05 Feb Women as Objects From the View of a Reluctant Feminist
Never had I aligned myself with the typical feminist viewpoint. I always fell in the middle of the road when it came to those political discussions, having my own unique perspective and opinions that I most often kept to myself. As I have matured, as with everything else I have opened up about through my column here, I have had changing viewpoints because of my experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I have always been about women’s rights, just not militantly so. Every woman has different opinions on how they want to handle their own body, how they raise their children, and their family vs. work life. I have tried it all, breastfed my babies, but also fed them formula. Stayed at home with my babies for 6 years, and then went back to work and juggled the work and home life as so many mothers that work outside of the home. I can’t say what is best for someone else, I only know what works best for myself and my family. Lately though, there have been a couple things I have seen in the news and a documentary I watched that fully made me cry about the state of females in our world today. Again, these end up being my emotions, my opinions and thoughts, but I felt compelled to share.
Media is my livelihood and my enjoyment. Music, film, television and the internet are all part of my everyday life, both in my personal life for enjoyment and education, and my business life with this website and our media production company. On one of the recent bitter cold weekends I was watching a documentary called Miss Representation, and it made me think, and then I watched it again a couple hours later with Todd, and it made me cry. That took me by surprise as I don’t think there was a specific part that was tearjerking, but instead it was the realization of the information that I had absorbed. The documentary is written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and showcases the fact that women are under represented in the mainstream media, and in turn lack influence and positions of power. Some of the statistics mentioned in Miss Representation are still troubling to me, did you know that women hold only 5% of clout positions in telecommunications, entertainment, publishing, and advertising; and that U.S. women continue to earn 77¢ to every dollar that men earn? As a woman who worked for a small local business that had some women leadership, it makes me wonder what the difference in pay was for males vs females in that position. Thankfully, I now am running my own business and am in charge of my own destiny and that feels so good.
In Miss Representation they also addressed other issues with the way women are represented across all media forms. Objectification of women and girls as sexual objects is rampant in advertising, to the point that I don’t think I even recognize it anymore as anything other than the status quo. Now, this is coming from someone who looks at the sexual beings that women can be and portray themselves to be, as their individual choice. I certainly have participated in this as I enjoy modeling for hobby, and of course I understand the potentially hypocritical viewpoint here, but I am a consenting adult who made the decision to model for myself. My problem is with young girls growing up thinking that what they see in magazines, in movies and online is real life. Sure, its fun to play in a fantasy world, as long as you are able to fully understand what is reality and what is fantasy (or completely airbrushed). Another disturbing statistic pointed out in Miss Representation is 53% of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies. That number increases to 78% by age 17. Sure, we all have insecurities growing up, and overly and most often wrongly judge our appearance unfairly. But how can we best teach young girls how to view themselves with the confidence necessary to grow to be happy and content with themselves, when they are surrounded by so many false representations of the female body? For starters, we can boycott products, advertisements and magazines that misrepresent females. We can teach our girls to take a stand for the change that needs to happen. You too could participate in the campaign that they are starting with Miss Representation by letting the media know: sexism won’t sell. Use #NotBuyingIt on Twitter and Instagram to challenge the misrepresentation of women and girls.
This issue with women and girls as objects also came up in the news today, with the human trafficking bust that happened Super Bowl weekend. I never really thought of human trafficking as the issue that it is, always seemed as it was so far removed from life here in a small town. That is, until I began reading up on it. The crimes against men and women who are forced into this life and made to feel as there is no escape, are mentally and physically abused. An article that came out recently shedding light on the issue of human trafficking especially around large sporting events such as the Super Bowl, was worth the read to me. A documentary on the issue will be coming out and shining a light on the fact that “Americans are trafficked by Americans to service Americans at the quintessential American event.”
Lastly, another aspect of women being treated as objects that seems to be on the morning news shows in some form or another almost weekly, is in regards to the modeling industry and how detrimental it is to a women’s sense of self and body image. An article I came across today from Vice and written by a former model was ever enlightening once again. When I wanted to be a model just before my freshman year of college, I went to one of those horrid cattle call events in a ballroom of some airport hotel where these corporate types evaluate you and try to sell you on a portfolio photo shoot. Thank god I don’t know where those photos are, because I remember them being horrendous! I walked away from my first shot at modeling being told I was too fat. Luckily I knew that was no where near the truth and decided to trash the idea of becoming a model. I was 5’7′ and 120lbs at the time, and still considered under weight by my doctors, yet I was “too fat” to be in a magazine. Fuck that! I don’t buy magazines for the most part, and I have steered clear of the gossip and celebrity websites that glorify who got fat, who is too thin, what plastic surgery is the latest and greatest. Honestly I don’t care, and I hope my daughter will do the same.
The fashion industry has irrational expectations of the size and shape of women that walk the runways for the designers during Fashion Week to the extent that a 12 year old was the hot model of the moment. Gerren Taylor was discovered at 12 and walked the runways at LA Fashion Week in 2003 for Marc Jacobs. She was the youngest model to be signed by the runway division of LA Models. Her modeling career skyrocketed to the top and came crashing down just as quick as her body changed as any females does when developing. Why are we allowing the media and corporations to dictate what they think is beautiful? We need to speak up, act up and get the message out there that beautiful comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. Model Alliance is an organization that was started by a former model, and they are making small steps in the right direction. You can read about the Model Alliance and the experiences by former model Meredith Hattam here on VICE.
We are making progress slowly but surely. I want to think positively and embrace the changes that have occurred instead of dwelling on the daunting task ahead of us. Every female has a story to tell, that involves something that another woman may be inspired by. We should all feel free to speak open and honestly about our concerns, our beliefs, even our opinions as long as we refrain from judgement. Stand tall and share your story.