Beautiful Scenery

On November 13th of 2012, the LA Times’ Julie Makinen published an article titled, “Women and media at China’s 18th Communist Party congress”. In this article Makinen discusses Chinese women, and their increasing presence as delegates in the 18th Communist Party. However, she also points out that their main contribution seems to be their looks. She tells how a Chinese media site published a slideshow that was titled “Beautiful Scenery from the 18th Party Congress”. Makinen goes on to say that many of these women were dressed in exotic clothing and wore elaborate hair ornaments. The majority of Makinen’s article discusses the real role of women in the communist party.

After reading this article I realized that the media plays on feminine stereotypes all across the globe. Not even in communist China can women escape its ever watchful eye. It is truly sad that the women who are allowed to participate in politics are pressured into looking “beautiful”. Perhaps even worse, however, is the title these women are given. Instead of getting the respect that the men receive the women are referred to only as “beautiful scenery”.

Makinen says a Beijing news station has frequently described two of the delegates as “the most beautiful judge” and “the most beautiful mom”. It’s almost apalling to think that these women are based solely on their looks. What most people don’t seem to realize, however, is that American women are treated the same way. How many times have female politicians been judged based on their clothing? It’s as if a woman’s style is a deciding factor on how well she can do her job.

One upside to Makinen’s article is, as she says, ” it’s proof that women’s participation in politics has grown”. In fact, a woman named Liu Yandong was targeted as a “possible candidate for elevation to…the select group of seven or nine top officials who essentially govern China”. Of course the down side is many analysts see her as an “extreme long shot”. Which makes it obvious that women in China still have a ways to go before reaching equality. To which I say… don’t we all?

This article struck me because of the literature I have read in my Women and Gender Studies class. Two of the books have been about girls who lived in countries other than America. I believe the books have impacted me because of how similar their stories are to my own. Its shocking when I realize a girl who lives in a completely different cultural environment is undergoing the same societal pressures as I am.

I wanna be Clueless

In 2006 Sarah Senghas, a mental health counselor, published an article on Yahoo Voices titled, Sexist Stereotypes in the Media. This article discusses the various ways television shows, movies, and magazines portray women as “airheads”. She discusses how these portrayals of women are supporting sexist stereotypes. Senghas believes that the media is having a massive and negative impact on young girls. The article ends with Senghas debating the different ways to protect children from these disabling views of women.

What struck me most about this article was its reference to the movie Clueless. I remember watching this movie when I was little and I won’t lie, I loved it. In her article, Senghas says, “Children are especially vulnerable to this [stereotypes], since their young minds are still developing and learning about the world around them.” Cher, the main character, was everything I thought a “cool” girl should be. She was pretty, popular, fashionable, and the crush of many boys. What more could a media influenced eight year old ask for! Of course, looking back on it now I realize how the whole movie played into sexist stereotypes. Even the name of the movie, Clueless, played into the belief that all women are ditsy and airheads.

However, as Senghas states in her article, “Nothing in biology labels behaviors as right or wrong, normal or abnormal. Any stereotypes we impose on children – and by extension, adults – are purely cultural, not biological.” I doubt that I was born thinking that girls are supposed to be passive, sweet and dreamy. Just think, if I had not been exposed to Clueless, and media similar to it, who knows what I would have considered womanly. Maybe it would have been based off of my own personal interests, and not those others told me I should have. Much of what I have subconsciously learned is a result of the media. But sometimes I think it could not have been helped. WRONG!

Senghas’s article gives plenty of plausible ways to inhibit the effect the media has on girls. Her first proposal is to simply stop buying magazines that sexualize women’s role in society. If a young girl is not exposed to these type of ad’s the chance that she will view herself as a sex object is lessened. Senghas’s second proposal is that parents should start teaching their children that, “men are not stronger or smarter than women”. At a young age children look up to their parents more than anyone else. If a child’s parent encourages gender equality the effect of the media may yet again be lessened. The last proposal she gives is for parents to encourage non-media related activities. As simple as this may sound, it could really help. The Girl Scouts, Sports and Physical Activity Statistics page, has research which proves that girls involved in sports have greater self-esteem. However, this is not the only benefit. Read the Girl Scouts page to find out more.

Throughout my women and gender studies class, stereotypes have been a re-occurring theme. We often discuss these stereotypes in depth. However, its not often that we can find a plausible way to stop them. That is another reason why I thought Senghas’s article was fascinating. She was able to give solutions to the problem, however small, that may help. If I had a daughter I would do whatever it takes to protect her from the insecurity I have felt, and continue to feel, while growing up.

Girls’ Bill of Rights

The non-profit website, Girls Inc, does it again! In 1945 a Girls’ Bill of Rights was created. In the “Take Action” section of Girls Inc’s website is the Girls’ Bill of Rights Fact Sheet. This fact sheet gives some shocking, and some not-so-shocking facts, related to each right.

These rights include:
Girls have the right to be themselves and to resist gender stereotypes.
“An international study in 1999 found that the stereotypes most associated with women were feminine, affectionate, emotional, superstitious, attractive, sensitive, and sexy… In every country surveyed, the female stereotype was weaker and less active than the male stereotype” Because I am a girl, and because I have grown up with these views, I am not overly surprised with the survey’s findings. For as far back as I can remember I have watched television shows, watched movies, and been told that girls behave in these ways. Its hard for me to tell if I honestly do have some of these characteristics or if they were just forced on me. However, I do know that not all girls fit within these stereotypes. Heck! I don’t fit all of them! Come on, superstitious is a little bit odd!

Girls have the right to express themselves with originality and enthusiasm.
“Fifty-one percent of girls surveyed said that they experience stereotypes that limit their right to express themselves with originality and enthusiasm. Over a third (37 percent) of girls indicated that they feel constrained by these stereotypes, saying they don’t like them.” It’s true, even if we try to deny it, we don’t do things that other people don’t approve of. Girls in particular feel the stress to be cool, popular, liked, and normal. So if a girl’s interests are viewed as strange she tries to hide them. For example, I have always loved the Harry Potter series. I was an extreme “Potter” nerd in the sense that I had read all the books multiple times, owned all the movies, and even played Harry Potter related video games. But because most of the people I knew considered Harry Potter a “dorky” boy series I had to hide my love for it. It wasn’t until late in my high school years, when I met a couple of other girls that liked it, that I was able to admit how I felt about it. Wow! After writing that out I realize how sad it is that I didn’t feel secure enough to talk about what I loved. What’s sadder is that I am sure I’m not alone.

Girls have the right to take risks,to strive freely, and to take pride in success.
“While over half of high school boys (55 percent) indicate that they have high self-confidence, less than half of girls (39 percent) indicate that this is true” I am almost certain that girls have low self-confidence because of the high expectations placed upon them. Lets think about it. Its deemed acceptable for boys to get into fights, wear comfortable clothes, get the occasional bad grade, and be loud. While girls are expected to do the exact opposite. Whether it’s in the media, through teachers, or through parents, girls are given exceedingly high standard to follow.

Girls have the right to accept and appreciate their bodies.
“Sixty-two percent of girls said they experience stereotypes that limit their right to accept and appreciate their bodies. Older girls are more likely than younger girls to say this (59 percent vs. 37 percent).” Hmmmm…this issue again? Yes! Because it’s a real problem today. The media presents so many girls with the “perfect” body that its hard not to feel insecure when yours doesn’t look that way. Weight is often the biggest issue but beliefs about acceptable breast sizes seem to be a close second. These two combined make an almost impossible girl. The media says a girl should be skinny but have large breasts. The problem is most skinny girls don’t have large breasts. So there are two options: feel insecure or surgically “enhance” your features.

Girls have the right to have confidence in themselves and to be safe in the world.
“In a 1997 survey of adolescent girls, about half (46 percent) did not always feel safe in the neighborhood where they lived.” We say that we live in a society were women are completely free and safe. Yet girls and women still get harassed in schools and work places. People say that harassment rules work. But how can they when they aren’t enforced? We have just as much right as any man to feel safe, but there is still much to be done before we can achieve that.

Girls have the right to prepare for interesting work and economic independence.
“Over half of girls (53 percent) said it is true that people think the most important thing for girls is to get married and have children.” It is often said that nowadays there are no limits to what a woman can do. Not entirely true. This is not because we are inferior in some way to men, but because men still put limitations on us. Yes, some women have broken the barrier, but most are still stuck inside. Think for a moment of all the women born in the working class. How many options are presented to them? Think of the upper class. Many people still believe that if a man makes good money a woman should stay at home. These classes are so different yet limitations are on women in each.

Each of my blog posts have discussed stereotypes and pressures placed on women. That is why I considered the Girls’ Bill of Rights a good topic to dive into. These rights certainly should be in place. However, the truth is, in each right I was able to find a way our society does not allow it to take place.

SuperGirl Dilemma

THE SUPERGIRL DILEMMA: GIRLS FEEL THE PRESSURE TO BE PERFECT, ACCOMPLISHED, THIN, AND ACCOMMODATED.

The non-profit organization website, Girls Inc, recently added an article about the “SuperGirl Dilemma”. The article discusses the increasing pressures girls in today’s society face. These include the pressure to be thin, nurturing, passive, intelligent, stylish, and able to please. The article discusses key findings from recent surveys that prove the dilemma exists. More importantly, however, it provides support that can help those facing the dilemma.

I cannot count how many times I have seen society portray and discuss the “perfect” girl. Even worse is when someone acknowledges that this ideal girl does not exist, but does nothing to reach out to those who have been affected. So when I came across this article about the “SuperGirl Dilemma” I mentally applauded the people behind it. The article provides actual evidence to prove it is a real,and daunting, issue.

A 3rd grade girl interviewed for this research said, “It is hard to live up to what everyone wants for us. We need to do things at our own pace and in our own time. And just believe in us; support us as we grow up”. I’m sorry…what?! This is a seven year old girl speaking. She is at the age where life should be about exploring and having fun. Doesn’t it prove that society is doing something wrong when a seven year old is already feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders. Girls deserve the support they want and need. This is why Girls Inc is the perfect resource for those in need of it. The statistics present in this article alone are enough to comfort any girl who thinks she is alone.

Key findings and conclusions:

Persistent gender expectations are being compounded by a growing emphasis on perfection, resulting in mounting pressure on girls to be supergirls. Three-quarters of girls (74%) in the study agree that girls are under a lot of pressure to please everyone, and 84% of these girls say that they dislike that this is true.

Girls say they are under a great deal of stress today. Three-quarters (74%) of girls in grades 9-12, over half of girls (56%) in grades 6-8, and just under half of girls (46%) in grades 3-5 say they often feel stressed (describes them “somewhat” or “a lot”).

Girls want to seize the opportunities available to them, with 71% of participants reporting that they aspire to go to college full time after graduating from high school. However, stress and concerns such as the cost of college undermine girls’ quality of life, particularly as they get older.

Support systems bolster girls’ ability to believe they can achieve their dreams and endure stress, and yet one in ten girls (12%) and one in five high school girls (20%) say they do not know three adults to whom to turn if they have a problem.

Girls and boys face different stereotypes and concerns—girls are expected to be the nurturers and caretakers; 84% of girls and 87% of boys believe girls are “supposed to be kind and caring.” Boys, on the other hand, are expected to be protectors; 88% of girls and 94% of boys believe that boys are “supposed to be able to protect themselves and others.”

Women are especially frustrated by the limiting expectations facing girls, because these challenges echo their professional and social struggles. Eight in ten women (84%) believe that girls are under a lot of pressure to please everyone; 91% of these women dislike that this is true.

Girls Inc also provides support services. In every article they publish, including this one, a section at the bottom discusses what Girls Inc is about and what they can do to help. How many websites do you know that offer this kind of support? I could probably count the ones I know about on one hand. It is obvious that we live in a society which is becoming more and more dependent on the internet. Therefore, websites, like Girls Inc, could be a reachable source for those girls who need support they cant get at home.

My last two blog posts have been about the negative so I thought this one should be positive. I wanted to show that not everyone in the world believes there is a “perfect” woman. I also wanted to provide links to a place that can help. www.girlsinc.org A woman’s life, though admittedly not the easiest, doesn’t have to be a life of anxiety and insecurity. There is always someone who feels the same and there is always someone who wants to help.

Oh and P.S.
Not all boys are duped by the media.

I AM STRONG BECAUSE I CAN LIFT MY OWN WEIGHT. I AM SMART NOT JUST BECAUSE I GET A’S. I AM BOLD BECAUSE I AM NOT AFRAID TO STICK UP FOR MY RIGHTS.
A’lece, 10

The Perfect Girlfriend

THE perfect girlfriend has a high sex drive, loves eating and can get ready in under ten minutes, a survey revealed today.

On November 9th of 2010 a staff reporter from the United Kingdom Website, The Sun, posted an article titled “Men list ideal girlfriend’s traits”. Three thousand United Kingdom bachelors were interviewed for this survey. In this article the staff reporter discusses all the things men desire in their ideal girlfriend. The list includes being thin, having big breasts, loving to eat, having a high sex drive, being interested in sports, and being a woman who would rather be a stay at home mom than get a degree.

In my previous post I had a link that led to this article. After going back and re-reading the article I realized I wanted to do another post that discusses it. “Men list Ideal girlfriend’s traits” is just another example of the way the media portrays women. We see this all the time. Women are supposed to be “skinny and trim”, have “perky little boobs”, and a “pert bottom”. Yet, they are also supposed to be “comfortable wearing whatever”, not afraid to “go without makeup, and “enjoy eating big hearty meals”. Can you say contradictions? While the article does acknowledge that “many women might find these standards hard to live up to” they also claim that “six in ten men firmly believe their perfect girlfriend is out there somewhere.” So basically they acknowledge that this woman is not realistic, but you’re going to have to try… because that’s what men want.


Do you look like her?…Didn’t think so. She probably doesn’t even look like her after all the photo touch ups are done.

As a woman I know how traumatizing it is when you realize you don’t fit into the description of the “ideal” woman. Sure, I may be skinny. But because of the fact that I am skinny I don’t have big boobs or a big bottom. Many people think that weight is the only thing women worry about… but it is so much more than that. Every woman has something she doesn’t like about her body. Why? Maybe because we are told we should look one specific way. Which brings up the question which came first, man’s ideas about the perfect woman, or the Medias portrayal of her? Have there always be pre-conceived notions about the way women are supposed to look, or has the media influenced the way men view what is beautiful and what is not?

In my last post I asked the question of why women change their selves to be “perfect” for men. It’s because of statements like the ones made in this article. And it’s not just here we see it. It’s everywhere, every moment, of every day. Take, for example, dieting commercials. They acknowledge that bigger women do exist but they also stress that ultimately you’re size is not desirable…and you need to change… now. So how exactly can we not want to change ourselves? It is constantly thrown in our face that we are not
perfect.

The Perfect Girlfriend

– Has a sweet tooth
– Has perky little boobs – more than a handful is a waste
– Has long hair
– Has a pert little bottom
– Loves wine
– Isn’t afraid to go without make up
– Is shorter than you
– Is really sporty
– Is skinny and trim
– Is a really good driver
– Is someone who is all about the family and children
– Enjoys a big hearty meal
– Enjoys watching football at the pub or on TV
– Knows her limits when it comes to booze
– Keeps on top of her weight
– Has a high sex drive
– Has a degree
– Employed
– Earns more than you
– Encourages nights out with the lads
– Jokes around and has a laugh
– Is comfortable wearing whatever
– Can get ready in ten minutes
– Enjoys home cooking
– Likes a lie in
– Is liked by your mates
– Likes your mates
– Good with money

Stupid Girl’s

 

In 2006 the singer/songwriter Alecia Beth Moore, more commonly known as Pink, released a new song titled Stupid Girl’s. The song and its music video became an immediate hit with girls across America and I, being about thirteen at the time, was no exception. In the music video a young girl is innocently watching television. However, most of what she is seeing portrays women in a sexual way. Only twice does she see a woman discussing politics or a woman playing sports. At the end of the video it is up to the little girl to choose between doing what she loves and doing what society labels “normal”.

It would be a lie to say girls of the twenty-first century are not influenced by the media. I know from experience that growing up many girls get the impression that they need to change who they are; That they are not good enough and they need to be better. According to The Sun , a United Kingdom website, the “ideal” girl is slim but big breasted, kind but sexy, and is all about the family. So basically if you don’t fit into that category something is OBVIOUSLY wrong with you. Am I Right?

Pink’s song, Stupid Girl’s, is so influential because of the fact that it shows there is no absolutely perfect girl and that through trying to be “ideal” many girls lose who they are. In an interview with MTV Pink says that consumerism “diverts us from thinking about women’s rights… it stops us from thinking in general”. The release of this song, and video, got millions of girls thinking about what it means to be a woman in today’s society. Pink helped show that being a girl who is labeled an “outcast” or “ambitious” is perfectly fine as long as you’re doing what makes you happy. If more women start analyzing the difference between what they are told and what is reality they could make a difference just as Pink did.

Those who have taken Women’s Studies will know that the media is predominately controlled by men and that often times we are showed their perspective of women. So often we hear women complain about these unrealistic representations. Why then do we change ourselves to be more like this unrealistic woman that man created? This is the question I hope to eventually answer.