A centry after suffrage, women still not held equally
Published: Monday, September 9, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 9, 2013 17:09
As I curled up in my bed one night over Labor Day weekend, grabbed my computer and typed in Netflix.com, a title caught my eye in the ‘Recently Added’ section. “Miss Representation,” a documentary about how mainstream media is negatively affecting the way women view themselves and how there is a serious lack of women in power because of it.
The documentary itself was something that was a dime, a dozen. It kept my attention but wasn’t award-worthy by any means. It did, however, get me thinking of how even after all of these years, how are women still not held to the same standard as men?
August 18th, 1920 was the year that the 19th amendment allowed women the right to vote. That was 93 years ago. One would think that women have made huge strides towards equality with men. Wrong.
Yes, women have more rights than they did in the very early 20th century, thanks to the women’s right movement during most of the 60s and 70s. But that doesn’t mean they are by any means close to being completely equal with our male counterparts.
Why is that? What’s stopping us?
Just turn on your TV and you’ll find the answer. Whether it be that female newscaster on TV wearing a low-cut shirt, the boy-crazy teenaged girl on Disney Channel, the lady in the movie that’s just waiting for her prince charming, or the crazy and constantly drunk woman on some generic reality television show.
In children’s TV shows, only a third of leading characters are females. And the vast majority of films produced tell the stories of men, with women cast as girlfriends, wives, or mothers, or in other periphery roles. In a typical year, only about 12-15% of top grossing Hollywood films are women-centric, focusing on women and their stories. Only 7% or film directors and 10% of writers are women.
With statistics like that it’s no wonder that the media portrays women as objects rather than the complex human beings that they are. And with American teenagers spending more than 10 hours a day consuming different forms of media, it’s really no surprise that it’s taken its toll.
Increasingly, girls are becoming more concerned about their looks and appearance. In a recent study conducted by the University of Central Florida, over half of the girls in that study from ages 3 to 6 worry about being fat and ugly. 53% of 12-year-old girls feel unhappy with their bodies, 78% of 17-year-old girls feel unhappy with their bodies and 65% of women and girls have an eating disorder.
Not only are other people seeing women as object, we’re starting to see our selves as them, too. According to the American Psychological Association, self-objectification has become a national epidemic.
This self-objectification is negatively affecting women because if they only see the value of themselves with their bodies, they’ll start to feel disempowered and distract themselves from making a difference and becoming leaders and feel equal to men.
67 countries in the world have had female presidents or prime ministers, yet as well all know, the United State is not one of them. In fact – Cuba, China, Iraq and even Afghanistan have more females in their government than the United States does. These are countries that see women as even less of equals than supposedly in the United States.
There’s no more powerful influence in the way we view power than the way treats power. Media treats power as defined by men because it has been generally defined that way.
And when women do try to gain power like their male counterparts, they either come off as bitchy and rude or the media is focusing on their physical traits rather than what they’re trying to get across, what they’ve accomplished, or their position on an issue.
Just look at news articles, radio shows, and your television news stations, if there is a women doing anything at all, whether it be positive or negative - I can almost guarantee there will be at least one comment about her physical appearance.
A woman in power is often seen as a negative thing because we associate all the worst aspects of power and we often translate those to a women seeking to achieve power because when women do exactly the same thing men do to get the power, they’re often called a bitch rather than a man being called ambitious or assertive.
Now, One thing that I’d like to add is – I’m not saying that men in power is wrong, it’s just when over 90% of the power in media, politics, and other things is run by men. That leaves out the perspective of over half of the population, women.
As Marian Wright Edelman says, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” If we do not have women shown as complete equals to men, then girls do not see that they can be whatever they want and that it’s not just a ‘man’s world’ out there.
You’d think that after almost a whole century since the start of equality towards women that we’d actually be as progressive as we like to claim that we are as a nation.
As Ghandi says, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Just because we haven’t made it to complete equality yet, doesn’t mean we can’t.
Cassandra is a junior majoring in journalism.