Friday, March 16, 2012

An Equal Voice

"The media can be an instrument of change: it can maintain the status quo and reflect the views of the society or it can, hopefully, awaken people and change minds. I think it depends on who’s piloting the plane.”
~Katie Couric

I'm no radical, but you can call me a feminist. You can call my husband a feminist too; one of the qualities that most attracted me to him was his understanding that I am his deserving equal. I also believe that one of things that most attracted him to me was that I knew this to be true. In 2002, BJ and I mutually decided that we were ready to forge a lifelong partnership with equal voices, and that partnership has lasted nearly ten years from our first date in March 2002.

The state of social issues in this country is something that saddens both BJ and me, but perhaps especially me. As a woman I belong to a slight majority in this country, but it is a majority that does not enjoy equal representation and voice. Many argue against this, stating that the women's rights movement has come a long way and women are now equal to men in every way. It's true that the women's rights movement has certainly put some pretty important things into motion, but the truth remains that we as women are absolutely nowhere near equality in this country. It is undoubtedly true that the media's portrayal of women as sexual and subservient beings has inhibited the full potential that we hold as a group. Essentially, the voices of half of this country's citizens have been stifled to some degree, in large part because men with antiquated views hold the ownership to sources of information.

Several months ago BJ saw a trailer for a Sundance film called "Miss Representation." He came home and said I just had to see it, and he found the extended eight-minute trailer and watched it with me; afterwards I cried. You can see the shorter version of the trailer here, and I strongly encourage you to take the two minutes and watch it, particularly if you are a skeptic. Although women comprise 51% of this country, less than 20% of our country's decision-making positions belong to women (even less are CEO's). As you can see in the trailer, those women that do hold some of those key positions are often lambasted in the media as "bitches" or "ditzes" and are heavily scrutinized in terms of their physical appearances rather than their policies, ideas, and accomplishments. For instance, Condoleezza Rice, who has her doctorate and is a former Secretary of State, was photographed wearing an appropriate pair of tall black boots and was labeled a "dominatrix" on magazine covers. You have got to be kidding me. Here is the outfit she wore:
Here is the interpretation by media sources:


Unfortunately, media exposure infiltrates so deeply into most of us, and what we learn from the media as girls and women is that looks are most important. No wonder teenage girls think so! No wonder many women have shrinking expectations of themselves as they age, because they are constantly being reminded that they simply aren't valued for anything else! What an absolute crock. (I have more to say on this in my next post on this topic, also from an article that BJ found and forwarded to me.)

I'm not the hugest Katie Couric fan, but I love her quote that I began this post with. There IS a potential for change; we, as women and men, just have to realize this and take hold of the opportunities.

Food for thought. And action.

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