Sunday, March 13, 2016

Women Act and Women Appear

John Berger states, in a passage from Ways of Seeing, he writes about the condition of women in current Western culture. That “men act and women appear” is one of his central arguments. The statement emphasizes the unfortunate notion that men are the “doers” in today’s society, and women exist purely to watch-- and to be watched. He goes on to explain that the relationship between men and women, as well as the relationship between a woman and herself, is based off of the appearance of the woman: “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at…” This relationship is one that not only objectifies women in men’s eyes, but in women’s eyes as well- women begin to weigh their self worth as the amount of male attention they receive, and thus focus the majority of their attention on being a visually pleasing object for the male eye to enjoy. Berger is essentially saying that while men go off and “do,” women stay on the sidelines, looking pretty.

Berger’s idea of men doing and women appearing is very prominent throughout history. Women living in America prior to women’s suffrage, and even for some time after it, were extremely limited in what they could do. They were oppressed for decades and denied basic rights. Until the women’s rights movement, women had little choice but to essentially sit out and watch men run the country. At this time, a statement like Berger’s is extremely applicable; women had no option to “do,” therefore, men did all of the”doing,” and many women resorted to maintaining their appearances and satisfying men.

However, in today’s society, I don’t believe that Berger’s statement is entirely true. In context of 2016, it needs to be altered. Women in today’s society continue to face objectification and disrespect on a daily basis. Not only do women experience this in the everyday life, whether they are cat called or assaulted while walking down the street, or being paid lower wages per hour than their male counterparts, but it is also often seen in in media through films, music, and advertisements. Many popular films objectify women, and reduce them to the quality of their appearances. It is an extremely common plotline for a woman to be completely undesirable when expressing her true self, and is only able to gain value when she has been transformed into something “beautiful” or sexually appealing.

However, there is a major difference in today’s evolving society: a large portion of American society has begun to fight back and stand up to it. It is becoming more and more common to openly discuss gender inequality issues, to directly confront objectifying sources of media, to spread the word of sexist ads and media portrayals, to support feminist groups, and to embrace women for their true, non-hypersexualized selves.

Women, though still seen as objects in the eyes of some, are doing and succeeding more than ever, and the breaking down of false stereotypes of womanhood is becoming increasingly more widespread. I believe that a more fitting version of Berger's statement in context of today's society is that women act and women appear.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Gamergate is Dumb, or Everything Wrong With Nerd Culture

I am a nerd. A huge one. Most of my friends are nerds too.  My life is probably best chronicled by a series of obsessions, bouncing from one hobby to the next like some sort of socially awkward pinball. So when someone like me, someone who spent the past six years on message boards and in hobby shops, says that nerd culture sucks, I'd like to believe that it holds some weight.

Gamergate, for those of you unaware, started in 2013 when someone named Zoe Quinn made a game called Depression Quest, a game chronicling Quinn's experiences with depression. Critics were lukewarm, but most of them praised the (admittedly short) game as an insightful look into the mind of someone with depression. The community, on the other hand, thought it was awful. One user left a review saying, "This game is free and I still want a refund". The schism between these two points of view was so stark that it brought about a massive conversation that left everyone shouting and nobody satisfied.

Rumors went around that Quinn slept with game critics who then gave her good reviews. As a supposed ex-boyfriend's testimony came out, online harassment reached a fever pitch. Someone released her address to the public, several people sent rape threats. Over and over, the community  rallied around some woman who they felt was too invasive of gaming culture, and made their life a living hell. Media critic Anita Sarkeesian made several videos about sexism in video games, and as a result received death threats from people saying she didn't know what she was talking about. Someone threatened to bomb a university where she was scheduled to give a speech.

 At the same time, popular video game media outlets like Kotaku and Polygon began railing against "Gamergaters", which led the community to dig into their past as well in an attempt to prove that they too, were corrupt. One by one, media outlets turned against this movement, calling the gaming community misogynistic and childish. The inevitable response from the community was some condemnation of ethics proven by an article , and the cycle began anew. The death knell of #gamergate came when it received national attention, and the general public condemned the movement as being childish and sexist.

From the perspective of video game journalists and feminists, Gamergate was about the problems in video game culture. From the perspective of "Gamergaters", it was about "ethics in video game journalism", which should give you an idea of how detached from reality this movement was. They saw themselves as modern-day investigative journalists, uncovering the filthy crimes of a corrupt industry while crusading against the tyranny of political correctness. What they were actually doing was going on a series of baseless witch hunts, making several people miserable and reinforcing stereotypes about nerd culture along the way.

These stereotypes are not baseless. This is not some small group of hateful trolls, emerged from the darkest depths of the internet. This is a culture fostered in the days when being a nerd was something to be ashamed of, not something a pop star mentioned casually in a GQ article. Nerd Culture is what happens when a group of antisocial white guys spends 30 years isolated from the outside world, and then corporate success throws the door wide open. Suddenly anyone can spend hours playing video games without having to be an outcast. Being a nerd used to be a trial by fire- now it's just an adjective. For someone who had to go so much to earn that title back then, it's frustrating to think that new initiates got the title but don't deserve it.

Which brings me to women in gaming. From the perspective of a community that was predominantly male for decades, women look like outsiders. From the perspective of a community of social outcasts, women seem complex and inhuman. From the perspective of women, video games and video game culture are really interesting, but there's this massive online presence constantly demanding that they prove their worth. When Anita Sarkeesian makes one mistake in a video, there are a thousand angry men citing it as proof that she isn't a "real gamer". When Zoe Quinn makes a below average game and gets good reviews, they see the walls of their boys-only club caving in.

Nerd culture was originally created by boys, for boys. Decades later, the demographic might be changing, but the stigma still hasn't. But maybe if us nerds could stop walling women out, we could build a community that I'm not ashamed of.

It's Not Up to the Men

For years women did not receive the same basic human rights that men did, and although the eyes of the law have shifted, the eyes of society have not. Susan B. Anthony's statement, "The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race", has not yet fully been accomplished in the many years that have followed. Society still looks upon women as inferior, easy to be bought, shallow, and stupid because they have a different body than a male. Men and women are the same species, but as highly developed as we are from animals, their still appears that we are split into alphas and betas. I completely agree with Susan B. Anthony's statement that that day will and must come, but her statement also seems to collapse on itself.

Susan B. Anthony begins her statement with, "The day will come when men will recognize women", right off the bat she is already giving men the power. Herself believes that men are superior, and it's not until men choose to do so will women be recognized the way they want. I don't understand why we need to include men at all? I think it's the fact that we do include men on how we wish to be perceived is possibly one of the main reasons they don't see women as most women wish. If women choose to feel equal and act equal, the rest will come into play. Of course there will be speeds bumps and stop signs along the way, just like their will be no matter what route you take. If all women started to shift their view and believe in themselves and society that they are just as strong, independent, successful, and smart as any male, without giving a man the option to say otherwise, than eventually it will shift the minds of men as well. It may take a generation or two, but as long as women don't let themselves feel inferior and teach their sons (if they have children) to believe the same than a full change in society's view of women can be accomplished. It is in the power of the women to do, not the men. Women don't need men to make the change.

Men appear Women appear

In a passage from Ways of Seeing by John Berger, he states that "men act and women appear". Although women are over-sexualized in media, the same can be said for men. Therefore a more accurate critique of modern american culture would be "men and women both appear".

While women are more noticeably reduced to sex objects in pop culture, but both sides are portrayed that way. Women in film are shown to always have attractive body, and a sexual nature to them, whether in films like James Bond or Transformers. Many argue that because of this women are being demeaned and not properly represented, but this is true for men also. Actors like Channing Tatum and Ryan Reynolds have built their careers around their looks before their acting chops could catch up with their stardom. Admittedly women are more blatantly shown in this light, due to the male target audience, but with a closer look both genders are shown in similar over-sexualized ways. The main reason it is less obvious for men is that the male characters are given more depth behind their characters, which is the real problem with gender in film.

The over-sexualized nature of both genders is also revealed in music. Both women and men artist surround themselves with attractive people, to appeal to their audiences. In many modern rap videos there are women and men both in revealing clothes and suggestively dancing. Like in Rhianna's Work and LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem.Sadly, similarly to film there is a much larger male target audience leaving women more susceptible to the stereotyping.

Women are trapped in a state where they are seen mostly as sex objects in media, but it isn't because of over-sexualization. It is because women aren't given a chance to develop themselves beyond their appearances. Therefore the over-sexualization isn't the problem. The problem is media's reliance on sex as the way to define women. That is where the real change needs to come from.

Ads and games designed for men, advertised by women

As much as I hate to say this, I agree with what John Berger is saying. In modern society, it is very clear that men act and women appear. This can be seen through all platforms of advertisement and many other places. On TV, most ads that are meant for men have women who are the main object of attention. It is as if the thing they are trying to sell is not nearly as important as showing ever curve of the women, who is usually scantily dressed and holding or using what ever the company is trying to sell. I have seen many commercials where I didn't even know what the ad was about until the last five to ten second, because the company was so focused on glorifying the woman's body instead of the actual product. This goes to show that the company is not trying to sell physical benefits with their product, but rather create an image, which screams sexual dominance. With this product you will attract all the women your little heart desires. This is very prominent in Axe Lynx commercials. We all know Axe is a deodorant company, which focuses on the smell of their product and not the antiperspirant part. The new Lynx rise series has a slue of commercials, which aren't even focused on their product. All their commercials are seemingly based around a situation where a guy has a chance to get laid or do something sexual, but instead he does something stupid and misses out on that chance because of it. In one commercial, we see the man walk into his girlfriends house where we see a girl in extremely tight leggings bending over to get something in a cabinet. He walks up to her presuming she is his girlfriend and slaps her butt, immediately his girlfriend walks in and says "Ah I've seen you met my mom," while she is in a bra and has a loose robe on. The scene then cuts to him in the shower with a dreary look in his eyes as you hear a voice say something like "wake up and stay alert." The last five seconds of the commercial was about the product. Ninety percent of the commercial was glorifying women as sexual beings or as sex objects, rather than human beings. This can also be seen on billboard along the highway. On my way home from just about anywhere, I see ad upon ad where a woman is the main point.
This can not only be seen in commercials and ads, but also video games. In yet another form, men act and women appear. This is a very common theme throughout video games and the video game community. This appears both in the actual video games and in real like as well. In games, male characters are often portrayed as strong and important, not only that, but they are also usually covered in cool and decorated armor. The female counter parts how ever, are often portrayed as more supportive of characters. Although the female character can be strong or powerful, they often have very little armor or clothing. Producers and company owners display their  female characters like objects to attract their targeted male audience. So, not only are the female characters portrayed as objects, they are also used to attract men instead of adding to the game or story line. In real life, female gamers or game enthusiasts often feel compelled to use their bodies to attract viewers or attention. For example, on twitch tv, a female gamer was playing a game called league of legends. Usually, players have a camera pointing at them so viewers can see them, but that picture is in the corner out of the way of the game. This particular girl enlarged her video feed so much that she covered one third of the screen. Not only was she covering the screen, but she was clearly and purposefully wearing a bright bra with a shirt that didn't cover even her bra. Although she was the one that chose to do this, she was compelled by the idea that the only way she could attract male viewers was showing off her body and in turn be viewed as an object. The point of this site is to display an array of different games, where people can watch their favorite players play their favorite game, with the major emphasis on the game play.

To See or Not to See

In John Berger’s book entitled, The Ways of Seeing, he expresses his view about gender roles in society. He articulates the idea that men act and women appear. He says that men first survey a woman and what a man sees often determines how the woman will be treated. Berger later says that a woman’s actions also determine how others will treat her. Although I agree with Berger’s assertions that men often judge women based on what they observe, I believe that both men and women contribute to the objectification of women and I believe that not all men are the brave, confident individuals Berger portrays them to be.

More often than not, the first thing a man observes about a woman is her appearance. At a young age, kids are always taught not to judge a book by its cover. Even though this cliché is repeated time and time again, men seem to have an innate urge to judge a woman based on her appearance. A few weeks ago two guys sitting at a lunch table next to mine were “rating” various girls on a scale of 1-10. Their “rates” were based purely on physical appearance and had nothing to do with who the girls were or what their personalities were like. Sitting at the same table as them was a girl who was listening to the entire conversation. After a few minutes she was clearly aggravated and voiced her frustration. She said that taking a woman and reducing her to nothing more of an object of review was ridiculous and insulting. Upon hearing this, the two boys justified their actions by saying “well all guys do it so it’s okay.” Not only is this a classic bandwagon logical fallacy but it also shows how this mentality is so deeply ingrained in society. Just because “everyone does it,” doesn’t mean that it is right and should be repeated.

Both men and women contribute to and perpetuate the objectification of women. Men objectify women by looking at them and seeing them as sex objects. Women objectify themselves by succumbing to social pressures. Berger says that the success of a woman’s life is dependent on how she appears to others and more specifically, men. Therefore, a woman's sense of herself is supplanted by the feeling of “being appreciated as herself by another.” Berger argues that a woman’s view of herself is less important that how another person views her. This mentality leads to a lack of self-confidence and insecurities. When a woman accepts what men may think of her, she allows herself to become objectified. When a woman is objectified she can more easily be compared to other “objects” (e.g. the “rates”). Both men and women help to perpetuate objectification, which can often hurt a woman’s self image. Women are continuously seen as sex objects and objectified day after day but still should be seen as a symbol of purity.

Berger’s insinuation that all men are strong, dominating, and extremely confident individuals is a very far-fetched idea. Everyone has insecurities and there is no avoiding it. Berger asserts that while men act without a thought of what others might think of them, women are always thinking about who will judge them. As a man, I find this utterly ridiculous. I constantly find myself trying to figure out how other people may be judging me. I often worry that things I say or do might offend someone or hurt their feelings. As a man, I am self-conscious and have insecurities just like everyone else. There is no biological trait that gives men more self-confidence than women. As humans, both male and female, everyone has at least one thing they don’t feel confident about.

Men and women both face many gender stereotypes. Some are more harmful than others, but they are stereotypes nonetheless. The way in which men and women view themselves and others is critical in solving this problem. Humans by nature are insecure so individuals should never be singled out something they are not confident about. If society wishes to end the objectification of women as a whole, both men and women need to make changes.

The Female Experience and Why I'm Unqualified To Talk About It

I've seen a large amount of articles written on how women are repressed and restricted from having equal rights as men, and for the most part, these articles resonate with me. Women are repressed. Woman are the targets of abuse, both sexual and nonsexual. These are facts, no matter how many times an uneducated person who appears from nowhere tells me I'm wrong and that I need to "educate myself." That's an argument that I CAN make. The argument that I can't make, however, is what the female experience in modern society is, and the reason for that is simple; I'm not a woman. As a man, I have NO IDEA exactly how it feels for women to be victims of casual sexism, misogyny, abuse, and the like. So instead, I'm gonna flip it and reverse it and explain how it feels for me to witness things like that happen. Casual sexism is something that I feel doesn't get quite enough attention, which is odd because it's the most common form of sexism. Simple things like a guy telling his group of friends that "'she didn't sleep with me, that skank", or "I asked her if she saw the game yesterday, not like I was expecting her to know anything about it." As a man witnessing these things happen, it utterly and truly disgusts me. What really gets me going, however, is that most of this casual sexism portrays the woman in a light of them being there specifically for someone to have sex with--a sex object. Most people find it extremely hard to do, and some can't do it at all, but what you have to do to rise above these stereotypes, names, and roles, is view everyone from a "human" standpoint. What I mean by "human" is stripping everyone down to the bare bones and viewing them as what we all are; human. Women should have equal rights not because "men have always been portrayed as the default" or "women are an oppressed people", but because we are all HUMAN. Because not everyone can find a way to take that stance, its hard to explain in depth. All I can say is that whenever I see someone acting in a way that lowers women, all I can think to myself is "what an idiot."

The Chains of Restrictions on Women

Gender inequality is a social issue that has plagued America since its formation and is still alive and strong in society today. There is a constant struggle between recognizing the inequality and trying to rectify it in today’s society. The restrictions that society places on women restrict the “socially acceptable” personality and body type of women. Feminist Activist Betty Friedan explains “The problem that has no name — which is simply the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human capacities — is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease.” Friedan exposes the unsaid truth in American society that the physical and mental health of American society is held back because of the physical and mental restrictions that are placed on women that prevent them from reaching their full human potential. Due to the fact that women are not reaching their potential, the country is suffering the consequences on ideas that would have been brought forth by women.

Among the most significant detriments to women reaching their full potential is the emphasis and high value society places on the “body image” of women. The notion of an ideal body type puts ideas into people's head that if you don't possess certain physical attributes, that somehow you are less attractive in the eyes of society. This focus diminishes other aspects of a woman’s personality or intelligence and pushes them to the background. The physical expectation on women in society is one that women have become consumed with trying to obtain to be attractive in societies eyes. The idea of the “ideal body type”, a skinny body type, has plagued pop culture and has become an obsessive goal towards which many women aim. The emulation of this phenomenon is seen in the classic toy of Barbie. From a young age girls are presented with the image of the “ideal” body and they start to think this is how they should look when they are older. The danger in putting such a focus on body image is that there are health risks involved with constantly trying to obtain the “ideal” body. The risks of eating disorders and low self-confidence can be detrimental to the health of women. The overemphasis on body type presents a danger to the health of women and thus the health of the country.

Movies and television add to this body image pressure through the constant depiction of women in movies of having a skinny body type and if there is a women of a larger body type she become an ongoing punch line of a the movie or the show. 70% of women in a 2012 survey said that they felt pressure from movies and television to have a perfect body. An example of this is seen in the movie  Pitch Perfect were the character “Fat Amy” identifies herself as fat, so that the skinnier women of the movie will not say it behind her back. Throughout the movie fat Amy makes jokes about her weight and it becomes a punch line to many of the jokes. The other, skinnier women of the movie never talk about their weight or make jokes about it. The praised body type of some and the humoristic depiction of another put pressure on women to have the praised body type.

The mental strain that is placed on women in American culture on what is the appropriate way to act creates an epidemic of expectations that women fight to live up to. Women are expected to present themselves in society as ladies and behave as such. The idea of act like a lady is one that is ingrained into the minds of young girls and is repeated throughout their life. A lady is poised, elegant, classy, and a moral and proper figure. The expectation for women to present themselves in this way limits their ability to express themselves. The problem with this is that acting like a lady in a career that is male dominated will not gain the respect needed to have a successful career. There is also a fear that is instilled in women that if they hold to much power than men will be intimidated and the woman will become unattractive because of this power. An example of this is seen in the movie the Proposal. Sandra Bullocks character is a high-powered editor that is seen as a “bitch” because of her drive and determination. She is seen as intimidating by many of the men in the movie making her undesirable to them. Hillary Clinton also has faced the “bitch” stereotype due to the fact that she is a strong woman in a mostly male profession. The conflicting idea is that if a man acts like this he is successful but if a woman is to act like this than she is intimidating. This places the restriction of how much success a woman can have in American society before she becomes intimidating. 

The physical and mental restrictions that are placed on women that prevents them from reaching their full human capacities is a problem that plagues America even in 2016. The disease of restrictions as illustrated through the words of Betty Friedan places a toll on the overall physical and mental success of American society. Before America can reach its full capacity for complete equality and a world without gender restrictions the limits that are placed on women, especially restrictions placed from a young age, must be addressed and resolved before the restrictions become too engrained in society for them to extracted.

"Men Act and Women Appear"

While John Berger’s assertion that “men act and women appear” may be less true now than it has been in the past, it is still very relevant to our society today. More and more often, women in popular media are being portrayed as powerful in their own right, as opposed to only powerful via their interactions with men. On the other hand, women’s lack representation in STEM fields and politics hints at serious problems for gender equality in America.

In an increasing amount of popular television shows and movies, women are gaining more and more ability to act and becoming less focused on how they appear. In the hit adult cartoon Archer, the only actually competent secret agent in the entire show is a woman. The men in the show range from incompetent man-children to bimboes more worried about rearranging the furniture of their office than actually doing any espionage. Lana, the female spy, consistently has to come in and save the day after the other spies inevitably screw up. As a counterpoint to Lana’s obvious prowess as a secret agent, she is often made fun of for her obnoxiously large hands, which she is evidently very sensitive amount. Being the satire that Archer is, this is more likely a critique of how much importance is placed women’s appearance in spite of their obvious accomplishments than anything actually sexist. Lana’s role as an important (if not the most important) member of her spy agency serves as a direct contrast to the relatively useless “Bond Girls” of earlier times.

In politics, women possess an incredibly small amount of representation in comparison to their population. In a country where 51% of the population is female, less than 20% of congressional seats are held by women.  America now ranks ninety-eighth in the world for percentage of women in its national legislature, down from 59th in 1998. It is impossible to say that gender inequality is no longer a problem when there is clearly unequal representation in our government. In addition to being a problem for gender equality, one could assert that this is also a worrying sign for democracy in the United States as a whole. For a country built on fair representation, having so many people represented by such a minority is a serious problem.

Similar to their presence in politics, women comprise a much smaller amount of workers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields than they should when compared to their representation in the workforce as a whole. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce, but constitute only 39 percent of chemists and material scientists, 28 percent of environmental scientists and geoscientists, 16 percent of chemical engineers and 12 percent of civil engineers. When talking about the challenges women face in STEM fields, Sarah Richardson, recipient of the 2015 For Women in Science Fellowship says that “We can manage our time better than anyone, but when we open our mouths and say ‘baby,’ everything changes,”. STEM-related jobs are one of the fastest growing sectors right now, so excluding women from them is a clear injustice. Besides potentially discouraging bright young women from pursuing what they’re interested in, it does nothing to help the 79 cents that women get paid to every man’s dollar.

By decreasing the gender gap in politics and STEM fields, our country can further the progress that is already happening in women’s portrayal in popular culture.

Domesticity Can be Progressive

The progression of gender equality in America has come a long way. Women now are presented with more opportunities than ever before for agency, expression, and equality in American society. Specifically, there has been a large increase in the amount of women in the work force. Many women are now breaking away from stereotypical domestic roles to pursue jobs in many different fields. But, as women have begun to take on less domestic roles in society, the idea of being domestic has now become a trait that is often looked down upon. Many traditionally domestic women are often shunned for their domestic role, and are seen as perpetuating a stereotype, even if the stereotype is something they want to uphold and something that personally gives them agency. Many women in America who choose to pursue domestic roles are often criticized for their perceived un-progressive actions, however making a choice in and of itself is quite progressive.

During the mid-nineteenth century, a new ideology regarding women came to be called “The Cult of True Womanhood.” This ideology stated that women had to be four things: pious, domestic, submissive, and pure. Implementing these traits, these women acted as the moral backbone for their husbands in the workforce and for their children living at home. Though this ideology could be seen and close minded, demeaning, and repressive for women, some women did find agency in the home, living by “Cult”standards. These women took pride in being the supporter and backbone of their husbands and children and were like skilled artists, with their homes being their medium. In a way, by being submissive, these women found freedom. Now in a time when women can more freely choose their careers and life paths, being domestic is looked down upon, because ideologies like the “Cult” and other oppressive figures once enforced the idea of domesticity on women. But, even as some women found agency being domestic when it was forced on them, women now can find agency in domesticity as their life path.

For a large period of my younger life, my mother chose to quit her job to become a full-time mother, taking care of my sister and me. When my mother was asked about her career, I remember her always quietly replying that she was a stay-at-home mother, almost as if she was embarrassed. My mother often felt like she had to justify why she took on a domestic-role because society suggests that if you are a woman not making money and in a home environment, you are not working hard and that your chosen life path is easy. Society looked down on my mother’s choice to take on a domestic role because they perceived it as anti-feminist and anti-progressive, but that was my mother’s personal career choice, which is progressive. Though in history women were often forced into domestic roles, now when women choose to take on domestic roles it is looked down upon. The condemnation of a choice to be a stay-at-home mother does not give these mothers the opportunity to express agency, but instead this condemnation is quite anti-progressive. Though people may think condemnation encourages feminism, one is criticizing the free choice of a woman when condemning a stay-at-home mother and this criticism is very anti-feminist.

When First Lady Michelle Obama decided to give up her career as a lawyer and writer to focus on taking care of her two daughters, many people were upset at her decision. Individuals believed that Michelle was wasting all of her hard work and schooling on focusing on the care of her children. But, the decision to take care of her two daughters was ultimately made by Michelle, and she sets a good example to fellow mothers to listen to yourself when deciding to become a stay-at-home mother or not. Though individuals could argue that Michelle sets a bad example because she encourages women to take on stereotypical domestic roles, she in fact is a great role model to show that it is okay to be domestic if it is your own personal choice and desire. At this point in her life, Michelle wishes to focus on taking care of her children and this may not be a permanent choice. Michelle may choose to go back to a career in law or writing in the future. The most important thing is Michelle is deciding her own life path and setting an example to other women that they should make their own decisions too. This ability to choose one’s own life path is progressive.

We live in a time where women are presented with more choices than ever before. Though the opportunity to participate in the work force is a progressive opportunity for women, it does not give individuals the right to criticize women who personally choose to be stay-at-home mothers. If these women desire to take on traditionally domestic roles, their personal decision to do so is quite liberal and feminist because these women are deciding their own futures. The still reigning issue regarding domesticity in society is the way society often portrays domesticity as being submissive to the patriarchal expectations of American society. Women should be able to take on a domestic role if they wish, a working role if they wish, or even both roles. The next task for progressive America is to make those decisions of equal value economically, socially, and personally.

Men Vs. Women

For many years, men have been viewed as superior to women in society. Men were seen as the strong providers and caretakers of the family. Men worked outside of the home, earning money and creating new relationships. While men were playing these major roles in society, women were pushed into the shadows. Women were expected to stay in the home, care for children, cook, clean, and take care of other household chores. Although this expectation of these two roles have changed in today's society, discrimination toward women have become more evident.

Gender inequality exists everywhere in the Unites States, especially socially. Because of this inequality, stereotypes began to emerge. These stereotypes limit women in society because they are afraid of being labeled. Feminist activist Betty Friedan states, “The problem that has no name — which is simply the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human capacities — is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease.” If a woman takes on a more masculine role in society, she is considered a "dyke" or "tomboy". If a woman takes on a more feminine role in society, she is considered "girly" "uppity". Women who take on the more feminine role are usually praised or admired for doing so. By taking on this role, women are seen as more womanly. If a woman decides to partake in manly activities, such as certain sports, she is not considered as womanly. Physical appearance also plays a role in these stereotypes. These stereotypes develop due to the pictures that society paints of the ideal woman. 

These stereotypes influence the roles that women choose to play in society. Jobs also influence stereotypes. If an "uppity" woman works a job that is seen as mainly for males, she would be seen as "bitchy". This stereotype applies to women in politics as well. If a "tomboy" woman works a job that is seen as mainly for males, she will still be discriminated against.

The Portrayal of Women in American Society

American society has made significant progress concerning gender equality. We have come a long way since the solely domestic stigma that was forced upon women; but gender equality is still a pressing issue. Women are still objectified and seen as inferiors to men. John Berger, author of Ways of Seeing sums up the representation of women in Western culture. He states,"Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object—and most particularly an object of vision: a sight." Based on Berger's thoughts, men possess total power and dominance over women in American society, women act and think accordingly to a man's recognition of them. Women are portrayed in the media as just assets of men. The objectification of women has perpetuated stereotypes along with rape culture and this embodiment has developed into a norm in American culture.

Women are perceived as commodities in Western advertisements. In this Gucci ad, the woman featured is shown lying down provocatively across the man's lap, while he is positioned in a "power pose" with his hand on the woman's body. This ad perfectly summarizes the way women are portrayed in today's culture. The ideology that woman are just tools controlled by and for men is perpetuating rape culture by showing that it is acceptable and normal for men to have power and superiority over women.  Woman are merely accessories to men, never independent beings. Advertisements, like this one shown, are never challenged, and if the the roles in this ad were reversed, it would look ridiculous to have a man in the hands of a woman. The dehumanizing nature of this ad is not questioned because of the "men act and women appear" mentality that has been ingrained into our society.

This advertisement for WAD magazine is in celebration of the company's 10th anniversary. It can be assumed from the ad that the company is going to commemorate their achievement with a "piece of ass." This advertisement emphasizes the woman's body, everything above the shoulders is cropped out, as to dehumanize her. This perpetuates the idea that women are men's property, further bolstering the horrible existence of rape culture. Again, "men act and woman appear," men are the ones who are celebrating their efforts while women are portrayed as the prizes.

On paper, it may seem that gender equality is prevailing in American society; women can vote, women attend college and grad school, and many women hold career positions that are equivalent to men. Yet, Western culture is plagued with gender inequality. Women are still advertised as objects and men portrayed as powerful and successful. There is so much more to be done on the topic of gender equality. In retrospect, American society has made progress, but it has yet to develop into a culture that values women just as much as men.

Why Men Act and Women Appear but Neither Do it Perfectly

John Berger's claim that "men act and women appear" is true in the sense that it takes autonomy from women and gives freedom, along with imposed responsibilities, onto men. The trade is naturally unequal in man's favor, but it fails to articulate the metaphor even further to argue that it's not a completely one sided issue; some men suffer from being looked upon to act and most if not all women suffer from being expected to appear. These duties are expected due to tradition, reinforced through media, and only completely understood by experience.
The expectation of women to present themselves without contributing to any topic at hand has been around in many cultures since the beginning of modern society. In the U.S, it was already established by the time Europeans first set foot on American soil. Without voting rights, which were only given less than 100 years ago, women lacked a voice in government. Before then, during the 19th century, the cult of domesticity was created which is essentially Berger's thesis at its strongest, put in terms that make sense given the conservative social climate of the time period. Although women were not expected to appear sexy, there was a high standard for what made a women pure. Women during this time had no part in economic or troubles involving jobs; those were jobs for men. A woman also was not considered decent if she had sex outside of marriage. Women's role in society was to stay at home as a beacon of purity for men to return from the gritty outside world to and regain their strength.
Over the times this notion has evolved to where the same dynamic exists but the expectations have changed slightly. The sex-crazy times of today are enforced by music about the importance of sex, fictional works displaying the importance of sex, and even the ironically unimportant school-age competition of having the most sex. In these conditions, women are expected to appear suitable, attractive, or capable, while men judge their ability to have these qualities by looking at them. Women are no longer expected to appear pious and moral. Instead they are supposed to appear desirable in any way. Since sex is such a hot topic at this point in time, attractiveness is really the key factor, when this claim proves true, for determining whether a woman is desirable for sex, a job, a conversation, a friend, and more. I once asked my female friend what girls look for in guys and she responded with personality characteristics when I was expecting physical ones, as that is typically what men talk about regarding what they look for in women. Men can do whatever they want to get your attention but if a woman sits still, looks pretty, and doesn't open her mouth, many times these two are seen as having equal footing.
Obviously this hurts women's ability to think for herself. I can infer that after being viewed as an object for so long the average girl begins to see herself as nothing but a pretty face, making the "women appear" phenomenon a sad self-fulfilling prophecy. However, being male, I cannot elaborate on this claim without assuming too much about the culmination of thousands of unique experiences of women in the United States. What I can do is provide examples from the male perspective of why, although being allowed to 'act' is a good thing, men are sometimes subjected to high expectations as well.
I'm not suggesting that the male experience is as bad or worse than the female's, simply that neither side wins in this issue. Berger phrased his thesis as if men are given freedom and therefore "win" over women who aren't given it. However, in the experiences of myself and some of my close friends, while women sit and look pretty, men have to do all the do-ing, mainly when it comes to sex and success. One friend I have complained on a regular basis to me about how little he cares about sex despite how much his girlfriend did. Every time he went to her house he would show her some movie he wanted to share with her but she was only interested in appearing desirable to him. Once or twice he openly stated that he didn't feel like having sex and his girlfriend kept prodding him until he gave up. When discussed with our other friends they responded thinking he was joking, thinking it was ludicrous that a guy would ever opt to not have sex. Men are also expected to be successful. This is in one way a good thing as it implies that men are capable of becoming successful. When a women doesn't become rich and famous it's seen as normal, which is a sad truth in itself, but when a man fails to do so, he's seen as a failure of the gender. Of course not all experiences fit perfectly into the mold, but the claim that "men act and women appear" would be more accurate if it made the argument that men are seen as tools in addition to the argument that women are seen as objects.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Gender Inequality - Oversexualization of the Female Body

Although Western culture may like to think that gender equality is gained by right to vote, the oversexualization of women’s bodies in the media prevents equality of the sexes in our misogynistic society. As John Berger said, “men act and women appear.” In analyzing the abundant objectification of women’s bodies in our pop culture, this statement speaks volumes to the gender inequality in America. The oversexualized female body in advertisements causes a woman to turn herself into an a “sight,” which in turn strips her of her humanity.

The sexualized female body can be seen anywhere from album covers to billboards to bus stops. Due to the plethora of these types of images, from a young age both males and females are taught to scale a woman’s worth down to her physical size, shape, and attractiveness. Berger states that men look at women, and in turn women watch themselves being looked at. Similar to the James Bond gaze that sexualizes a woman’s body on screen through the eyes of a heterosexual male, the portrayal of women’s bodies in advertisements focuses on long legs, curvy hips, a slim waist, and perfect breasts.  When a society becomes so obsessed with the oversexualization of the female body as promoted by these ads, a woman is forced to “appear” instead of “act.” The man in turn is encouraged to "act," as it is his role to observe these objectified female bodies all around him. As the term coined by Berger, a woman must “appear” to fit societal norms, yet men can simply "act" as themselves. Until the oversexualized female body is no longer used to market products, gender equality cannot yet exist. The objectification of the female body through advertisements perpetuates gender inequality, and teaches woman and girls to value appearance over intellect.

We are so habituated to seeing only the female body objectified, that it is shocking when the a man's body is portrayed in the same way. How many times have you seen a woman in an advertisement wearing a bikini holding a product unrelated to swimwear and haven’t thought twice about it? Imagine seeing a billboard with a man posed provocatively wearing a speedo promoting an unrelated product such as cleaning supplies or a cereal brand? Sounds a bit unfamiliar, right? Recent feminist campaigns have created “role reversal” ads to counteract the sexist stereotypes of females in advertisements. The results were shocking - many of the “role reversed” male ads seem extremely awkward, even uncomfortable to look at. In our culture we were so used to seeing only the female body portrayed as a sex object. When these gender roles are reversed, it seems unnatural to us which can be accounted to Berger’s theory that women “appear” and men “act.”

Due to the prevalence of objectified women's bodies in the media, girls are taught to view themselves as objects since an extremely young age. Simultaneously, boys grow up unconsciously learning that girls exist to be looked at and admired. The media lacks positive female inspiration unrelated to physical appearance, and that may be detrimental to future generations. As long as these gender reversed ads appear as absurd, females will continue to "appear" while males are permitted to "act." Until the oversexualized and objectified female body ceases to be an obsession in pop culture, we cannot claim gender equality.

Social Reform Is Necessary

History has proven that breaking down social barriers is no easy feat.  To completely abolish a social barrier is to change a society as a whole from the inside out.  One of these social barriers is gender equality, and the fight for this equality has been raging for centuries.  There is no denying that the world has come a long way on the road to giving equal opportunities to all, but we are definitely not out of the woods yet.  This is because the ideals of yesteryear seem to rule how society functions today.  The author of Ways of Seeing, John Berger, makes this apparent when he states, "men act and women appear."  In current society, relations between men and women are dictated by the actions of a man, and the appearance of a woman.  If Berger's statement is indeed true, then American culture cannot continue to be ruled by this way of interacting between sexes, because it only hinders society's progress to achieving the goal of equality on gender lines.

The most apparent situation in which the statement "men act and women appear" is true is in romantic relationships between men and women.  For decades, the customary form of beginning a relationship is the male asks the female out on a date.  What must be analyzed here is all that goes on before the male says anything to the female.  First, the female has to get herself noticed by the male -- this is her way of appearing. Then, the male has to notice the female and decide what to do in the matter -- this is his way of acting.  What this classical interpretation of a relationship creates are the gender roles that have become very familiar to much of American society.  If one of the biggest parts of the human experience, relationships, are dictated by men acting and women appearing, then society as a whole will follow suit.

Entertainment media in America plays a big part in furthering the ideal that "men act and women appear".  In some of the the biggest movie franchises of all time, men are given the roles of the savior and hero, while women are most often portrayed as objects or trophies.  This is the case in countless action movies, and in the quite recognizable James Bond films.  These films are widely distributed and beloved around the world, which means that all around the globe, gender roles are being heavily enforced in something that is meant to bring simple entertainment.  The problem is not necessarily with the Bond franchise itself, but that there is no adequate female equivalent that has the same cultural impact.  There is no sense of equality in modern media in America, which once again pushes society away from any positive reform.

Another profound statement that Berger makes is, "The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female."  This is intriguing because it creates a distinction about how women see themselves.  This statement asserts that in order to appear, a woman must survey herself with the mindset of a male.  In other words, for females to foster a successful relationship with a male, they must adopt a male gaze.  This takes away from the agency of the female, as they are put into a box by this male-dominated ideology.  If society is going to move forward from this current state, the male gaze has to be abolished.  This would effectively restore agency to females, and hopefully lead to a better sense of gender equality in our society.

As a culture, we have made leaps and bounds towards equality in this modern era, but we are nowhere near finished with the struggle yet.  One only needs to see the wage gap between men and women, or the disparities between the sexes in depictions throughout popular culture to realize that.  This means that, sadly, the reality that Berger described is true, although it does not have to continue to define out society.  If social restraints can be broken and reformed, then there is hope for an equal American society and a culture that fosters equality.

Ways of Seeing: Subjects vs Objects

Since hunter-gatherer societies, women had the dominate role in family life, providing most of the food. Up until plow agriculture society, we see a shift from matriarchal dominance to patriarchal dominance. With this shift, came different cultural responsibilities. Although women should be seen in society as equals to men, often their roles in society are marginalized primarily by men, and they are seen as objects while men are seen as the subjects.

Berger argues that "Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at." Men have a tendency to look at women and sexualize them, thus deeming them as objects. When men sexualize women they are looking at only their physical appearance. Their intellectual aspects are not being taken into account. For example, we see the male gaze as a prime demonstration of the sexualization of women. Even in movies, when a female enters the scene, often the camera angle is shot from toe to head. Additional effects like slow music or wind blowing her hair contribute to the sexualization of women and how men view them from the male point of view. Furthermore, the use of women as "badges" also prove that men demean the role of women to objects. In a patriarchal society, men are competing to show who has more power. If your female partner is attractive and good looking with the "trophy wife" characteristics, men brag about this to other males. By bragging about the attractiveness of a female partner, men are demeaning the importance of women, as if their only role is to be the best looking object they can be. When males objectify women, they are taking away their agency, a key component of being a subject.

While men marginalize the roles of women, they simultaneously upgrade their role to be the subjects in society. In a patriarchal society, males feel the need to constantly be masculine and prove their masculinity. They look to the female counterpart to cater to the needs of theirs. For example, when males come home from work, they expect the women to have dinner prepared, the house clean, and everything in order. Everything revolves around the male. With patriarchal dominance comes the center role that males assume. Similar to the house-wife stereotype, men make themselves superior to women by assigning them the responsibilities they don't want. For example, women have been known to be the child care givers in families. Men refuse to do the domesticated work in order to prove their masculinity. For example, when a man says, "You should really change the diaper, I'm not good at it," he is centering gender roles around himself, deeming himself as the object. By centering society around the male gender, men are continuing to contribute to patriarchal gender roles, which is problematic because it further narrows the gender binary and doesn't effectively represent the capabilities of women.  

Even though Berger argues that women are the ones objectifying themselves, men primarily contribute to the oppression of women through sexualization, objectifying, assigning inferior roles to women, and assuming the centering roles for themselves. The power and control men have in a male chauvinism society marginalizes the role of women without conveying their important impacts on society.

The Inequalities Outside of Algebra

For centuries, American women have always been viewed inferior due to certain expectations that debilitate their capabilities. Unfortunately, today’s society continues to follow the same mindset. Gender inequality in the U.S. exists not only politically, but also socially and economically. Alas, every aspect of American culture and media portray numerous stereotypes of women. As Betty Friedan describes, gender inequality is an epidemic that infects this country’s progress. In order for the U.S. to advance forward, we must put an end to the obstacles that prevent women from fulfilling their capabilities and the objectification of women as a whole. 

To this day, there still exists many derogatory stereotypes that reduce women to objects, or place prejudice against any woman who shows power or independence. Such stereotypes create a mold of the “ideal female features” and pressure women of all age to succumb. In doing so, our society then reduces females’ potential to being the inferior sex, whose sole purpose is to appeal to men and repopulate the planet. Furthermore, the media is a large component in the spread of such ideals. For example, in a Revlon makeup commercial featuring Halle Berry, she claims that the use of such product will allow you to “get close, real close”. Following the close-ups of her face, Halle is then in multiple shots with a male model who is admiring her appearance up close. This particular commercial especially targets a female audience, and is branding it the product that can finally smooth the skin to make women more appealing to men. Unfortunately, sexist stereotypes do not stop at makeup commercials, but instead, dominate American culture, everything from movies to magazines to music.

The concept of inadequacy of females has been ingrained in American society for centuries, and has still prevailed. Although women have had historical triumphs in paving a path in a “man’s world” such as gaining the right to vote, America lacks ever having a female leader, and also has a severe scarcity of women holding positions of high power. Not to mention the fact that women (even more so for women of color) receive lower pay for the same job than men. To be exact, white women earn 78 cents to the white man’s dollar, 63 cents for an African American woman, and 54 cents for a Latina or Hispanic woman. How can a nation considered to be so innovative and free allow such obstacles for women’s equality to exist?

Even as young children, we are exposed to our culture’s fundamentals of sexism. Girls are told the romanticization of being a damsel in distress or common fairy tales in which the female ends up marrying her prince and that is her purpose. In society there needs to be representation of strong and independent females whose life does not revolve around a guy. Sexism is so deeply-rooted in American society to the point where movies and tv shows are a play on the heroic male figure with the beautiful female whose character is never as fully developed. How can our society be content with teaching young children to fit into these traditionalist stereotypes rather than pave a path for themselves?

As stated by feminist activist, Betty Friedan,“The problem that has no name — which is simply the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human capacities — is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease.” Together, this society must pull efforts in order to create a better future for women to succeed.

Finding a Balance

John Berger fights to voice his opinions on gender roles in his writing piece titled, Ways of Seeing. He classifies women as being those who appear in society, while men are those who act. Berger explains how women constantly focus on others' perceptions of them. He also emphasizes the importance of appearance for both genders. Men, he says, show off their power and dominance in society, while women dress and act in a way that shows how they value themselves. While I agree that women have been taught to worry about the way that other people, specifically men, view themselves, I also think that society tends to overlook the powerful women and the weak men. 

There are a few examples that Berger uses in order to support his theory, including a simple scenario of a female walking across a room. He says that the girl only thinks about how others see her as she crosses the room. I, myself, follow Berger's previously stated example. Whenever I do certain actions, particularly in front of a crowd, I find myself thinking about how others view me doing those actions. I am not entirely sure that I agree with Berger, however, because I am not completely convinced that those thoughts and emotions are present solely due to the fact that I am a female. Though the non-dominant role that females are given probably plays a part in those thoughts, there is a chance that I feel that way because of my age or other factors. 

Berger describes the female in ways that are similar to a manikin, in the sense that she is constantly looked at and her appearance is modified for the benefit of her viewers. There have been many circumstances in modern day America where women's physical appearances were adjusted in order to look more aesthetically pleasing. There have been many problems with women models, because of the lack of "plus size" girls. Some companies even promised to open a plus-size section of their store, yet the model for the clothing was far from overweight. 

This upcoming election has raised a lot of awareness because of the chance at our first female president. While I believe that it would be very empowering to have a woman run the country, I also fear that the power of the president could be diminished since woman are seen as inferior. Berger would argue that Hilary would act in ways in order to please the men, such as Bill Clinton, who was already president which could take away from her glory and the progress that our country has made. 

Overall, women are grown up to believe that they must fit certain molds in order to be seen as beautiful or successful. Though Berger thinks that the reasons women act in particular ways is simply due to gender, I believe that other aspects play a role, and that males can feel inferior as well, even if they do not express it. It is important to focus on gender equality and boosting the self esteem and respect for both genders and how they interact with each other. 

We Are All Human

¨As you become more successful, the gender barrier disappears. The credibility challenges you have during your growing up years starts disappearing when you start demonstrating success.¨ Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw once stated. I was not surprised when I found that Shaw was not American, but was speaking from the perspective of living in India. Unfortunately, this quote does not hold true to American culture. In America, a woman in a respectable job position gets paid less than what a man in the same position gets paid. Why does the gender barrier disappear in India, but remains prevalent in America?
In my opinion, America has developed a firm ideology that men are the bread winners. The man should be the one to support and supply in the relationship. Men may even feel ashamed if they do not provide as much in the relationship, because of how important income is to one´s manhood. I understand that when someone does not pull their weight in a group or partnership, they tend to feel unsatisfied or disappointed in his or herself. However, if the weight is being pulled, no matter who is pulling more of it, both contributors are credited for their efforts made. I find it pathetic that a man can not credit a woman´s success simply because they are making less money than she is. 
In today´s society, I feel that women are able to compete with men. I believe that in previous generations, and in other cultures, a girl is raised to search for a husband that will ¨take care¨ of her. A man who takes care of a woman is typically parallel to that of a man that makes a substantial amount of money. However, I think that in the present day, young American girls are brought up to be more independent. 
In conclusion, success is success. Usually linked with money, success should be credited to whomever earns it. America fails treat men and women equally which is apparent in the wages that each sex earns. Coincidentally, America´s failure to do so is aligned with the values of manhood. Our culture revolves around men maintaining power. Women are capable of power and should not have to be concerned with hurting a man´s sense of manhood. We are all human beings and should be treated equally.

Robbed By Society

It seems that the movement for gender equality has made impressive gains in the past century through the 19th Amendment in 1920, through which women gained the right to vote. It also seems, however, that gender inequality continues to be ingrained in American culture and society. John Berger, author of Ways of Seeing furthers this view. He writes, “men act and women appear.” By this statement, John Berger means to show how men still play a dominant role in American society, in that men act towards women in a certain way, and women act as passive subjects to this action. In this way, women are forced into a certain passivity by various facets of society, and placed in an inferior position in comparison to men, who able to act with much more agency.

One way in which women are seen to “appear” is society is through the media and entertainment. There are countless examples of movies, especially action movies, that only portray women for their sexuality and body, while men receive much more substantive roles. Some examples include the James Bond Movies and Scarlett Johanssen as Black Widow in The Avengers, to name a few. Furthermore in movies such as Sicario, the female character is constantly making mistakes and always seems to have a feeling of uncertainty, while the male characters are the ones who are portrayed as certain and ultimately tell the female character what to do. In this way, women do “appear’” but do not “act” in way that would make them equal to how men are portrayed. While it might be a little extreme to say that women are entirely robbed of their agency in movies, although this may true for a few films, women characters are usually portrayed as inferior and passive objects in comparison to the male characters that they interact with.

The passivity to which women are subjected to by American society is also apparent in social media and popular culture. Most people have probably seen the line “Go make me a sandwich woman,” paired with some sort of picture. Although, admittedly, this phrase is probably intended as a joke, it still shows evidence of what should be seen as antiquated thinking about the roles of women in American society. Phrases like these are common throughout social media and underscore the blatantly false idea that women serve men. Furthermore, advertisements that we are bombarded with everyday, promote the view that women are merely passive subjects of a man’s actions by portraying women as objects, robbing them of agency, and giving them only appearance.

Outside of entertainment and popular culture, the idea of “men act and women appear” is also apparent in the discrimination of women in the workforce. Besides a wage gap between men and women of 21 percent, most fields seem to be male dominated, which makes it much harder for women to secure a job. Furthermore, the social stigma that women are to be bastions of the household and take a leading role in taking care of children add another dimension to finding a job that men do not usually encounter. With this in mind, it can be seen that women are placed in an inferior position to men when it comes to the workplace.

John Berger seems to have correctly described the way American society still holds, less obvious, but equally injurious inequalities concerning gender when he wrote “men act and women appear.” Time and time again we see the pervasive realities of gender inequality in this country. We need look no farther than our own school and the debate concerning the graduation dress versus the cap and gown. Whatever the case may be, it is important that we be cognizant of the existence of the inequality and attempt to understand it, so that we may work to fix this problem that is so deeply rooted in American culture and society.

Society Doesn't Provide a lot of Choice

In today’s society, women are often glorified and praised for the “amazing victory” in their fight against social equality injustice. Since the early twentieth century, women have built momentum to establish suffrage, guarantee equal educational rights, and pursue careers. However, as in modern America, while women are shown as “confident” individuals, women are often portrayed to be a glowing and an eye-striking object. Magazines target young women and produce an unrealistic image of what women must aspire to be. Moreover, companies’ advertisements use the unrealistic image not only to sell a product, but to promote a culture that will further harm women’s efforts to prominently advance in society. Society is a combination of all distinct parts of American pop culture; a system in which women are stuck to the types of burdens that may force women to unconsciously assume roles of earlier time periods. Despite women’s recent historical triumphs, modern American women still experience the unrelenting pressure and objectifying societal oppression to revert to original social functions.

Women are usually subject to several forms of pressure society creates. Gloria Steinem, a leader of a modern women’s rights movement, once stated, “I've yet to be on a campus where most women weren't worrying about some aspect of combining marriage, children, and a career. I've yet to find one where many men were worrying about the same thing.” Here, Steinem expresses her concern for the state of welfare a woman struggles to cope through in today’s society. Women have to conquer all; From juggling a full-time career, to a stay-at-home mother, women must live up to the high expectations. These daily important “promises” women must face add additional stress to one’s life. Women are still perceived to be the primary caretakers; they are required to balance a job to support one’s family and at the same time smoothly operate the household. Additionally, Steinem emphasizes the pressure a woman has to marry and birth children. Even in twentieth-first century, this original motive of a woman’s purpose is still prominent. Her concern alone demonstrates how the norm for women has not changed tremendously. Surrounding young women in this type of culture proves only to damage their perception of self-worth and for a woman to give in to her standard domestic ideals.

Furthermore, some men believe that since they are not women, they do not have the responsibility to deal with the problems surrounding women. Many men often overlook the problems of women, as modern society has created a place for men to be deemed “safe” from any female influence. For example, women still are not payed as much as men in jobs; women only obtain 79% of what men earn. Despite countless actions to rally behind this type of affirmative action, women fail to meet the earnings of men. It is outrageous for women to compromise this inequity. Women may then think that because they do not earn as much as men, it is unfair and pointless for them (to work as hard and then not receive such compensation) to continue on with their work. Ultimately, the gap between pay wages gives women another discouragement to abandon their cause (more so than to motivate). These states of disappointments additionally cause the slow progression and lack of motivation to move forward. Society provides women with a "solution" to return to their domestic/sex objects ideals that has dominated America the past two hundred years.

Moreover, the societal portrayal of women through different outlets of media cause women to be controlled and oppressed. In an US Weekly magazine publication, Michelle Obama is victim to the stereotypical mother role. The title depicts ‘why Barack loves her’ and how she ‘shops at target.’ US Weekly displays Obama’s motherly features but does not give any regard or power towards Obama’s earlier success in life. Popular modern magazines reinforce the nurturing aspect of women and do not give much credit to any sufficient amount of success in a woman’s life. In addition, other magazines targeted towards men, such as Sports Illustrated, displays women in an unfortunate way. The swimsuit edition includes a full title page of a women dressed in a skimpy bikini. These women are trained to be sex objects for the entire American audience. Young women will most likely see such representation and figure that to be a sex object is a woman's man goal in life. Magazines cannot have such depictions because the image revealed from doing so limits women's options to be seen differently from the rest of America.

Furthermore, in Gucci’s commercial for its perfume, Bamboo, a woman wears revealing clothing while mysteriously whispering into a man’s ear. The woman then begins to have control over the man with her increasingly promiscuous clothing and mystifying eye glances. This commercial supports the woman as a seductress and does not give much chance for the woman to have a voice. Countless commercials similar to Gucci's are made and repeatedly bolster the condescending societal views. Women are often torn apart for their image and do not stand much chance unless society permits opportunities to seek escape from the atrocious disrespect. The underlying layers of today's modern society proves that little change has occurred from prior eras of women's rights movements.

Although the past couple hundred years has been full of effort to secure sex equality, the efforts are often dismissed and discouraged. Women do have the power and the supreme, concentrated motivation to instill true and equal beliefs in societal opinions. I believe that as time goes on, women’s status in society will eventually progress. Additionally, I believe that together we can break these stereotypes that overhang women. Women have the potential to improve extensively, and will continue on to fight endlessly until the ultimate goal is reached. 

Men Act and Women Appear

Although the United States would like to think that sexism in an issue of the past, the imprint of misogyny is ingrained into Western culture. Women in the United States, today, are no longer denied the right to vote or prohibited from participating in sports, but twenty-first century sexism is much harder to detect. Gender inequality, however, pervades every aspect of Western culture. According to John Berger in his Ways of Seeing, "men act and women appear." Berger was not undermining the achievements of women, but, instead, describing how women are viewed compared to their male counterparts. Because the importance of appearance is instilled so strongly in women, society impedes women from asserting authority over men. This impediment leads to the objectification of women in media that sets unattainable standards of femininity masculinity.

The feminine ideal of passiveness affects women in the job market and their ability to exhibit their achievements. A main point of Bernie Sanders' campaign in this presidential election is the wage discrepancy between men and women. According to studies, women make 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. This fact is often misunderstood, however. Generally, men and women are paid the same income for the same job. The income disparity comes from the higher likelihood of men to negotiate for raises or better benefits. These facts are not indicative of intentional sexism from business owners, but of the expectation of female passivity. Women are not expected to negotiate, debate or counter, but to idly agree with their male colleagues. In my experience in elementary school, if a girl was to assert her opinions, she was described as "bossy." If a boy took the same action as a leader, he would not experience negative repercussions. From a young age, therefore, women are conditioned to refrain from assertiveness and to value silence over sharing their true opinions. A woman, instead of exhibiting her intelligence, is concerned with the way she will be perceived as a leader.

Women are not only expected to be passive, but also are treated as objects in various forms of media. In almost all action movies, the lead character is a man who has seemingly superhuman abilities. These heroes are contrasted by a stale female character whose primary role is to exhibit her ideal female body. She lacks any depth or noticeable talents besides her sexual allure. This portrayal of women, that garners millions of dollars in box offices, represents how women are seen in society. Additionally, women are not allowed to be old in movies, television and other forms of media, because they lose their sexual appeal with age. Men, however, are valued for more than their appearance, and can still be renowned actors in their advanced age. This inequality was shown in Star Wars: The Force Awakens when many people scrutinized Carrie Fischer's looks. Yet, this scrutiny was hypocritical because Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill also returned as older characters, but were not subject to the same criticism.

The sexual appeal of the female body in media pressures women to alter their natural appearance. To be a socially acceptable Western woman, she must shave, wear makeup and exercise frequently to stay thin. My sister told me that at her college, the University of Washington, the school recently created a separate weight gym for women. My sister had conflicting opinions on the new gym because she did feel intimidated when she was in the weight gym that was dominated by men, but she wished more women would lift when they exercised. She said it annoyed her that while men work out to bulk up and gain muscle, women just work out to lose weight and stay thin. I never realized the implication of comparing how men and women exercise to gender roles in the United States. As John Berger said, "men act and women appear."

The idea that "men act and women appear" is not to undermine the accomplishments of women, or to say that all women are passive to their own oppression. Women have always actively opposed sexism, from George Sand to Frances Perkins, but surreptitious forms of misogyny is prevalent in the representation of women in Western culture. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Slowly But Surely Wins the Race

2016 has the potential to make history for many reasons, one of the most prominent being the very real possibility of having the first female president. This has given rise to a nation-wide discussion on gender roles, feminism, and women’s rights. This is definitely not the first time in American history that feminism has gained traction; in fact, it is usually seen as third (or even fourth) wave feminism. The early waves of feminism focused directly on problems that were blatantly wrong in society (such as the right to vote). In more recent years, however, the focus of the feminist movement has shifted away from more obvious issues and has begun to attack the underlying, oppressive ideals still visible in society today. Although most of the oppressive dominant ideologies surrounding women in society are not consciously practiced by the large majority, lasting remnants of these ideals can be seen in the inequality which women in America face on a daily basis.

One of the most prominent examples of this underlying bias is in the inequalities between men and women in the workforce. During the early feminist movements, this inequality was obvious; women were simply told not to work outside the home because the “public sphere” was for men. Today, this inequality is not so obvious, and in fact, some women (and men) do not realize it exists. In today’s society it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to work outside the home, and it is even encouraged and promoted. Unfortunately, even though most women feel that they can work outside the home without being ridiculed for it, women also feel that it will be harder for them to succeed in society, because the workplace itself is unequal. For starters, the average woman in America gets paid 79 cents to every male dollar. This is a blatant appearance of inequality, yet it is too often overlooked because people do not realize it exists. Those who do can sometimes be discouraged from putting in their maximum effort because they know no matter how hard they try, they will still be rewarded less than their male counterpart. Another problem with the workforce is the imbalance of women to men in certain jobs, particularly those involving engineering or computer science. The ratio of men to women is startlingly high in these professions, which leaves both a bad and good impression on women. On one side, it is somewhat daunting to enter an occupation dominated by men, but on the other, this imbalance has led to an increase in demand for women interested in these professions, making it more likely for them to get a job. Unfortunately, this inequality can still deter women from entering the workforce out of fear of seeming hypermasculine or bossy.

Another aspect of bias in American society is that revolving around women participating in sports. These days, no one openly rejects the thought of a girl participating in a sport; just like working outside the home, it is now encouraged. This support, however strong it may be, does not diminish the fact that women’s athletics simply are not given the support and funding that men’s are. For example, at my school, the football team (which consists of all males), is by far the most promoted sport in the building. Almost all resources are devoted to spreading the word about football games during the fall season, and the same goes for basketball (and somewhat baseball) during the winter and spring. There is next to no publicity for any girls sport, during any season. This creates an air around girls sports that they are not as legitimate and are not as important, which can be discouraging toward high school girl athletes. This inequality can also be seen on a national scale. It is rare to see coverage of a women’s game or tournament on prime tv, but a men’s football or baseball game is a normal occurrence. This inequality dampens young girls from striving to achieve great things in athletics, because once again, they know they will not be as rewarded for their efforts as their brothers will be. 

A third aspect of daily life that women often feel constricted within is sexuality. Whether it is wanting to wait until marriage to have sex, or having the agency to have sex as much as she wants, women are almost always portrayed in a negative way. A woman who wants to wait is often portrayed by the media as prudent and even rude, while a woman who is sexually open is portrayed as slutty and a whore. These appearances make women feel as though their sex lives are something to be kept a complete secret, out of fear of being publicly ridiculed. On the contrary, men who want to wait to have sex are portrayed as innocent and cute, and if they are open about their sex lives, they are uplifted and even praised for it. This is a clear inequality that oppresses women and makes them feel ashamed to have natural human desires.

The fight for gender equality is far from over, but it has come a long way since it started. Now that women in American society have the tools to attack the deeply-rooted stereotypes that are engraved in the large majority’s minds, even more substantial progress can be made. Equality, however, will never be fully achieved unless women feel that they have the same capabilities, success rates, and freedom that men do.

What if it was you?

The female experience for the modern woman may have gotten more equal and/or bearable throughout the years, but by no means is it equal to that of a man's. Objectification is a huge factor of why women are not seen as equals; women are seen as objects, in the eyes of most men. As of very recently, I have identified myself as a feminist, although I never really understood the extent to which women truly suffer because of this objectification. I recently came upon a gem, a short film which asks a simple question to men: what if it was you?

Oppressed Majority is a video that very expertly flip-flops society, putting women into the position of social and economic power, and follows around a man during a day of his life. The events of the video are slightly NSFW: to portray the common man running without his shirt on, the women joggers are not wearing shirts, and there are slight levels of violence. As the man's day progresses, the events become more and more morally troubling, starting at slightly disturbing and eventually ending at a level of the complete violation of rights.

The video begins with the man walking down the street with his son, getting a few comments from women passing by, ranging from "keep smiling, cutie," to "lookin' good." This may seem harmless looking from the outside, but in the perspective of the man, it's weird to have strangers compliment you nonstop, which is what women today have to deal with constantly. It gets even more frustrating when the man goes to pick up his mail, and an acquaintance woman begins to talk to him about business, and stops in the middle of a sentence and says, "you know, I should probably be talking to your wife about this, huh?" This degrades the intelligence and usefulness of the man (therefore the woman in today's society), ultimately making him feel like crap.

The man eventually gets sexually and physically assaulted by a group of girls in an alley (after dropping off his son at daycare, run by a man submissive to his wife), where he afterwards goes to a police station. The policewoman interviewing him was very skeptical and/or unimpressed with his claim, even saying (with a condescending tone), "assaulted in broad daylight, with no witnesses. Who would have thought?" To which the man breaks down crying, and goes out to wait for his wife to pick him up.

After he and his sympathetic wife are leaving the station, the man seems to be severely traumatized, and then breaks down over the overly oppressing "feminist society," to which his wife scolds him for, saying "I can't stand your masculinist nonsense," and then commenting on the clothes he wears, how he may as well have been asking for it.

This video was a unique way of portraying to me, and possibly all males, what women have to deal with constantly in today's society: from sexual objectification, to physical/sexual harassment, to not being taken seriously, and everything in-between. This video has made me realize the true horrors of objectification, and make me even more obligated to fight for the end of it.

Women Are Not Objects

Equality of the sexes has come a long way in American culture. The domestic idea of women is starting to become a thing of the past. However, woman are still sexualized in the media, and it has become an issue because women are being devalued. In part of John Berger's Ways of Seeing, he writes about how Western culture portrays women. The major premise is that in today's society, men act and women appear. In many aspects this is quite true to our society today. Women do only "appear", especially when it comes to the ways women are dehumanized and objectified in the media, whether it be by taking away the humanness is a woman by not showing her face, or by comparing women with objects.

In many advertisements, women are defaced, and only their bodies are shown. Many companies use a women's body in order to advertise for their product. This is quite problematic because it takes away from the human qualities of a woman, and makes it so that women are not real people. The following advertisement is for Natan which is a jewelry company. 

This ad does not show the woman's face, which dehumanizes the woman, but it also shows an inanimate object controlling the woman, which is making women equivalent to an object. The fact that the woman's face is not shown only perpetuates the idea that women are not people. By defacing her, she is even less of a person. The woman in this ad is only appearing, because she is allowing people to control her, and not doing anything for herself. It is saying that a woman would practically sell her body for a ring. This ad is reiterating the fact that woman only appear and only do what others tell them to. The idea behind this ad is that woman are not real people, and can be controlled as a remote controls a television or other electronics, in this case the woman is equivalent to an electronic that simply obeys what others want. 

The previous ad showed women being objectified and dehumanized. When an ad objectifies a woman, it compares her to something that is inanimate. This is done in many advertisements without defacing a women, but it still has the vile effects of showing how women "only appear" in society. 
In the advertisement for Reebok, it states "Cheat on your girlfriend, not on your workout." This ad, while being completely insensitive to women in terms of relationships, it also objectifies women by comparing them to a workout. This devalues women, which is a major issue because it leads to many other problems such as the idea that women are not meant to work or be in charge. All of the issues surrounding women stem from the advertisements that portray women in a negative light. Advertisements like this implant the idea that women are not to be treated like humans. Media effects humans today more than ever, and when these advertisements are placed in all sorts of media, it reaches almost every person. Thus, people think that it is okay to treat a woman as an object. When Berger said that men do and women appear, he is correct in stating this. Women are only here to represent objects. 

Although women have come a long way, they are still dehumanized and objectified in the media. This causes women to only "appear" in society. The female body is used as something to look. In order to create a society where women are given the decency and respect that their male counterparts are given, the media needs to be regulated in a way that does not allow women to be automated.