Emma Watson, Beyonce, Amy Pohler, and Amandla Stenberg. These women enjoy fame in today’s society. Each of these women also provide a great role model to women and girls in terms of reaching out with feminism to better the world for women everywhere. And yet, what I see in magazines and media coverage mostly is someone reporting about their hair, their looks, their clothing.
The scrutiny of women in the media is extremely pervasive. Have you ever taken a look at some pictures from awards shows? A reporter might mention the designer of the tuxedo a man is wearing, but they certainly don’t pick apart the choices he makes for his hair, clothing, or jewelry. A woman is posed and paraded from the time she steps onto the carpet, and then each choice she makes is dissected by a panel of people, the so called “fashion police.”
This is because the media focuses mostly on how women look. No matter how many wonderful things a woman does, the most important thing to the media is whether she made the right choice for her dress at the Academy Awards. And this scrutiny rolls over into lives of millions of girls and women in our world. The media teaches us that when we meet another woman we should analyze her. We should find flaws in her, and we certainly should point out those flaws to the rest of the world.
A startling example of this is the scrutiny that Caitlyn Jenner has received. Now that Caitlyn has made the choice to publically live her life as a woman, the media focuses more on her looks and outfits than they do to the wonderful platform of acceptance that she is advocating for.
Example 1: The day after Caitlyn’s introduction to the world, the only things that I heard (besides negative transgender bashing) were news reports about her outfit, looks, and hair.
Example 2: D.L. Houghley made very vile comments in August about Caitlyn’s looks. Not only in an interview, but also on nationwide television. Before Caitlyn’s public transition no one talked about what she was wearing, whether or not she was attractive, or what she was doing with her hair. It was only after the tabloids caught wind that of the rumor that she was transitioning did they start talking about plastic surgery and hair. Suddenly because a man was becoming a woman, intense scrutiny of her was acceptable.
Why is it acceptable to mock and scrutinize women for their looks? It really isn’t much of a surprise. Women have been objectified since the middle ages, and probably before. They were paraded about as a means to solidify alliances through marriage. Even as times changed, women were still seen more as trophies than as people with thoughts and strength. As advertising came onto the scene, women were the ripe target for products. After all, women were the primary shoppers in the house. It was easy for advertisers to manipulate women into believing that they had to appear young and beautiful or they risked being undesirable. The objectification of women became more common and acceptable. Because of these long standing societal views, it is easy to see where the scrutiny of women comes from. And, as our world becomes more and more reliant on social media and the internet, these dreadful conditions have become worse. It is considered normalized for anonymous people to comment on a woman’s physical and mental traits. It is also standard for those people to mock women to the point of harassment.
As people interested in equality in our world, we must step up and tell the media that these practices are unacceptable. We must keep fighting for change!
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The first step is to really notice when these things are happening in our lives and stop scrutinizing others. If we can look and see where our own faults are, we have a much better understanding of when it’s happening outside of our own life.
The second step is to stop scrutinizing yourself. As a woman it is easy to look in the mirror and see your flaws. After all, we are raised to look and find every one of them. But if we can look and say “I am beautiful” then we can see the beauty more effortlessly in ourselves and in others.
The third step is to stand up and take action against the agencies that are perpetrating these terrible crimes against the women of the world. Remember that the media is only about two things, ratings and money. We need to call out advertisers and other media creators on their transgressions, and let them know that we no longer find them acceptable. Do you know of a company that exploits women for their own money making? Don’t buy their products, write letters to them explaining your unhappiness, tell people about their evils. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Melissa Anne Frank is majoring in both Women’s Studies and English Rhetoric at St Cloud State. Originally planning on completing an Associate in Arts degree, she discovered that her hunger for learning would not be satisfied with a two year degree. She plans on continuing her education with a Master’s degree and then a Doctorate. She is proud to be part of the Social Media team at the St. Cloud State Women’s Center, and she is passionate about equality for every person. Melissa also writes a personal blog called Musing with Melly on WordPress. Melissa loves reading, writing, video games, and spending time with her partner and two children.