If I were to ask you whether or not you thought women still faced oppression in our society, what would your answer be? For me, maybe three years ago, I likely would have said that women, while not completely caught up to their male counterparts, enjoy the same freedoms as men. However, in recent years, my eyes have been opened to the harsh reality that women still hold second-class citizenship in America. In 2004, women earned about 76.5% of what men earned, and even women who never married earned only 94.2%. Economically, it's clear that the cards are stacked for the boys--a fact even misogynists cannot deny. But what about culture? What about the things we encounter and experience on a daily basis? It's more prevalent than you may realize.
What always gets me is the commercials. Some of you may be familiar with the "Killing Us Softly" video series by Jean Kilbourne (this series changed my life and I highly recommend it. It's available on YouTube.). This series shows how women are defined and objectified by advertising, and despite any claim that one can simply tune out advertising, the fact of the matter is you can't. One is bombarded with ads everywhere you go, and as Kilbourne points out, ads don't just sell products, but ideals and norms. Turn on your TV for ten or fifteen minutes, let it go to commercial and just watch the ads. Any cleaning product, whether it's Mr. Clean or Palmolive dish soap has a woman as the "cleaner". I like to think there are men out there who like to pick up after themselves and have their homes be clean--so why can't they be shown mopping a kitchen floor? The one that's really got me in a tizzy lately is one for ITT tech's Paralegal Program. You may have seen my rant on FB where I point out that the paralegals in the commercial are all women and the lawyers are all men. Call it an accident if you want, but I'm not buying, and you shouldn't either.
What's really bothersome, though, is the objectification of women. I can barely stomach watching any commercial for alcohol, beers in particular, as it almost never fails to present me with some soft-core image of a woman with breasts larger than my head who will supposedly manifest if you buy and drink said alcoholic beverage. First of all, if any man has had this happen, please do let me know, as I'll be sure to withdraw this statement. But secondly and more importantly, such ads feed the hypersexual attitude that says we are all sexual beings--and nothing else. Given, this stereotype is being given to men as well, which is something men should not take lying down. However, we see the real prevalence in the image of women, particularly in these commercials, which are targeted for a male audience.
Taking this idea of objectification further, Jean Kilbourne discusses the connection between how women are portrayed in media and violence against women, citing that the first step in abusing a woman is to make her into an object, or something sub-human. Given, men choose to rape and to abuse, no one forces them, and they must be held accountable for their own actions, but the fact that one in four women will be victim to some kind of sexual assault is a tough pill to swallow and showing images of women as purely sexual, passive beings does the cause for protecting women no favors.
It's important to note, as well, the extreme heterosexist imagery seen in media. Gay men are always portrayed as effeminate, less-than-masculine, oversexed stereotypes, reflecting only one image of the gay community and an image not to be taken seriously, but rather to be parodied and disrespected. Gay women, if represented at all, are either hypermasculine or "lipstick" lesbians who tend to be less "gay" and more ambiguous in regards to sexual orientation, as the image often plays into the straight male fantasy of girl-on-girl action. The gay community has reason to be upset, as they clearly have not been given the respect they have requested and which is due.
And one cannot discuss any feminist theory without mentioning the implications of race. One is still more likely to see a caucasian on TV than a black, Asian, Mexican or any other minority race individual. It's proof of the continued white dominance that exists in America--the kind of white dominance that even having a half-black president can't change.
Where am I going with this? That is up to you. My point is simply to get you thinking and to realize that these are not things you should be content with. Issues like these affect us daily and shape entire generations. What will you do to stop it?