Friday, March 11, 2016

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment