LETTER: TV inappropriately depicts women's violence during rape awareness week

Friday, September 26, 2008 | 6:20 p.m. CDT

I recently encountered a re-run of the "CSI: NY" "Hung Out to Dry" episode from season three at the MU Student Recreation Complex. I had no choice but to watch it since the controls for the displays are not accessible. I ended up having to stop my workout and leave to avoid watching what CBS produced and aired.

The content of this program greatly offended and disgusted me. The content, a young woman decapitated in a blood-drenched bikini hanging in a sexually suggestive manner from the ceiling, was absolutely uncalled for and crossing the line of decency by any means. As a young woman myself, I found this imagery abhorrent and I felt victimized by the presentation of such violent, gender-oriented acts. What makes it even more ironic and disgraceful is that this episode aired during MU's Rape Awareness Week! Presenting a sensationalized version of victimization of women during a week devoted to preventing violence against women is contradictory and inappropriate.

I have never been one to argue for media censorship, but after this shocking display of what a corporation such as CBS will do to attract viewers and make a profit, I am reconsidering my stance. We as a society must address how such ideas presented by the entertainment industry and the media affect the common good. This particular episode sensationalized and normalized an atrociously inhumane act. Presenting such a thing to millions of viewers leads to no constructive end but certainly has the potential to encourage perpetration of what was portrayed. It disturbs me immensely that someone may see such content and be propelled to carry out a similar violent crime. As a young woman, I already face enough objectification and fear of sexually violent acts and I feel that content such as this only worsens the problem.

The MU School of Journalism is renowned internationally and can certainly be considered a leader in the media landscape. My experience this week with the mass media and entertainment industry brings several questions to my mind that I believe the journalism community must address:

Should journalists and/or broadcasters consider the psychological and ethical implications of the content aired or presented?

Is there a standard of common decency that should be followed by the media?

If there is such a standard, how can it be followed without impinging on freedom of speech or instituting censorship?

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