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Critiquing Media with the Youth Advisory Council

Beyond scrolling through viral videos, memes and Snapchat stories, it’s important for everyone to engage critically with the media they’re exposed to.

The YWCA Youth Advisory Council (YAC) focuses on deconstructing and examining media on several fronts. This year’s YWCA Youth Conference takes place on November 25th and will tackle a range of issues relating to media literacy, representation, gender, ability, race and reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

The youth-led conference features four workshops, an interactive World Café and time for youth to network, learn more about the YWCA and engage on key issues impacting them.

Hypersexualization and hypermasculinity in the media
Our self-worth, body image and relationships can be affected by the sexually-charged media, unrealistic TV or movie characters and gendered advertising we see every day.

The hypersexualization of women and hypermasculinization of men are reinforced through narrow portrayals of gender and beauty standards in the media. On a personal level, these media portrayals can lead to mental health issues such as depression and eating disorders. On a societal level, they contribute to the tolerance of violence against women.

The YAC seeks to relieve the pressure on youth to conform to these standards through open discussion and media literacy.

Beyond the Youth Education Programs and the YAC, YWCA’s Culture Shift project helps parents and the community increase their critical media literacy to combat sexualization.


Representation of minority groups
A quick Internet search on minority representation will lead you to endless lists of think pieces about media, cultural appropriation or the racism faced by ethnic actors. Some issues include casting white actors for ethnic characters (like the critically-panned Ghost in the Shell film), portraying narrow views of sexuality, racist stereotyping and an underrepresentation of women of colour at all levels of journalism, film and television production.

While films and TV shows are fictional, the effects they have on minority groups are real. When an individual doesn’t see themselves represented in the media, it’s as if they’re being told that they don’t exist and that their stories don’t matter. Stereotypes and misrepresentations of certain groups set expectations for their behaviour and contribute to ongoing violence towards minorities.

Members of the YAC recently participated in a panel with Women in Film and Television where the discussion touched on having more role models on screen and behind the camera for girls to look up to.


Privilege and ableism
Ableism is a form of privilege that is often ignored. It refers to the advantage non-disabled people over people who live with disabilities. Examples of ableism include buildings that are not accessible, using ableist language such as “crazy” or “lame” and defining disabled people by what they can’t do rather than what they can do. 

The YAC is finding ways to use privilege to advocate for social change and challenge common assumptions about disability and privilege.


Reconciliation & media representation of Indigenous peoples
How Indigenous peoples are represented or excluded from media goes a long way to understanding some of the lasting effects of colonialism in North America. For youth in the YAC, this means speaking with mentors, teachers and community elders about Indigenous history and finding ways to dismantle the stereotypes they’ve witnessed in the media and their surroundings.

Non-Indigenous Canadians of any age can participate in fostering equality for Indigenous people. The YWCA has been developing a framework for reconciliation across the organization. Learn about more ways to support the YWCA and the YAC's work advancing reconciliation.


The YWCA YAC Youth Conference on November 25th is free to attend for high school students across Metro Vancouver. Registration details for the Youth Conference coming soon.

To learn more about the YAC please contact Miley Leong at mleong@ywcavan.org


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