Communication Students Lead Girl Scouts on Media Journey

By Julia Gavigan

SCRANTON – On March 4, 91 girl scouts made their way to the McIlhenny Ballroom to learn about the misrepresentation and bias of women in media and advertisements.  

The event was led and staffed by several students from the Communication and Media department, namely Peyton Golowski’23 and Emma Graff’24, who spearheaded the “Girl Scout Media Journey” from start to finish.   

The informative event addressed large concepts that revolve around the use of social media. These topics include the definition of media, media consumption habits, stereotypes and examples of positive and negative beauty standards in advertising strategies.   

Robin Kennedy, co-leader of troop 40992 said that the lessons that were instilled in the girl scouts at the event couldn’t have come at a better time.  

“I think this is a very important event. I have 6th grade girls and so they are on the cusp in this transition period into social media where some have it and some don’t. I think this is very influential for them to be learning about women in social media at this stage of their life,” Kennedy said.  

Golowski, a senior advertising and public relations major, kicked off the event by providing three definitions of media. That is, media as a channel of communication, media as anything that can reach or influence people, and lastly, media as a tool for collecting or passing information along.  

“The only thing I want you to keep in mind is that media is so easily influenced to us, we want to make sure that what we are consuming is positive and is good for those who are reading and watching it – to build each other up and not tear each other down,” Golowski said.  

Graff, a junior advertising and public relations major, followed Golowski with identifying biased and stereotypical beauty standards in a Victoria’s Secret campaign.  

The campaign was called ‘The Perfect Body Collection’ which, as Graff points out, already comes off as bias. Graff showed images from the campaign to the girls and pointed out its mistakes.  

“There are only white, skinny models in the image. There is no diversity among the women. This means there are no models with different skin colors, abilities, or body types. It is like they are saying the perfect, beautiful body is only one image – white and skinny,” Graff said.  

To contrast, Graff showed an image of women who replicated the Victoria’s Secret campaign who accurately represented a diverse range of race, body type and age.  

“This is the real view of women, one that is not filtered or photoshopped like the one from Victoria’s Secret. This is a real view of what perfection and beauty means. It means to be yourself, to be the real you,” Graff said.  

While the message to be the real, authentic version of yourself may seem simple, it is anything but. Social media’s influence on young girls in the last decade has been extremely palpable in the rise in the decline of girls’ mental health in the United States.  

Mollie Veres, a junior communications major and volunteer at the event, said she understands how influential media bias is in forming an understanding of beauty standards.  

“I was definitely a victim of media bias when I was young and so now that I am older, I understand that media manipulates how women are viewed,” said Veres. “I’m really excited to be part of this event and break the stigma and educate young girls so they don’t have to go through the struggles of their self-esteem being hurt by unrealistic beauty standards set by the media.”  

The keynote speaker of the event, Christine Guilfoyle, President of SeeHer, addressed these concerns and how the girl scouts can reclaim their significant power as media consumers.  

SeeHer is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to increasing the representation and accurate portrayal of all women and girls in marketing, media, and entertainment to reflect culture and transform society.  

Guilfoyle presented a few advertising campaigns that revolved around the media depicting women and girls fairly and unfairly.  

Guilfoyle said that these biased depictions in the media result in stifled potential of women and girls. 

“If you think that certain roles are only held by men, it excludes those opportunities for your future potential, and that makes me sad. I want to share with you that you truly can do anything that you want to do,” Guilfoyle said.  

To cultivate a new perspective, each group of girl scouts were asked to go on the stage and read an affirmation with the audience. Without a microphone, the girls had to recite the words loud and clear to emphasize the autonomy of their voices.  

Chants like, “I am beautiful, I am strong, I am confident,” reverberated throughout the ballroom, inciting hope in the next generation of women.  

Indeed Guilfoyle says that Gen Z is very promising in regard to dismantling long-held stigmas in media and advertising.  

“Gen Z feels to the greatest percentage of all demographic groups, that media and advertising has a responsibility to change the perceptions, the respectful representation of women and girls,” Guilfoyle said.  

In order to facilitate this change, Guilfoyle says that we must hold brands responsible by using our power as the consumer.  

“Hold the industry to it, watch, engage with things that make you feel good, that make you feel seen. When you buy something, you are voting with your wallet. Buy brands that believe in what you stand for and hold those brands accountable,” Guilfoyle said. “Because if they don’t make you feel seen, heard, respected and welcome, I promise you there is a brand that does. And the 70 million of you Gen Z have the ability to change the way media, marketing and advertising allows you all to show up and seize that responsibility.” 

Toward the end of the Girl Scout Media Journey, some of the girl scouts like Kaylee Iacovazzi had started to understand these concepts and create their own stance on stereotypes and beauty standards.   

“Some people were saying that wearing no makeup is being naturally beautiful. I think that’s nonsense.  Wearing makeup is a way of expressing yourself. And people are stereotyping it and saying that people are better with not wearing makeup,” Iacovazzi said. “And guys can wear makeup too. Everyone can be beautiful; it doesn’t matter if you wear makeup or not.”  

The day was jam-packed with informative, fun and exciting activities to teach the girls that despite what they might see or hear on social media, they can be and do anything they want.  

Guilfoyle said that the one lesson that she wants the girls to take away from the event is, “for them to always know that they good enough and that they should not allow these messages to make them feel less than. That they should follow, like and comment brands and influencers and use media that makes them feel seen, heard, respected and that its authentic to who it is that they think that they are.”  

The day closed with a fun, 10-minute dance party.