Some people claim that women are equal to men now. No one seems to argue the point that our position in society is much better than it has been in the past. We can vote, we can drive, hell we can work outside the home and even raise/adopt children on our own… but we still have hurdles to overcome. Not the least of which are stereotypes which we – sometimes unwittingly – perpetuate.
Women are still treated differently and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be spoken down to, overlooked, or pigeonholed by anyone just because I do not have a penis. We have a long way to go before sentences like “where else can a woman make that much money in a year?” or “I’m surprised a woman that successful is actually pretty” or “That woman is a ball-buster, her husband must be a total doormat” are never uttered again.
What started me thinking about this seriously was an article someone posted on Facebook: How to talk to little girls. I thought ‘wow, I’ve done that whole “aren’t you adorable” thing myself without even knowing it’. We’re programmed by our society to perpetuate the very social structures that hold us back. We, as females are valued first for our looks. You can’t tell me otherwise – I remember junior high and that agonizing zit, that uncontrollable hair and the not quite in fashion clothes and all that shit about how I’d only be happy by getting a boy to like me. Today girls as young as twelve are on self-imposed diets – these girls are obsessing about their looks rather than what university they may one day attend or developing their talents for music or sports because being pretty is more important. (This, in itself is a travesty, but perhaps a rant for another day.) Our magazines, movies, TV shows and even books were geared towards looking sexy and catching a man rather than establishing a career goal or changing the world. (And it seems it is still either/or – as though having a career precludes having a meaningful relationship – because sexism also implies that men are incapable of handling the possibility of being overshadowed by a successful woman, which is even more bullshit.) Granted there are several fabulous and notable exceptions in the media and I have noticed a definite trend in strong female characters these days, but many of them miss the mark of being truly equal to their male counterparts. [And no, one of those strong female characters is not, by far, poor Bella Swan.]
Have a look at this video. What do you take from it? The only scene in it that makes sense to me is the girl writing equations on the board. The rest is merely a montage of sexy young things hamming for the camera interspersed with test tubes, beakers and Bunsen burners. Equating vials of chemicals with lip gloss does not make science a girl thing. Science is a girl thing because women are just as smart as men and have a lot to contribute. I get that the point is to encourage more girls into the sciences, but it fails miserably.
Hypatia of Alexandria and Hildegard of Bingen are just two in a long list historical women who contributed to the body of medical and scientific knowledge. (I want to know why I only learned of these women in university when I learned of their male contemporaries in standard school curriculum! Is this part of some grand social control agenda? Conspiracy theorists abound who think so.)
Historically women have contributed in all aspects of the world. Politics, Warfare, Science, Medicine and Technology. But there is still the attitude that they were extraordinary rather than the norm and that has everything to do with how society viewed them as mothers and homemakers.
Our view of femininity is flawed. It’s flawed due to centuries of political and social attitudes that have been perpetuated unconsciously through our everyday reactions. The idea that women are the “weaker sex” and have been since the bible became canon. I tend to believe that it was a form of social control (probably still is) – a way to keep people in roles that served communities in that time period. Women – who are by no means weak – were meant to care for the children and contribute to the community by weaving, cooking, preserving food and other domestic things while the men – who are naturally physically stronger – hunted, battled and handled the more strenuous farm labour made easier by their greater upper body strength. (This is not to say that women are incapable of these tasks – just look at women like Khutulun as an early example of the fact.) Logically, with the advent of machines, the division of labour should have blurred – and did during the world wars and has progressed since, but our minds have not changed. We still think it’s odd when a woman drives a long-haul truck or becomes a construction worker.
In some professions, men are paid more than women are for the same position. The consensus seems to be an 18% wage gap in favour of those who sport a penis. Some jobs are just harder to get into as a woman because there is a lingering distrust that a person in a skirt can have the same “balls” as a man or that their more emotional approach to things is too ‘risky’. Gutsy women are viewed as more masculine (Why?), which can have a detrimental affect on women entering certain fields (high stakes attorneys, corporate governance and politics to name a few). Women enter into the education and medical fields than others in higher numbers, which may account for some of the disparity, but my point is that a female doctor should earn the same as a male one. A female lawyer should bring in the same paycheck as a male one. Wage should be based on competence, not genitalia. Admiration should be given for accomplishments, not looks.
And while we’re on the topic of unwittingly perpetuating stereotypes, how about how we use language? Conquering fear is referred to as “growing some balls”, a decidedly masculine slant. “Run like a girl” is another I hear a lot. These kind of things, as small as they are, perpetuate the idea that men or women are better or worse at some things than the opposite gender.
Our self confidence, as women, takes a hit very early on. Magazines photoshop us to ridiculous versions of ourselves and are believed to epitomize a beauty standard that is literally unattainable. I admire women like Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway (among others) who have decried the practice and have encouraged a healthier body image. I applaud Julia Bluhm who took on Seventeen magazine in an attempt to help alter her peers self-esteem by presenting its readership with images of “real girls”.
I’d like the world to celebrate our strengths rather than focus on our weaknesses. Here’s to real girls and successful, smart women. Let’s keep the ball rolling towards a world where we are appreciated for our insights, contributions and accomplishments for what they are without consideration of our gender.
Listening to: Lady Aretha
Reading: Marina Nemat – Prisoner of Tehran
Drinking: Pomegranate and Blueberry Juice
Word Count: 2170