By Jolie Day
As I grew into my adolescent years, my voice to share my opinions and ideas started to feel silenced. I began to feel the pressure of looking and acting in accordance to how our media portrays women and girls. Exposure to media and advertisements started to make me believe that women’s beauty was more valuable than their smarts or what they had to say. Instead of reading about how to be confident in my intellect, magazines were giving me hundreds of tips on how to be pretty and attract guys.
I started to notice that women in films and television shows were often given smaller speaking parts and were often typecast into subservient and ornamental roles to men. Watching the news, I saw female anchors being talked over by male anchors frequently and being told what they should wear. I watched female politicians be criticized for their looks and rated on their attractiveness instead of their job performance.
I began to wonder how our media shapes how women see themselves and affects how men act towards women. Furthermore, I wanted to understand how all of this has an impact on women and girl’s voices, and how to combat being talked over, mansplained to, and silenced in our lives.
Finding your voice in an ocean of interruption, being talked over, and outright ignored is challenging for women and girls. From an early age, we are often discouraged from speaking our mind. We are in fear of coming off as bossy or too assertive. We are taught instead to listen and be empathetic to others. Women’s voices and opinions are undermined and we are expected to smile and nod to what anyone has to say. When we do speak up, we tend to be interrupted more, even by other women. In the workplace, women also report being ignored more than their male counterparts or having their ideas stolen by men who claim them as their own.
Even women who have a platform where they are able to speak their mind are challenged relentlessly. We can see it in our media and all around us that women have to fight to be heard. In our politics, I see women like Michelle Obama, who has been one of the most influential and highly educated First Ladies in our nation’s history, and yet she has been the subject of absolutely ridiculous media coverage that discussed her exposed arms. The recent presidential debates have been frustrating to watch because of the all too common experience of women being patronized, interrupted, and mansplained to. Some of the most offensive behavior of this sort is available on the news frequently, as you can see in this video.
Seeing this kind of sexism in our media indefinitely has an effect on women and girls. We are talked to and talked about differently than men. On a daily basis, I see women being degraded down to what they look like instead of what they’re saying. I hear women be interrupted mid-sentence in a conversation, even though she gave the other person the respect not to do so herself. I have had experiences where a man has assumed that I must not know what I am talking about and felt the need to explain things to me in a condescending manor, just like I have seen in television and film.
There needs to be a change. Women’s voices deserve to be heard. Changing the way the women are portrayed and treated in our media is good place to start. Women have started to speak up about sexism in the Hollywood and how it effects our culture. Actress Mila Kunis recently spoke out about her experiences in the industry and how it contributes to the devaluation of women in the workplace everywhere. She makes the point that women shouldn’t have to compromise their integrity and feel like their careers will be at stake by speaking up against sexism in the workplace.
Women who work in the White House have also started to adopt strategies to amplify each others voices in meetings where their ideas and input are often overlooked in a male-dominated situation. We can translate this into our own lives by standing up to this kind of sexism in all settings. Women have thoughts, opinions, and concerns that matter to us. We need to confront sexist language and behavior, both in our media and in our daily lives, and work to raise women’s voices so they can be heard.