Media imagery can contribute to culture of violence against women, says Vanderbilt lecturer

Imagery in the print media, particularly advertisements, can contribute to a culture of violence against women, says alumnus and Vanderbilt University lecturer Alison Piepmeier, who will visit campus for a presentation beginning at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 14, in Clement 212.

Sponsored by the TTU Women’s Commission, the presentation is free and open to the public.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but Piepmeier’s message is appropriate at any time, says Gretta Stanger, director of our Women’s Center and chairperson of Sociology & Political Science. Under the guise of sexuality – a metaphor long used in the ad business to sell products - some advertising veers more into the realm of violence. Picture, for instance, fashion ads exploiting children or perfume ads in which women are depicted as submissive to men.

“The violence portrayed often leads to a pervasive fear with everyday things,” says Stanger. “Most men don’t experience the same fear and don’t structure their lives in the same way. Piepmeier calls it ‘sexual terrorism.’”

Weaving statistics on rape and sexual assault into her presentation, Piepmeier uses an interactive approach, encouraging audience members to carefully analyze the materials she presents and make discoveries for themselves.

Piepmeier is co-editor of the essay collection Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century (Northeastern University Press, 2003). She won the 2003 Mentoring Award from the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center and the 2002 Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Senior Lecturer in the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt. Assistant director of Women’s Studies at Vanderbilt, Piepmeier is a 1994 English graduate of Tennessee Tech. She went on to earn a master’s and Ph.D. at Vanderbilt.

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