Unpacking ‘It’ in the Classroom: How You Can Explore Media Exploitation with Young Learners

From early Hollywood starlets to modern TikTok influencers, the public eye can be incredibly critical of women in the spotlight. In the social media era, this ire can be more visible than ever. Two Bradley students took a unique approach to exploring this phenomenon and ways to subvert it.

“Our focus was to help educate youth because we also grew up on social media, and we've felt the impacts of that,” said senior history and high school education major Erica Lindquist. “Our goal was to help educate the next generation to be preventative so they can develop good critical thinking skills and media literacy to help them navigate how scary social media can be.”

Together with history and secondary education double major and women’s and gender studies minor Gloria Rousseau, the pair produced a website and lesson plan as resources for fellow educators looking to spark critical discussion on celebrity media. Created as a history capstone through the women’s and gender studies department, the pair approached the project with a collaborative mindset from the get-go.

“It really helped the project to look at it with feminist theory,” said Rousseau. “We ask things like ‘Where are queer women?’ ‘Where are women of color?’ Being able to take that lens and not just approach it from a history lens was cool.”

As part of the education leg of the project, Rousseau and Lindquist uploaded their lesson plan to the online platform “Teachers Pay Teachers,” on which educators share and sell materials to their peers. So far, they’ve had a handful of teachers from across the country download and integrate their work into their classrooms. 

As they approached graduation and their budding education careers, their goal was to put the lesson plan into action themselves and continue building upon the resource. They have already put together lecture slides, assignments, examples of It Girls, commentary on It Girls, and a brief history of the subject. Eventually, they hope to expand on more recent examples of It Girls and the overarching impact of social media on the subject.

Rousseau and Lindquist are proud to have had the opportunity to approach the medium of their capstone in a unique and forward thinking way.

“I think doing this project the year before graduation helped us redefine the perspective we're going into teaching with,” Rousseau said. “I think there are a lot of really interesting history papers that have been written by the history majors that we have taken classes with, but I don't think our project would've been as effective as a paper. I think having the medium and the format that you want to work with just makes it so much more interesting.”

- Jenevieve Rowley-Davis