Media Messages
Social Tyranny
Beauty as Power
"Body Projects"
Exhibitionism
Sports
 
Unhealthy Bodies and Minds
Girls of Color

Discussion Questions — General

What do the images reveal?

What people, surroundings, and other details has the artist chosen and framed to explore her theme? What does the work communicate? What details within the photographs support your ideas? What do the images tell us about the culture in which these girls and women live?

How do the narratives contribute to and support the exhibition theme?

Who is the narrator and what is the context in which she is expressing her ideas and emotions? What does her statement reveal about the culture in which the narrator lives?

Defining and Exploring Girl Culture

What is most important to girls, today, in terms of their self-identity? What influences how girls act, look, and think about themselves and others? What roles do movies, television, music, magazines, peers, beauty and clothing industries, and parents play in influencing the construction of a girl’s identity and well-being?

The Ideal Female

What is the contemporary feminine ideal? What influences are informing your responses? How would your parents answer this same question?

The Importance of Appearance

Statistics tell us most adolescent American girls are unhappy with the way they look. Does this echo your own and your friends’ attitudes?

Body Advertisements and Representations

How are contemporary female bodies typically represented in advertisements, television, movies, and print media? How do these representations influence the way girls feel about their bodies and they way they dress? What do the manufacturers of body products and projects such as makeup, clothing, diet aids, and plastic surgery stand to gain from making girls unhappy about their bodies?

Media Influences

What television programs, movies, music videos, and advertisements do these photographs remind you of? Explain.

Role Models for Sexuality

Name several female media idols who are role models for girls today. How does the sexualization of contemporary media idols influence the way girls look and act?

Peer Influences

How powerful is peer pressure in influencing and perpetuating the body and clothing standards girls feel they should attain? How does peer pressure support girls who maintain these standards and reject those who do not?

Parental Influence

How powerful is parental involvement in influencing the body ideas and standards of girls? Does parental involvement sometimes perpetuate cultural standards of image? Is parental involvement powerful enough to help girls overcome the stigma that can accompany not fitting into peers’ image standards?

Growing Up Fast

Greenfield has stated “The whole idea of growing up quickly and the early loss of innocence is one thread that made an impression on me and influenced my work.” Why are kids growing up quickly?

 

Media Messages — Discussion Questions

Image and Text

What do the images and narratives reveal about how media messages concerning appearance are received by girls? What details supports your opinions?

Environmental Impact

What television programs, movies, music videos, and advertisements do the photographs remind you of? Explain.

Feeding Consumerism

How effective is the media in setting appearance standards, and how do these standards support consumerism?

Mimicking Media Idols

Do overtly sexy female media idols influence promiscuity? Do extremely thin media models influence eating disorders? What other issues of female identity are influenced by the media?

The Importance of Appearance

Statistics tell us most adolescent American girls are unhappy with the way they look. Does this echo your own and your friends’ attitudes?

Social Tyranny — Discussion Questions

Image and Text

What do the images and narratives reveal about girls and social tyranny? What details support your opinions?

Peer Acceptance

How important is appearance to peer acceptance? How do peers influence the way girls act, look, and think about themselves and others? What roles do peers play in influencing the construction of a girl's identity and well-being?

Mean Girls

Greenfield states she is “interested in the tyranny of the popular and thin girls over the ones who don’t fit that mold.” What methods of social cruelty do girls use to exclude and reject outsiders? How effective are these tactics?

 

Beauty as Power — Discussion Questions

Image and Text

What do the images and narratives reveal about girls' awareness of the power of beauty? What details support your opinions?

Is Image Everything?

What power does a girl's beauty hold over boys? Over other girls? Over society in general?

The Impact of Attention

Greenfield remembers, at twelve, hearing her first compliment from a man—a male counselor at camp who told her she had beautiful eyes. She states, “It reinforced the lesson that attention, on which there is such a premium for girls, is bestowed because of beauty." Have similar situations happened to you or your friends? Do you give attention to girls because of their beauty?

Unwanted Attention

Do all beautiful girls seek attention? What are the pitfalls of beauty?

Fleeting Power

Sara is concerned about what will happen to her modeling and acting career in “five years' time” when she will be twenty-four and “not going to have that youthful, pretty thing going.” She states, “The way I relate to people is based on how I look—I'm used to getting a lot of attention from guys. I sometimes wonder what's gonna happen when I can't count on that to be successful in my personal relationships or in my career.” What are the ramifications of relying on beauty for power?

 

“Body Projects” — Discussion Questions

Image and Text

What do the images and narratives reveal about girls' “body projects?” What details support your opinions?

The Ideal Female

What is the contemporary feminine ideal? What influences are informing your responses? How would your parents answer this same question?

Maintenance

Lillian, 19 years old states, “I look at my brother. He's sixteen, and he does not have half the shit floating around in his mind that I did when I was his age. Guys get up, roll out of bed. The farthest my brother ever has to go to get ready is maybe put in some hair gel and wash his face. That's it. Being a guy, there's so much less expectation for your looks and for what you wear.” Discuss Lillian's assertion that there are greater appearance expectations for girls than there are for boys.

Selling Products

What advantage exists for suppliers of “body products” such as makeup, clothing, diet aids, and plastic surgery procedures when girls are unhappy about their bodies?

 

Exhibitionism — Discussion Questions

Image and Text

What do the images and narratives reveal about female exhibitionism? What details support your opinions?

Exploring Sexuality

Is a sexy appearance important to girls? What roles do movies, television, music, magazines, peers, beauty and clothing industries play in influencing the construction of a girl's sexuality?

Role Models for Sexuality

Name several female media idols who are role models for girls today. How does the sexualization of contemporary media idols influence the way girls look and act?

Looking Back

In regards to revealing the body, how have girls' fashions changed in the last five years?

Growing Up Fast

Greenfield has stated “The whole idea of growing up quickly and the early loss of innocence is one thread that made an impression on me and influenced my work.” Why are kids growing up quickly?

 

Sports — Discussion Questions

Image and Text

What do the images and narratives reveal about girls and sports? What details support your opinions?

Money Matters

How has Title IX funding—which mandates equal support for male and female sports programs in schools—affected girls?

Sports Empowers

The narratives list empowerment, discipline, sportsmanship, hard work, and turning weaknesses into strengths as positives gained from taking part in organized sports. How do these attributes figure into the cultural messages and pressures girls face regarding body image?

Sports and Femininity

Jessica states, “It may be a turnoff to guys that we’re strong, but that’s the price we pay. It’s going to feel a lot better when you’re winning a gold medal than it does feeling bad when one guy doesn’t like you because you have big muscles. So it’s a tradeoff.” Are athletically built girls a turnoff to guys? What are your opinions about the “tradeoff” Jessica describes?

Stereotyping

“There’s a stereotype that if you’re athletic, you might be a lesbian. Maybe people think we’re more manly because we have big muscles or we’re lifting more than men, but it’s not true.” Discuss the prejudices facing athletically built females in contemporary society.

Double Standard

Leilani discusses having to quit the track team because her coach found out she was paying her tuition by performing as an exotic dancer. Male athletes from her school, who were customers at the club where she performed, suffered no repercussions. Discuss Leilani's situation and her assertion of a double standard involving consequences for male and female athletes.

 

Unhealthy Bodies and Minds — Discussion Questions

Image and Text

What do the images and narratives reveal about girls' unhealthy bodies and minds? What details support your opinions?

The Importance of Appearance

Statistics tell us most adolescent American girls are unhappy with the way they look. Does this echo your own and your friends' attitudes? How does this phenomenon affect girls bodies and minds?

Measuring Up

At what age can a girl adequately cope with body identity pressures?

A Parent Weighs-In

Ashlee, 18 years old states, “When I was younger, I used to be really thin, like a hundred pounds. My mom was looking at People magazine and was like, 'Maybe if you stay the same weight when you grow up, you will be famous, too. You really should work on it.'” Discuss Ashlee's mother's comment and the impact it could have on her daughter's well-being.

Mimicking Media Idols

How do overtly sexy female media idols influence teenage fashion and behavior?

 

Girls of Color—Discussion Questions

Image and Text

What do the images and narratives reveal about girls of color and body identity issues? What details support your opinions?

Cultural Non-Conformity

Nkechi's narrative discusses cultural differences between Nigerian and American girls. Discuss her opinion that good looks are more important to American girls. Discuss her opinion that “In African American society, there is a lot of leeway as far as body type.”

The Lure of Hollywood

How has growing up in Los Angeles affected Nkechi's plans for a professional career? Her parents, who were born in Nigeria, were upset with her decision to stay in Los Angeles for college rather than attend Stanford. Discuss this issue from her perspective and from her parents' perspectives.

Bridging the Gap

Ruby's narrative discusses cultural differences between Latina and American girls and how body image is becoming increasingly more important for Latinas. Discuss the causes for this phenomenon and its implications.


Discussion Questions by Cass Fey, Curator of Education at the Center for Creative Photography for use with the exhibition Lauren Greenfield's Girl Culture.

from Lauren Greenfield's Girl Culture: Faculty Guide
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona