Part One: Using Our Wits and Our Wallets To Fight Stereotypes
This week, strong women are on my mind! I have to wonder… What is it going to take for it to be the norm for Hollywood to depict women as people, not objects? Does it all come down to numbers? I have a feeling that money will be the reason Hollywood changes its ways. Headlines and studies about “female roles hav[ing] positive impact on box office” suggest we might have to use our wallets to change things once and for all!
Recently, poor role models and the media objectifying women have been getting bad press. You heard about Barbie’s swimsuit edition and all the Photoshopping by companies like Target, and women crudely objectified by stores like American Apparel, right?
This bad press is a good thing for all of us. It means people are paying attention. It’s nice to know that not everyone is willing to sit around and let corporations get away with
objectifying women to make a profit. It’s also great that people are starting to pay attention more to the Bechdel test. “The Bechdel test was invented in 1985 by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, as a way of measuring gender equality in film-making: to pass, movies must feature at least two named women having a conversation with each other about something or somebody other than a man.” While there are more movies with female leads these days, the amount of time women spend dwelling on men is troubling – and unlike meatier conversations their male counterparts have in movies.
Every chick flick has a girl chasing a guy, dreaming of a guy, or telling her three single friends about the wild night she spent with some guy – think Sex and The City, and all the conversations the women have about men. Instead, movies where men are protagonists focus on saving the world, or taking action, or drinking heavily, but women are generally an afterthought. I know I’m oversimplifying, but think of all the movies where women are protagonists – how often do they NOT talk about men, or love, or marriage, or babies? Flip that on its head, and compare all the movies where men are at the center? Wouldn’t you be annoyed if Daniel Ocean kept talking about his love for his ex-wife with the dudes? Yes, so why can’t movies not show women constantly obsessing over men and love and image? I certainly don’t, and I don’t think my strong women friends do either! They’re obsessing about their life, their jobs, saving the world, and robbing the same casinos as Danny Ocean. How come that‘s not getting any press, huh? 😛
A Healthy Dose of Reality
I’m so happy that more tv shows are depicting a more realistic version of women in the world. My lovely Parks and Recreation shows men and women as equals that respect each other (for the most part).
New Girl and The Mindy Project showcase brainy and talented female forces paving the way to show that we can be feminine and strong all at once. And more serious shows like BBC’s The Fall show that women are just like men – we have brains, power and everything else. Books like Tina Fey’s Bossypants or Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me are making money because there’s an audience for them. We WANT to hear realistic stories that reflect OUR lives, not made up (and frankly outdated) versions of the world where men are constantly doing the fighting to save a sexy damsel in distress with no brains or personality. The James Bond model no longer works today – men don’t treat women like objects anymore (or shouldn’t) and Hollywood is slowly, slowly, slowly discovering this. And honestly, I don’t think men are having that tough of a time transitioning, despite what The Onion might say – wink wink.
Why should we care?
The trouble with women being treated like objects, as James Bond treats his Money Penny, or as Jason Statham’s Chev Chelios treats his girlfriend in Crank, isn’t just that it sends the signal to men that it’s ok to whistle at us in the street, or grab us in the elevator because after all women are just objects. What’s
worse is that it sends the message to women and girls, often very young ones, that they should dress in provocative way, or else men will not want them. And it sends the message that we should care what men think, above all else. It opens the door to all sorts of eating disorders, since everyone wants the waist of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in Transformers. And it sends the message that we shouldn’t spend time being smart, but instead spend time learning how to dance sexily, lose weight, or shopping to look “cute.”
Recently, I had a conversation with a dear friend about women being objectified and little girls comparing themselves to Barbie and other unobtainable body images. My friend told me that she’s never felt like she needed to emulate anyone else. Even as a child, she told me, she never wanted to look like Barbie, because Barbie’s just a doll. And she told me that she never envied other girls or adults, or hoped she might look like them. She finds this whole “girls compare themselves to Barbie” situation completely alien, as she never felt that she wanted to be someone else.
I truly hope that my children end up as self-assured and self-loving as that. But with so much pressure to be thin, to be sexy, to be perfect, to be like everyone else, I think that there is still a HUGE problem with all of us comparing ourselves to Photoshopped models in magazines, impossible-to-achieve standards like Barbie, or 12-year old models who have genetics, cigarettes, unhealthy diets and Photoshop on their side sustain their weight. I know I feel crappy about myself after opening Vogue or In Style magazine, and I still battle days where I wonder what I’d look like as a blond or brunette, or wonder why I can’t look more like Miranda Kerr or Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. And body image issues are snatching younger girls every year, from eating disorders to suicides, girls are having a tough time believing in themselves.
Media IS affecting the majority of us –and at a younger age. So we need to prevent little girls from thinking they have to fit a mold, and encourage them to be independent free-thinkers who value themselves as they are.
What do you think? Is it possible to change things around so that girls don’t think they need to be stick thin, or dress scantily to get society’s approval? Who’s to blame?
And for the male readers out there, does The Onion pretty much capture your thoughts, or are you ok with a transition to more realistic portrayals of women? Do you think that men are portrayed realistically, as well-rounded individuals who have interests and are capable of standing on their own two feet?
Please comment, share your thoughts and let me know what you think. Please help me keep this a positive forum, though. I am so excited for some debate, but let’s respect each other please. I reserve the right to monitor and delete inappropriate posts. Thanks in advance!