First of all, let me say a couple of things. I do not consider myself a “feminist” if it were defined by Webster’s. Everyday I wake up and work 150% regardless of my gender. It just doesn’t cross my mind. I don’t believe in being victimized or feeling sorry for myself. It’s not in my DNA. I love being a woman and all things that encompass being a woman. I love playing dress up, getting my hair done, nice shoes, makeup, and taking all precautions to ensure I age gracefully. I am about to talk about something I rarely do. I am a woman who appreciates the beauty of a woman on the outside, but more importantly on the inside. A woman who desires it all including a career, family and respect from my male counterparts. I may struggle at times like most, but I will never play the victim and I want to be remembered not just as the woman I am, but more importantly as the person am. Carryon…
I went to see Miss Representation last night at the Belcourt Theatre. Here is the synopsis.
Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation (87 min; TV-14 DL) uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.
In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.
Stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics, like Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem build momentum as Miss Representation accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave the audience shaken and armed with a new perspective
I have been living in a cave for 32 years apparently, or maybe I have just been immune to the impact of media on women and how we are portrayed and what it is doing to our society. I guess I have just strived to be the best I can be regardless of my gender and never really thought about how the mainstream media has portrayed us as women. Here are a few statistics I just couldn’t believe.
Women make up 51% of the US population... however women comprise only 20% of congress
35 women have served as US governors compared to 2,319 men.
The U.S is the only major industrialized nation without paid family leave.
In 2011, only 11% of protagonists in films were female.
Between 1937 and 2005 there were only 13 female protagonists in animated films...All of them except one had the aspiration of finding romance.
Women hold only 5% of clout positions in telecommunications, entertainment, publishing, and advertising.
It never occurred to me we really haven not progressed as a minority in the United States. If anything, we are digressing. Apparently as women, we are told our success is defined by our physical attributes. Our success is defined by how attractive we are according to male standards and by what the media tells us everyday. I guess I never realized this because I hold myself responsible for my own accomplishments vs. blaming others expectations on my failures, or my gender for that matter. After the show last night, one of the panelist asked everyone to raise their hand if you have ever ran for a position of a club, organization etc. in high school. About 1/3 of the room raised their hand. Then she went on to ask the same question about running for a position in college, and then in local public govt. Shockingly, that number narrowed down to around 10 who ran for a position in college and then 5 women in the entire room who ran for public office. See, when we are little girls, we could imagine ourselves running for president of the United States equally as the little boys in our classroom. But as we age, we are conditioned to think that a man should be the president of the United States. We as a society have also become conditioned to think we must fit into compartments. In my opinion, organized religion has played a big part in compartmentalizing gender roles but also lifestyles. Organized religions have determined what is acceptable vs. what is not acceptable, therefore cause people to turn their head at the entire idea of religion, or jump all in. Love and compassion for all just doesn't seem to exist, or maybe it never has in the past, I don’t know.
In high school, like most people, I was bullied. I was bullied for being over weight and I struggled through eating disorders and an over all image disorder. As I aged, I became more comfortable with in my own skin and the woman I am on the inside most importantly but also on the outside. Being a woman is fun. I am usually the only women in many cases. In my career and in my community work especially. I’m not going to lie and say its not frustrating sometimes. But frustrations come along in life no matter what you do.
Believe it or not, Opportunities are not given, they are created. Technically we all as Americans have the same given rights as man or woman. Those technical rights have not always existed, and thankfully they do today. With that being said, why have not progressed as females in leadership? Why are we misrepresented in board rooms and political offices? Let me tell you why ( in my opinion) we are not there yet. Because we as women have yet to take personal responsibility to create our own opportunities. We focus on dwelling about what’s holding us back and what we can’t do vs. what we can do. We focus on the one man who treated us differently because of the way we looked or told us we didn't “fit” the part when we were the most qualified. We have to “woman up”, learn from it, and move on. In all honesty, any man that treats a woman ( or man) this way, is really just dealing with his own insecurity problems. Any confident man or woman will always hire the most qualified individual. We also lack good mentors. We are taught to idolize TV stars, models, and now reality TV stars vs women like Marissa Mayer, Condoleezza Rice, and the female small business owners that contribute to society. I have modeled in my life and you could find some bikini pics out there if you go looking. Do I regret that or feel as if it demoralizes me? No. I was bit of a chubster in my day, and I’m ok with no make-up and a bun, just as much as I am with a bikini and Louboutins. I’m not hurting anyone and I personally feel a woman can have a brain and still feel beautiful and classy at the same time. But when I speak to someone, I expect their full attention not by telling them “ I am woman, hear me roar”, but by speaking with conviction and conveying the confidence when speaking. There is nothing more attractive than a woman who is confident at what she does and how she speaks.
The media, especially reality tv, has done a fantastic job glorifying women who get in “cat fights” on tv with other women over men, clothing and the things that really don’t matter in life. These women who participate in these shows then make millions of dollars and feel as if they are successful. The problem is our little girls and young women watch this and desire that sort of “success” or the idea of marrying a man with money and living happily ever after. This could be the case. Maybe the crazy women pulling hair on national TV are the happiest women in the world, but it certainly doesn’t make our society and culture any more progressive and truly lacks a sense of love and compassion for the ones around them.
This brings about the entire concept of “ If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” We are a visually stimulated society. Think about Rosa Parks. Do you think someone gave her the opportunity to sit where she did on the bus? No ma’am. She just did it. She didn’t ask for permission, she took a stand for what she believed in. She wasn’t screaming or shouting at everyone outside the bus, she walked on the bus, and sat down. Simple. We can talk all day long, yell at men for the way they may have treated us, but we have to act. We have to ultimately carry ourselves differently if we want the respect that we deserve.
When you think about childhood and how that influences our future decisions in life, you never really think about how that affects both women and men as they mature. It all starts at home. A good foundation of love and acceptance sets the groundwork for how children will treat others as they age. They always say you can judge a man by the way he treats his momma. If he treats her with respect, then it’s a good chance he will treat other women with respect. If he watched his father treat his mother as an equal and as a partner, he is more likely to treat women with that same level as respect. This is not always the case, but if you are a parent, you have more influence on the gender gaps in our society more than you know or think you do. There is no question in my mind that we cannot change the fact that men see women as sexual objects. Men are natural born hunters and biologically build different than women. The problem is when a woman allows a man to make her feel less of a person based on her physical appearance. If a woman is smart, she knows how to capitalize on this utilizing the femininity that she holds and the way she presents herself. Yep, I said it (and the “real” feminist gag) We all have to be trained somewhat on how to treat one another and the worst way to teach a man is to tell him. It's to teach and guide him by example, and this starts at a young age. It starts at home with the foundation set by the parents. The worst thing women do is put ALL men in the same category and that's just not the case. We have to teach girls and young women that it is ok to be a woman and feel beautiful and express that, but you can't lean back when someone gives you hell and who says you can't go out and play ball with the boys and get your hands dirty? You lean in with class and conviction. A strong woman is not the women you see "cat fighting" on reality tv and tearing each other down. A real woman is a woman who build up other women, doesn't compare herself to others and she measures her success but what goals she sets as an individual and her own accomplishments. She is herself and not defined by her gender, but who she is and what she accomplishes.
I think about ways that I can become a better leader and woman everyday. I am outspoken, and I am constantly progressing forward. I am open and you usually know where you stand with me from day one. Sometimes my heart is too big for those around me, but I wrote in previous blog about loyalty being vintage. It’s ok. I will continue pressing forward and only surround myself with the women and men who make me a better person and I can do the same for them.
In conclusion, I wanted to leave you with a few tid bits on how I would describe feminism and what we should be teaching our young women and men. I think it is extremely important to celebrate our feminism, but not segregate. We have to learn to love, live and respect each other, and that is the bottom line. IN ORDER TO PROGRESS, WE MUST LOVE OURSELVES AND THE ONES AROUND US .
SHE IS A WOMAN.