I Get I’m A Woman, but I Think I Can Save Myself

I love to read, and I do so extensively. Up until a few years ago, I never understood the depth of which I was influenced by the books I so whole-heartedly devoured. A person is everything they see, their actions, their beliefs – everyone is. This is common knowledge and its understood to be true and accepted. I guess I just never realized the extent. I am a product. Everyone is a product. Feelings and actions are created not only because of the things a person is taught, or the things they inherit, but they are the result of the TV shows watched, the music listened to, and all the books they consume.

This month in lecture we began to analyze. Instead of discussing issues, Professor Tolmie showed us real evidence. She presented us ads, discussed TV shows, scrutinized movies and dissected books. Having read both series she discussed a few weeks back, she had my attention. It was so weird for me to see books I had read picked apart; and in doing so, I was able to pick up on things I had never noticed before. I guess it is important for me to mention I read fast. I read so fast that I don’t really take the time to reflect on what I’m consuming, or its effect on me. I never associate the roles of the characters I read as being problematic unless they are evidently flawed. Sure, some are written as stupid, or afraid, or waiting for their prince charming, and those are normal attributes that can be associated to anyone – regardless of their age, sex or nationality. But I honestly never associated these ideals as being offensive, derogatory or undermining. I never realized that these ideals are so consumed and socially constructed that we don’t even recognize them anymore unless we take the time to critically analyze. And let’s get real, who makes the time to do that with everything else they have to do? Not many of us.

But that’s the problem. We let these things stay prevalent in society because, hey, they aren’t that detrimental. It may be a popular series, but it is not that noticeable. No one really picks up on how Bella Swan or Anastasia Steele depend on a man, no one notices how much they request their approval before they act, no one picks up on their inability to self sustain. No one except a Gender Studies prof, or maybe a feminist. But that simply isn’t true. The signs are all there, and we ignore them. We let them slide by because were reading these books, or watching this show for pleasure, not to scrutinize. So what, you may ask? (I asked it too – don’t worry). Then I stumbled across this:

http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2012-12-a-letter-to-the-guy-who-harrassed-me-outside-the-bar

It’s an article on the unwarranted and unwanted compliments women receive from men in public (and it’s worth a read!). Most women disregard the comments as annoying and obnoxious, or we cross to the other side of the road, or we just ignore it. It’s the same as in the books. We’ve just accepted that this is our reality – it doesn’t matter whether we want the attention or not, or if were even deserving of it (a friend of mine once got cat-called walking her dog in her fathers sweatpants – “the perks of being tall and blonde” was her response to it), all us women just accept these situations to be truth. But in doing so, we are promoting rape culture.

These things are so embedded within our society it is almost impossible to think of a reality without them. What is good TV if the cute boy doesn’t fight two to three seasons for his dream girl? How can a book hook so many readers if one the character lacks an attribute that needs to be fixed? How can anything work without gaps for others to fill? But with that, our society continues to perpetuate women as victims, as naïve girls who need to be saved.

Maybe it’s appealing – I know I dreamed of my knight in shining armor for years because Disney showed me that he was coming – but it leads to so much more. People aren’t meant to be saved, and women don’t need someone else to complete their lives for them. Characters can still be ideal and relatable without the assumption that their independence is lacking, or without a strong male “counter-part”. Relationships can be people of equal attributes and a level playing field – as much as I enjoy the different realities to escape to, I don’t think I would ever want to live in one where my boyfriend told me what to eat. We as women complain often about the world we live in, and we do so because it isn’t fair, or fun, or equal most of the times. We complain because were scared and were aware, and we know reality. We’re entitled to that much at least. Yet, we let it slip by and remain as we consume it in different worlds through the characters we read and see. Maybe we have more to change than we thought.

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3 thoughts on “I Get I’m A Woman, but I Think I Can Save Myself

  1. I would like to add to the discussion you started with respect to the link written by Emily Moss. Having obnoxious and most often unwarranted comments hollered at women is an issue that is seldom discussed and intentionally ignored. While I thought in Canada the amount of honks from “truck drivers” and stares as you walk down the street were enough to make me never want to walk alone in certain areas of town, (be it daytime or night), I was absolutely shocked at the copious remarks and “cat-calls” that I personally witnessed (whether to myself or another female friend) while vacationing at a Caribbean island recently. While I found these remarks distasteful and rude, many individuals thought it was funny and even egged the locals on. At what point did it become okay and even comical for men to verbally tantalize women? Perhaps it was because of the language barrier, but I can say with absolute certainty that some of the verbal harassment’s said by the employees at our resort could have warranted a criminal charge. In on instance, a man would thrust his pelvic region at every girl that would come up to him at the bar, and mutter in Spanish something to do with ejaculating. This truly disgusted me, and I stayed away from this individual for the remainder of the trip. Other individuals, however, thought this employee was so outgoing and enjoyable to be around, and actually encouraged this behaviour. At the end of one night, he in fact had the highest amount of tips in his jar.

    Encouraging, ignoring, or participating in sexual harassment and violence is contributing towards a rape culture. These verbal harassment’s, I believe could be considered what Latoya Peterson describes as “Not-Rape” in her 2008 article “The Not Rape Epidemic”. While many of the individuals that say such sexual comments could in fact be “harmless” or “innocent”, how are we to know who is saying such things in fun, and who is a sexual predator? The more we normalize these verbal harassment’s, the more dangerous our society becomes. What may appear as an innocent “cat-call” may consequently end up in a much more severe display of sexual violence.

    At one point during this same trip, I made the discovery that my screen door (our room was on the first floor) could be unlocked from the outside. When asking reception to help fix this problem or relocate us to another room, the reply I got was “What are you scared of?”…..

  2. I believe it is very important to understand the impact media has on individuals, especially children at such a young age. I agree with the previous post where you mentioned how most things we read, hear, watch or are introduced to through a medium naturally slip by us as we are so consumed in whatever it may be. I am also an avid reader and have read through some of the novels introduced in class, such as Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. I have to admit, most of the underlying issues presented in these novels that Dr. Tolmie introduced and discussed in class were new to me as well. Today, youth are so self-absorbed that we let important issues that affect us, such as racism, gender stratification, the sexualization and objectification of women in the media go right over our heads without any thought whatsoever. What is really being portrayed in the media? Most of what is presented is truly jarring and more often than not people do not even pay attention to the actual content of what we are watching, hearing or reading in the media.
    In Gendered Worlds, Aulette and Wittner (2012) mention that sexualization of women in the media is common in television, magazines, advertisements, etc. Similarly, as you mentioned with reading novels, I love listening to music. I listen to music all the time, from the moment I get up in the morning, on the way to class, when waiting in line, when I am trying to fall asleep, etc. I often find myself listening to certain genres of music and enjoying it, but often not even comprehending what the artists are trying to convey in their lyrics. Aulette and Wittner (2012) state that “lyrics in popular music often sexualize women and/or refer to them in degrading ways” (410). Several examples were given, such as Kid Rock (1998), “So blow me bitch I don’t rock for cancer/ I rock for the cash and the topless dancers” or the very popular Ying Yang Twins (2003), “Ho shake your ass” (410). These lyrics are instilled in the minds of young children, where very often they do not even understand what these artists are trying to convey. This to say, the majority of individuals who listen to music do not pick up on the underlying messages of the songs, however they might just enjoy the beat of the song, the artists themselves or perhaps because it is on the Top 100 charts on iTunes. I am a 20 year old, white female and I myself am a product of this issue where I listen to music, watch certain TV shows and read books that negatively portray women by sexualizing and objectifying them. We are often unaware of what the message is trying to convey to the audience, which is extremely dangerous when in the hands of children and adolescents.
    To take this a step further, Aulette and Wittner (2012) state that after a researcher, Emerson reviewed a number of music videos, she identified both hegemonic and counterhegemonic images and ideas. This study showed how viewers accepted the counterhegemonic images and ideas as they rejected the hegemonic ones (415). The way women are shown in music videos is extremely offensive. Emerson studied stereotypical images of black women musicians, such as their body types, these women as sexual objects, etc. She found that not only were these stereotypes portrayed in the music videos, but there was also much resistance to these stereotypes, where the women “embraced their race ethnicity, and they project a sense of pride about being black” (415). Aulette and Wittner (2012) argue that these are very contradictory messages that are being portrayed, which shows how the “media can legitimate the status quo but also the ways they can be vehicles for challenge and the ways that consumers can choose which messages to take from them” (416). In my opinion, we just need to be more aware of what we are watching and listening to when watching television, listening to music, watching music videos, reading books, etc. Media has the power to play with our minds and embed information that is negative the majority of the time.

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