Ventura County's Support-Local Program

Beauty And The Media Beast

Growing up, I was not one of the attractive girls. Like so many, I endured teasing, taunting and bullying from, sadly, other girls. So what can we do now?


Miss Representation

I recently read a post that really hit home for me. The post was on the Facebook page of Jim Rice from Bell Arts. He was promoting the upcoming local showing of the film Miss Representation. The film is a 2011 American documentary film written, directed, and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom and will be shown at Working Artists Ventura (WAV) on Jan 18th.

The film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and the average woman to feel empowered. In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader.

It’s personal

This topic is one of great importance to me and hits home on many levels, which I think may be true with many women out there. Growing up, I was not one of the attractive girls – an accident left my teeth mangled, my jaw wired for a while and many years of braces, doctors and dental appointments. This happened at an age when most girls were beginning to be interested in boys, spending a great deal time and effort on the care of their looks – “blossoming” as my mother would call it with her cute southern drawl. These were some tough years for me. I went through some pretty cruel teasing, taunting and bullying about my looks. Sadly, most of this came at the hand of other females – “the mean-girl pack” as my brother called them. Flipping though magazines or watching TV never made me feel any better because the media’s portrayal of women seemed so tilted. PRETTY… hmm… what did that really mean?

I wasn’t the only one

miss-representation-sad-girlObviously, I was just one of many girls going through self-esteem issues. According to the National Association for Anorexia and Associated Disorders, a female’s early experiences with media do contribute to low self-esteem:

  • 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape
  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner
  • 81% of 10 year-old girls are afraid of being fat

But wait, there’s more: The Dove Self-Esteem Fund reported that 71% of girls with low self-esteem feel that their appearance doesn’t measure up; including “not feeling pretty enough, thin enough, stylish enough or trendy enough,” when compared to the images they are exposed to in popular media. Add in the fact that 80% of adult women polled said images of women on TV and in movies, magazines, and ads make them feel insecure about appearance, and we clearly see a pattern.

From the board to the boardroom

miss-representation-surf-chickFortunately, I found comfort in the acceptance of my male friends and my brothers. I could run fast, hit well, swim like a fish and was good at most sports. I guess it was only natural I chose the path of surfing and the apparel industry as I seemed right at home in this male-dominated world. I was young and talented. And, finally, I “blossomed!” I had a successful career in the surf industry. I loved my work. However, I cannot tell you how many times I was subjected to demeaning remarks throughout my career:  “Who did she sleep with to get that job?” “Who does she know?”  “I can’t believe they gave a woman that job.” And one of my all-time favorites, “Not bad… for a girl!” I had known it was going to be a tough road from the minute I stepped into the surf, and eventually, into the boardroom. Fast forward to 1999. My business partner, Patty, and I started a surfing apparel company named Surf Chick. We both had the same vision for our brand and for our daughters: we wanted to set an example. With the help of the very talented Mr. David Pu’u, we put our marketing plan into action. There would be no Barbie doll ads, no sexual poses and we would use real team riders, real women and shoot them as strong, happy and powerful.

Working to Empower Women

miss-representation-divingThis strategy worked well for us on several levels. We won several awards for our advertising campaigns. I was asked to speak to countless women’s groups and, even better, our girls embraced this concept and themselves. We worked hard at empowering young women.I have tried to continue this goal in my work today: to help women see that their own beauty is in their strength. We all struggle with self-doubts – there are still the mean packs out there. And the media, quite frankly, seems out of control.

My message to you

So. I ask all of you men and women out there, what would be your message be to young girls today facing current expectations projected by the media and their peers? My simple message is this:

  • Find your own voice.
  • Don’t compromise your personal integrity in any way.
  • Understand that it is going to be different for each of us. And that’s OK!
  • Look to what resonates most in your soul. We all have “something” and understand our beauty is in that!

Join us at the Miss Representation film showing

Date: Saturday, January 18, 2014 Place: Working Artists Ventura (WAV), 175 S Ventura Ave, Ventura, CA 93001 Tickets: Doors open: 5:30 pm Show starts: 7:00 pm More information:

  Image credits: David Pu’u with snaps and Ultra Sonic Photography via Compfight cc.

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Learn more about author Kat Merrick

Kat Merrick

About the author

Kat Merrick made her mark in the apparel world as an innovative leader and founder of Surf Chick Inc. With over 25 years of extensive experience managing worldwide capacity apparel facilities, companies and product, her superior leadership skills, practiced in directing cross-functional global teams to design, brand, source develop and marketing, won her world-wide recognition and awards. She is considered an expert in the areas of trend studies, brand building and marketing. At 23 years old she opened her first successful retail business in Ventura County, Since then, Kat has owned and operated several very successful retail and wholesale operations and assisted numerous multi-category small businesses to achieve success. Highly respected by many local small business owners, growers, artists and locals, she has been tagged as "the Shop Local girl". Kat's extensive travels, strong business knowledge and desire to make a positive impact locally helped inspire her to create Totally Local VC. A Ventura County resident since 1978, single mother of two and long-standing advocate for support of local small business and all that is Ventura, founder and developer of Totally Local VC, Kat brings her passion for our community to all she does. Her writings, posts and blog reflect her love of family, friends and community and desire to help.


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