Thursday, March 10, 2016

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.

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