The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 29, 2003

Durham To Discuss Media Influence On Girls Oct. 4

When adolescent girls start trying to look and act like the models in fashion magazines or the idols on stage, parents may find themselves in a quandary over how to support this drive for independence while continuing to guide their daughters' choices and values. The barrage of images of female sexuality on television and in print can make this seem an impossible task.

Meenakshi Gigi Durham, associate professor of journalism in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will talk about how to balance the mixed messages in popular media targeted to girls in her presentation, "Media, Culture, and the Sexy Girl," on Saturday, Oct. 4 at 10 a.m. in Room 40, Schaeffer Hall. This lecture and discussion session is part of the college's annual Saturday Scholars series.

Magazines such as Seventeen and YM enjoy great popularity among girls, and they, along with other media, offer cultural "scripts" intended to guide girls' behaviors and viewpoints. These scripts are fairly narrow and are driven by the magazines' need to secure advertising revenues. In this market as much as any other, sex sells.

"Even articles about fitness aren't about how to make yourself strong, but about how to 'look hot,'" Durham said.

Durham will discuss the implications of this content in girls' lives, as well as the possibilities for negotiating and resisting these discourses. She will offer practical, positive ideas for parents, teachers, and anyone else who cares about girls' development on how to help girls come through adolescence as strong individuals.

Durham's research focuses on media representations of women's bodies and their relationship to sexuality and other practices, including violence against women and girls. She is also interested in media and the politics of identity and has published extensively on these topics. Her latest article, titled "The Girling of America: Reflections on Gender and Popular Culture" appeared in the January 2003 issue of Popular Communication. Her co-edited book, "Media and Cultural Studies: KeyWorks" (with Douglas M. Kellner) was published by Blackwell in 2001. She is currently at work on a book examining representations of adolescent female sexuality in a globalized media environment.

Durham joined the UI faculty in 2000, after teaching for six years at the University of Texas at Austin. She earned her Ph.D. in Mass Communication at the University of Florida. She is the 2003 recipient of the University of Iowa Society for Professional Journalists Award for Outstanding Faculty Member.

In a preview of her Oct. 4 presentation, Durham will be a guest on "Talk of Iowa," WSUI, AM-910, Thursday, Oct. 2, at 10 a.m.

Saturday Scholars was developed by Linda Maxson, dean of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to give members of the public a chance to hear about the latest teaching and research innovations by faculty members in the college. The sessions last about an hour, including a 20-30 minute presentation followed by time for questions. Refreshments are served. All presentations begin at 10 a.m. in Room 40, Schaeffer Hall, the southeast building on the UI Pentacrest.

Upcoming lectures in the Saturday Scholars series include:

Oct. 18 "Tandem Stories: Traveling Iceland By-cycle," Steve Thunder-McGuire, associate professor of art and art history; associate professor of curriculum and instruction, College of Education

Nov. 1 "Herbal Products: They're Organic But Are They Safe?" David Wiemer, professor and chair of chemistry

Nov. 15 "Maps and their Makers: Decidedly Deliberate Deceptions and Distortions," Marc Armstrong, professor and chair of geography

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in advance at 335-2610.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,