Monday, May 14, 2007

Losing the Vision

This is extremely long, but very worth the read. Get some coffee, and get comfortable... I'll wait.

In 1776, (231 years ago), men in America declared themselves free of tyranny and oppression. Women however, would have to wait 144 years more for their independence. It has only been since 1920 that women have had the right to vote in federal elections, since 1868 that they have been allowed to practice law, since 1849 that they have been allowed to practice medicine, and since 1833 that they have had the right to attend colleges.

These rights and freedoms that we are privileged to enjoy today have not always been ours, rather, their opportunity has been hard fought and hard won by women who would never accept complacency and inequality in the face of tradition or custom. These women believed in themselves and in the women of their time, but most importantly in the women yet to come. It was this belief and faith in the strength, integrity, and potential of the daughters of the future that inspired and drove these fighters for equality to champion a cause that would change the face of history and the world forever.

There are two issues regarding equality today that I am extremely concerned about. First, I believe that most of the young women in our country are either unaware or unappreciative of the sacrifices made for us by the women who came before us. Those women fought for our independence and individualism so that we wouldn’t be objectified as women have been all throughout history. Today’s female population has lost the crucial vision of our mothers and grandmothers. Secondly, on the surface it seems as though women have come a long way in regards to equality with men, and in many ways we have, but we still have not fully realized that dream of true equality because men still see women as objects and not individual equals.

Congress declared March as Women’s History Month in 1987; twenty years ago. In recognition of that, The History Channel’s online web site featured the article, “The History of Women's Suffrage” which begins with where we were:
In the early nineteenth century, women were considered second-class citizens whose existence was limited to the interior life of the home and care of the children. Women were considered sub-sets of their husbands, and after marriage they did not have the right to own property, maintain their wages, or sign a contract, much less vote. It was expected that women be obedient wives, never to hold a thought or opinion independent of their husbands. It was considered improper for women to travel alone or to speak in public.
With the belief that intense physical or intellectual activity would be injurious to the delicate female biology and reproductive system, women were taught to refrain from pursuing any serious education. Silently perched in their birdcages, women were
considered merely objects of beauty, and were looked upon as intellectually and physically inferior to men… (par. 1 & 2)
The women of that age knew that they were better than that, and they wanted their daughters and granddaughters to grow up in a world where women would not be treated as worthless and untrustworthy objects. Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are just a few of the thousands of women whose battles for equality gifted us with freedom and independence bought with centuries of great loss, anger, frustration, marches, arrests, beatings, legal battles, humility, blood and even death. What immeasurable sacrifice for the precious dreams of a better tomorrow.

Where are we now? What have those precious dreams of liberation – dreams worth dying for, become today? The popular trends among young women today have more to do with outward appearance, sex appeal, fashion and romantic relationships than with education, inner self-improvement, and continuing to promote the advancement of a woman's equal place in the culture of society.

I consider it a serious backslide in the realization of true equality between men and women that more young girls are interested in Barbie and Bratz dolls than in the real heroines of our day; Sandra Day O’Connor, Lt. Col. Eileen Collins, Madeleine K. Albright, Oprah Winfrey and Condoleezza Rice. It speaks volumes about the deep underlying continuance of the objectification of women by men that the socially perceived pinnacle of outward beauty is thin bodied, large busted, youthful perfection; ‘sexy’.

This trend toward physical beauty and a constant influx of what the media would have us believe that ‘sexy’ is, or that we all must fit into its mold, is a direct result of men trying to keep women subservient. Women are no longer the ‘homebodies’ that they were decades ago. They are out in the workforce, out in the government, in fact out in the world, making incredible changes in it every day. The only method through which men can attempt to maintain a superior position is by defining what is physically desirable to them and saturating women’s lives with the expectations of their desires.

Some women argue that they use their beauty and sexuality against men by flaunting themselves before men to use them as a means for money, ‘look but don’t touch’. Hooters girls, strippers, Playboy Playmates, and several others say that if men are stupid enough to give their money to them for their looks, even if they never get to have sex with the girls, then these girls are going to take advantage of the men and use that money to further their educations, careers or livelihoods.

Besides the fact that these professions are one slight step above prostitution, the practice of this concept is morally wrong on several levels. First, no one should use anyone else, especially for money. Second, catering to men’s lust only undermines the causes for which women have strived; even though it benefits a few girls in the immediate moment, in the long run it hurts us as a whole because it encourages men to view women as sexual objects. Furthermore, it demoralizes the women into believing that their greatest value is in their looks, which is never true of any person. I also believe that it creates a conducive path to infidelity… how long can a man lust for what he should not have before he loses the battle with temptation and gives in to his desire? A woman using sex to use a man is symbiotic suicide and it’s wrong, but women aren’t the only ones using sex to use men.

Advertising and media are huge indicators of what men want women to look like and unfortunately, sex sells. Alcohol distributor’s use scantily clad ‘hot’ young women, like the Coors Twins, to sell their products. USA Today ran an article on them on March 3, 2003… ironically during Women’s History Month. “Coors Twins ads a hit with target market”, highlights of the piece include the following:

“Coors concluded that the way to get their (men’s) attention would be commercials featuring a pair of busty cheerleaders — who are twins… The concept got its start when Ron Askew, marketing chief for Coors, asked FCB (ad agency Foote Cone & Belding, Chicago) to create an "anthem for what guys really like." FCB responded by writing "love songs" for guys. As Chuck Rudnick, group creative director, says: "Nobody would argue men love women, so why not two of them? That's why twins rings so true." Coors' answer to charges that it treats women as sex objects: "We've been careful not to make this all about babes," Askew says. "All the women in the spots are leaders, not followers. The women are in control. They're the ones inviting you into the party at 4 a.m.".

They are the ones inviting you to the party at 4 a.m. in the ad that they are being paid to do, but that doesn’t “ring true” when USA Today’s weekly poll by AdTrack stated 32% of women polled ‘highly disliked’ the ad. Mr. Rudnick states that, “nobody would argue men love women…” then by his ads are we to believe that men should only love women for their outward appearance if it’s ‘hot’? What about what’s on the inside? Isn’t intelligence and independent achievement sexy? It doesn’t look like it. He also mentioned the women in the spots being leaders, not followers, not sex objects; but that’s not quite what’s depicted in the photos… cheer-leaders, maybe, but not leaders of women.

Another more serious issue that’s resulted from the objectification and over-sexualization of women is that the depiction of ‘young being sexy’ has started to bleed into a younger age group of females... much younger. Minors are now falling into the ‘sexually desirable’ group very frequently. Our daughters are being taught at a very young age that they should be sexy, and just what sexy is. Tomi-Ann Roberts, Professor of Psychology at Colorado College wrote an article for the Denver Post on 03/17/07; “Sending the wrong message”. She stated the following:

“Because I do research on the consequences of the sexual objectification of girls and women, I was asked to serve on a committee named by the American Psychological Association to examine the prevalence of sexualizing treatment in the culture, and its consequences. Our research was sobering. In study after study, we found ample evidence for a widespread cultural contribution, through media and merchandizing, to the sexual portrayal and treatment of girls. In some cases, we see girls sexualized through thong underwear or T-shirts emblazoned with slogans such as "Eye Candy" and marketed to 7- to 10-year-olds. We also are presented with adult women or celebrity partiers "dressed down" as young girls, in pigtails, with their cleavage busting out of pink ruffles. With the proliferation of media, such images saturate the culture - and the message to girls and young women is clear: Being female has become nearly synonymous with being a sexual object. And perhaps the most disturbing feature of the bill of goods sold to our daughters is the equating of sexual objectification with power and popularity. In a recent USA Today story, the CEO of the company that manufactures Bratz dolls scoffed at our APA report, saying that his dolls were not sexy, but rather looked like the typical school girl today. The school of what? One of my daughters and I were riding the street car in Berlin, Germany, when I noticed we had entered an area where prostitutes solicit openly. My then 7-year-old daughter was enchanted by one of these women, who had very long hair and wore thigh-high vinyl boots. "Mommy," my daughter sighed reverently, "she's so pretty. She looks just like a Bratz doll."

Professor Robert’s opinion summarized this whole argument quite succinctly with,

“OK, but is this really that big of a deal? You betcha.”

Our foremothers did not spend their lives fighting and dying so that we could become submissive to the sexual desires of men. We have not come so far from where we were if men like us best when we are less. I believe that if our daughters; if our children had a better understanding of what was given for them over the last two hundred years so that they might live in a better, more balanced world, then this world would be a much better place. I believe that they lose the lesson when they are constantly bombarded with sex in media and culture. Women are about a lot more than satisfying a man’s basic urges.

Women are about intelligence, grace, wisdom, patience, strength, compassion, integrity, kindness and above all, love. We are more than can be imagined and not yet all that we could be. Our daughters must be taught that their value lies deep within and has nothing to do with their outsides. They must be taught that they have an obligation, a moral duty to the women who came before them, before each of us, to realize the dream of true equality between men and women in every nation of the world. They must be shown how to use their freedom and independence to command respect, not lust from the men they encounter, to act with integrity and to build that respect into honor.

This is the road to equal rights that began much more than 200 years ago, but has only seen light within these last two centuries. This is the way we must get back to, and continue on, if we are ever to realize the vision of true equality.


Another blog I love (blogaway) has posted a review on Madeleine Albright's autobiography that is very good, a fast and worthwhile read. Please stop by there.

Bibliography and Credits:

“Women’s History Month: The History of Women’s Suffrage” 2007. The History Channel website. 11 April 2007, 06:00p

“Coors’ twins ads a hit with target market” 03/02/2003. 11 April 2007, 06:15p

“Sending the wrong message” 03/17/2007. 11 April 2007, 06:25p

“Women’s History Month: Timeline” 2007. The History Channel website. 11 April 2007, 06:30p

1 comment:

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