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.

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