Monday, February 24, 2014

Gender Roles; Feminism; Sexism

*Trigger warning possible*

This weekend, I watched this amazing documentary called "Miss Representation." The film is about how women are oppressed and exploited in American society. I watched it with a group of OAs so it was interesting having the follow-up discussion afterwards with a group of people who already view the world through a social justice lens.


The documentary talked about how women are often used as props in the media and are taught to strive for this impossible state of beauty. In movies, they are often the damsel in distress needing a man to save them. OR they are the protagonists of the film who is looking for the love of a man. Women are often judged not by their intelligence, but by the way they look. If a woman is in power, she is often criticized about what she is wearing, how her hair looks, and how attractive she is. If she is outspoken, then she is often characterized as a "Bitch." This documentary made things obvious on a conscious level what many people know subconsciously. Women are oversexualized in the media. You can easily turn on the tv and see women showing off their bodies. The documentary even went on to talk about news reporters. Female newscasters have a tough job. A comparison between Katie Couric and Raddow Maddow against other female newscasters was made. Katie Couric and Rachel Maddow both are serious news reporters and they carry themselves in that manner. The dress in a very professional manner. In comparison, other female newscasters were shown to wear very low-cut necklines and short skirts. In one clip, they showed a female newscaster refusing to discuss Paris Hilton as the lead story because she didn't feel like it was worthy of being the lead story. Her male colleagues insisted they talk about it and even disregarded her protests.  After the film we had one amazing discussion.


The discussion started off as each of us talking about our initial thoughts and feelings about the film. This turned into us looking back our lives and us asking the question why. We recounted instances of women being put down in favor of men as well as strict enforcement of gender roles. One of the OAs,  recalled a time when he was younger and played with a barbie doll along with his "female" cousins. He saw no problem with it, but at the end of the day, his mom told him that he was not supposed to do so. I had a similar experience growing up as well. When I was four years old, I was playing with my cousins, the ones around my age are all female, and we were playing with their Barbies. I had no problem with it and didn't see anything wrong. At the end of the day, my dad and uncle picked me up. When my aunt told my dad and uncle how I spend my day, my uncle proceeded to say that a "Faggot" and a "Sissy" could ride in his car. What does this even mean? What makes something male or female? What makes something a boy toy or a girl toy? I think about my love for cooking. Many people would take this as a sign of femininity and say that I shouldn't know how or I shouldn't know how to wash clothes or that I shouldn't know how to iron. These are survival skills. Because I know how to do these things, I know that I can live alone and be perfectly fine. They create a sense of independence.


This discussion made me raise the question on why men feel the need to oppress women. It's obvious that women are oppressed by men in our society, but what is our society doing to men to perpetuate this cycle? Personally, I think society teaches men to fear anything feminine and reject it which causes women to be oppressed, however this also causes men to feel like they need to be hyper masculine and reject their emotions. This cycle hurts everyone. Women are hurt by the oppression and men are hurt by not being able to understand or control their emotions. Men can't admit they like certain things because it will cause them to experience a fraction of the oppression women feel. I feel like nothing will every be solved until we look at both sides: 1) How are women are oppressed; 2) What are we teaching men to continue this oppression? Once these to things are eliminated and fixed I feel like sexism would become a thing of the past, BUT we can't just fix one side of the problem, we have to fix both.

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