Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Miss Representation

I once visited a church where an older man, who - I should clarify - I had never met before, asked me what I was studying at University. I told him that I was studying International Relations, which was the study of politics at the international level. He looked at me, smiled, patted my arm, and then said, "Why are you studying that? You should study Fine Arts."


I hope that you feel as offended as I was at that moment. Women everywhere are told that they are not valuable. That we are somehow less important than men. That the very way we were born, the way that we were conceived made us less important than males. I cannot - according to above male - possibly want to be involved in politics. That is ludicrous for a woman to want to do. I should be doing "fine arts," a graceful womanly type-of-thing to do.

Funny thing is - on a side note - that I actually love art. And I do sketch and do artsy stuff. But not as much as I love social justice, the environment, politics, journalism. This is what drives me. These issues make my heart flutter - they're integral to what makes me happy in life.

Everywhere, everyday, the media tells women that they are only worth as much as they look like. A woman in politics only gets attention if her pant suit is snazzy, if she's hot enough to take to bed, if she's willing to wear revealing clothing and wink at you while doing her speech. Condoleezza Rice - one of the strongest female politicians, who served as the 66th US Secretary of State - had an article written about her entitled, "Condi Rice, Dominatrix". The article said, and I quote: "Clothed all in black, she caused both fear and sexual excitement in her long, sleek, military-style coat with band collar and gold buttons, sexy short skirt, and knee-high leather boots with three-inch stiletto heels." *insert barfing noise here* She is not the only example. Look at the hyper-sexualization of Sarah Palin's political campaigns, of Hilary Clinton's campaigns, of ANY woman who tries to enter politics. Look at the pictures that are taken of them - you'll often find picture taken that showcase only their legs, often framing the picture so that their legs are open and the photo is framed on either side with them. Sending the message, of course, that they are only sexual objects.

Politics is not the only arena where women are judged based on their looks. Female journalists experience discrimination all the time, whether it be sexualization through producers putting them in short skirts, low-cut tops, making them do stupid, ditzy dance moves on set, or just blatant disregard and off-hand comments about how they cannot possibly understand certain comments because they are too naive, cute, 'girl'-y, or 'womanly' to 'get it.' What are we? Little dolls? Is that how we outnumber males 6:4 in every university in North America? We're too "naive" and "child-like"?

Or maybe it's simply just watching a movie, or a television show! It is a rarity for me to ever see a television show or a movie where there is a strong female character. A female who is not judged based on her appearance, but on her character. A female who is not head-over-heels for the first guy to "sweep her off her feet" - often literally. All these tv shows or movies show women in one of three ways:

1) Princess needing prince to save her. Something happens, male jumps in and saves the day, she swoons over his masculineness, she is weak and he is strong type deal, and then they get married. He protects her for forevermore.

2) Fighting sex toys: She is strong enough to take care of herself, and comes blasting into an area with guns a-blazing and feet a kicking. BUT, she is wearing spandex, her every move is sexualized, and the film is only generally pleasing to a male audience. Plus, she is also, somehow, generally saved by a man. Even though she shouldn't need one. Yet - as the media would tell us - we can't take care of ourselves.

3) She is only made for sex. Or is a toy. Or is better dead. This is basically found in any and every music video out there. Unfortunately, in the female singers videos too, albeit there are a few singers with some self-respect to not play to the sex toy demands. She is forced to undergo botox, plastic surgery, etc. to look PERFECT. Flawless or nothing, because that's the only way that a woman gains her value in television. Women wear basically nothing at all, or if they do, just enough to get away with showing the video on television without it begin banned. Hey, why not throw in some nooses around their necks, while we're making them virtually no clothing? They can be sexy AND dead in our music videos now! Not offensive at all, right?

Here's the thing: This is the world that my future daughter is going to grow up in. This is the world that I am trying to make my place in. Yet where can a young woman turn to find a representation of strength, of confidence, of self-assurance? Where can a woman find respect for her accomplishments, for her character, for her life choices, rather than praise for her body? How can she develop into a woman of strength and character when everywhere she is told that all she is good for is sex. Or her body? And then - why do we keep blaming young woman for being too promiscuous, for dressing too provocatively, for having children "at such a young age", when it's all that society says is important for females?

And moreover, how am I supposed to find a partner who will respect me as a human being, as a woman who is interested in pursuing a strong career, wants to assert herself on the same level as him, and desires a partnership in marriage, when everything society tells us is that women are inferior and are to be the sexual slaves of men? Many times, I've thought that I just want to be single, to pursue God and my career, and I don't think I'd be unhappy with that either. Right now, away from all my married and/or dating and/or engaged and/or "interested" friends, I'm quite content. No one asks me about my dating life, or tells me, "You'll find someone some day." - You know which of you has said that to someone before. (It sucks by the way, stop saying it, cause it might not happen.) I've been asked by quite a few people how many kids I expect to have, or whether I'm dating anyone, or how I wish my wedding day to look like.

You know people, maybe it's not even something I'm really interested in. Try to think about that - maybe a woman does NOT want a man. Maybe she is, in fact, happy alone. And why shouldn't she be? Maybe I just want to be single - and that would be enough. And maybe I'll get married. But it's MY choice. And I don't need someone to tell me that I have to have kids. That I have to get married. That I have to find someone. Especially if you assume so because I'm a "weak" female (P.S. I'm not.)

All this to say: Be a man who recognizes a woman because of her character. Who defines beauty based on purity of heart, not on botox treatments, perfect teeth, impossibly slim waistlines, or big bulging ocean blue eyes.

Be a woman who respects herself. Be a woman who respects other woman, and supports them in whatever they do. Don't bash your sisters - we're all struggling through this same system of lies. Don't degrade yourself because you don't look like the models plastered on the front of the magazines that we see when we're in line at the cash register. Honestly, not even the models that posed for those pictures look like the models plastered on the front of the magazines that we see when we're in line at the cash register. I have chosen not to strive for that - I just strive to be happy with myself, and to be healthy. I'm not skinny. I'm not even slim. Heck, I'm a tad overweight. But that doesn't mean I suck at life. And I don't define myself by that either. Choose to love yourself. Look in the mirror and say, "Damn girl, you looking gooooooodddddd today. You've got swagger booty." And then go through and meditate on your character to see if it's just as spicy hot. If not, work on that before you head to the gym.

And now, I am finally signing off. Peace my friends!

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