these comments were not only made by her opponents but also by the media outlets who were reporting on her campaign.

This course focuses on representations of beauty in the media (i.e., broadly defined as idealized representations of the body for both men and women) and how such images contribute to gender inequality in many realms of society such as the home environment, politics, and sport to name a few.

The texts we will read in this class are varied (e.g., research studies, blog posts, newspaper articles, music lyrics). We will focus the reading on trying to answer several broad questions:

  1. What is beautiful? Where does our idea about what is beautiful come from? Is it biological? Is it societal?
  2. What kind of images are we mostly likely to encounter in the media? Why do these images persist? Is the industry presenting such images because it is "consumers want" or do these images exist for other purpose(s)?
  3. What are the ramifications for those individuals who do not conform to conventional beauty standards?
  4. How do media texts uphold or subvert the kind of imagery we see?
  5. What kind of images hold the most power? Can imagery be used to weaken power or authority among marginalized communities?
  6. How can we change the images that we see? Should we? Do we have the power to do so?

In attempting to answer these questions, you will not only learn, but actively contribute to this body of knowledge. The course will culminate with a scholarly presentation on a research proposal of the student's own selection. Students interested in psychology, media effects, gender studies, sociology and pre-law are encouraged to enroll in this course.

GenEd Information: Currently approved for the IU Bloomington GenEd SH requirement. See the GenEd Website for more information.

Catalog Information: COLL-S 104 FRESHMAN SEMINAR IN S & H

IFS course instructor photo

Course Instructor: Nicole Martins

Dr. Nicole Martins is an Associate Professor in the Media School with an affiliate appointment in Gender Studies. Dr. Martins' expertise concerns the social and psychological effects of the mass media youth, and she has a longstanding interest on the effects of the media on adolescent's self-esteem and body-image concerns. Recently, Dr. Martins was a featured speaker on a panel concerning the representation of girls in the media sponsored by The White House Council on Women and Girls. Dr. Martins is also the co-faculty advisor for Indiana University's Dance Marathon, the largest student organization on campus, which raised over 4 million dollars for Riley Hospital for Children last year. When Nicole is out of the office, she enjoys running on the streets of Bloomington and after her two young boys.

Beauty and Power

Beauty and Power: Courses: Intensive Freshman Seminars: Indiana University Bloomington