Mass Communications Professor published to JMCQ

The fall semester welcomes new faculty to SIUE; Ashton Gerding Speno, Ph.D, is a new addition to the Mass Communications Department. Dr. Speno joins SIUE after completing a Preparing Future Faculty Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Missouri. Her research primarily focuses on issues of gender and sexualization in the media, adolescents’ experiences with new media technologies, and media effects on attitudes, behaviors, health outcomes, and self-concept.

Dr. Ashton Speno, Mass Communications Department

Dr. Speno’s latest research; “Sexualization, Youthification, and Adultification: A Content Analysis of Images of Girls and Women in Popular Magazines”, has been published in the Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly focuses on research in journalism and mass communication. Each issue features reports of original investigation, presenting the latest developments in theory and methodology of communication, international communication, journalism history, and social and legal problems.

The study examines the “adultification” of girls and “youthification” of women in popular magazines, in which girls are “dressed up” to look like women, and women are “dressed down” to look like girls. These two types of depictions can be conceptualized as part of the same system of messages known as age compression, a practice in which women and girls in various media are compressed to an age in which they are most valued for their sexual function. Dr. Speno said, “We might not think about it that much or notice it occurring in society, due it being so ingrained in our culture.” The research assessed the prevalence of adultification, youthification, and sexualization in popular magazines. Seventeen, Cosmopolitan and Maxim were some of the publications used for this research. “I conceptualized Adultification and Youthification as that they didn’t have to be inherently sexualizing, you could be adultifitied and made to look like an adult by wearing a business suit.” Says Speno.

Results show that adultification is more prevalent than youthification, that youthification is equally prevalent in men’s and women’s magazines, that girls who are adultified are more likely to be provocatively dressed and exhibit sexy facial expressions, and that advertising and editorial images are equally likely to feature adultification and youthification.

Dr. Speno aims to bring this research into her courses as a conversation topic in our current media culture. “In Media Ethics, we examine case studies that look into objectifying images and advertising. These images carry with them negative effects for viewers. Exposure to sexually objectifying images can lead to a host of negative effects such as anxiety and depression for women, or acceptance of interpersonal violence toward women for men. We are able to have these conversations in the classroom about sexual objectification research and I hope it adds another level of understanding of media ethics for the students.”  Says Speno.

In early 2018, Dr. Speno will be talking about her research on campus as a part of the Women’s Studies Speaker Series on Februrary, 16th from 10-10:50 a.m. in Founders Hall 0313.




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