So much for the obesity epidemic

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Despite the obesity epidemic, North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin, and Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis are pushing legislation to encourage the media to produce healthier images of women.

They say women and girls feel overly pressured to be thin.

The trio convened with teenage Girl Scouts Wednesday to promote their bill, the Healthy Media for Youth Act, which would facilitate research on how the media affects women, create a grant program for youth empowerment groups, and establish a National Taskforce on Women and Girls in the Media to set standards ”that promote healthy, balanced, and positive images of girls and women.”

“Children are consuming more media than ever, but unfortunately, the images they see often reinforce gender stereotypes, emphasize unrealistic body images or show women in passive roles. The need for more positive images of girls in the media is clear,” said Baldwin. “I’m proud to sponsor legislation that will help girls and young women see themselves in a new and stronger light.”

A press release about the event cited a survey from the Girl Scout Research Institute, which found that 89 percent of girls say the fashion industry pressures them to be skinny. The release also pointed to a 2007 report from the the American Psychological Association, which showed that eating disorders, depression and low self-esteem “are linked to the sexualization of girls and women in media.” (Stimulus-funded war on obesity spreads nationwide)

“I am proud to join with Sen. Hagan and Rep. Baldwin to promote gender equality, and positive portrayals of women and girls in the media,” said Davis, whose Institute of Gender in Media found that male characters outnumber female characters nearly three to one in family films and television. The discrepancy grows to five to one in background or group scenes. Further, only 27 percent of speaking characters are women.

“What children see affects their attitudes toward male and female roles and impacts the value they place on girls and women in society,” said Davis. “The Healthy Media for Youth Act will help ensure we are creating a positive media environment for all our children.”

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