Throughout history, women have moved their way up the ladder of journalism. Women journalists are a controversial topic, but with each generation of new female reporters, new doors and opportunities are opening. Although, unfortunately, today men still dominate most major media outlets. Sexism, sexual harassment, unequal pay, unequal promotions, and a lack of diverse female representation is what the industry has yet to overcome completely for women. Oftentimes female reporters are less trusted than male reporters. They are also seen as less educated on serious political and social topics than men.
Is it wrong to sexualize fictional characters? That is the question we’ll be looking into today, and there is no concrete yes or no answer that we can come to. However, we will look into many of the positive and negative aspects that can occur due to the trend within western civilization of sexualizing imaginary people. To clarify, I will not be discussing characters that are innately designed to be sexual, such as historical or mythological succubi and incubi, but rather characters that have storylines and plots outside of their sensual behaviors (though their storylines may be altered and impacted due to their use of their sexuality). We will be using four prime examples in order to dig into this question; Poison Ivy from the DC comic franchise, Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider video games, Lola Bunny from the Looney Tunes, and Megara from Disney’s Hercules. While each of the examples I am using are females, the same arguments can be made for sexualized male characters such as Jereth from the Labyrinth, Li Shang from Mulan, or DC’s Nightwing. The ways in which sexualizing made up characters can be positive and negative fall into two main groups that we will be discussing: Exposure and Normalization.
Three years have passed since millions of women and activists peacefully brought their voices to the worldwide stage. In 2017 it was impossible to scroll through social media without seeing countless posts of people attending their local march often donning the phrase “#WhyIMarch”. However, more recent years have seen the march absent from many of our minds and social feeds. With less attention on the movement, some have questioned its relevance. Has the Women’s March accomplished its mission?
In the US we don’t often talk about how women are not allowed the same education as men. While there is a conversation to be had about it, the sort of disparity we see in the US is nothing compared to what we see around the rest of the world. In July of 2017 the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report that outlined some of the gender discrimination happening within education around the world.
Their World then released a summary article later that month which highlighted and quoted some of the key reasons discussed in OHCHR’s report we are seeing such wide gaps between boys and girls around the world. Some of the primary offenders are: gender discrimination and the belief that girls do not need an education because that is not where their value lies, discriminatory legislation which values men’s education over women’s and does not cater to the different needs of either (such as not providing alternative learning methods to pregnant girls or new mothers), girls are more likely to drop out which makes the cost of an education expensive to families in poverty, if the school is farther away from their homes they are less likely to attend because their movements tend to be more restricted than boys’, and girls are more likely to be subjected to gender-based violence perpertated by male students, teachers, and staff.
Good mental health has to be a priority in order to live a healthy life. Many mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and other conditions affect women more so than men. Statistics show 1 in 5 women in America suffers from anxiety, depression, or both. The World Health Organization states that women are twice as likely than men to develop mental disorders, panic disorders, and anxiety. Although men are four times more likely to die from suicide, women are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide.
All clothes are not created equal. While you would think that the only difference between men’s and women’s clothing is the physical appearance of it, that just simply isn’t true. Clothing is meant to be a way to physically represent who we are, a symbol of our fights and struggles, and not a clear divide between the genders. Women’s fashion is held in a different opinion, made of cheaper materials, and is not designed with the needs of women in mind.
One of the first and most harmful ways in which female clothing is unequal is due to the public opinion and mindset of it. The female fashion industry is seen as superficial, and putting an emphasis on the clothing you wear is viewed as vain. And yet, not putting effort into looking the absolute best deems a woman a slacker, lazy, or simply unpretty. Feminist Naomi Wolf once wrote in her book The Beauty Myth that “The way we looked determined our value to society.” Those who dress in female marketed clothing are judged by whether or not they conform to how that garment should look. The public mindset of female clothing is predominately that a woman’s worth is intrinsically and unconsciously linked to her appearance. This is an opinion that is often reinforced by the media that we consume as a culture. How many shows have you seen where the female character spends an inordinate amount of time deciding what to wear? I bet if you stop to think about it, you’ll find yourself surprised by how many there are. But this does not hold true for male’s clothing. With the exception of high end fashion, the men’s fashion world is viewed as more acceptable. GQ, one of the world’s leading men’s fashion companies, claims in an article on the clothing price difference that “Men are thought to approach buying clothes with more pragmatism”. Whereas women’s clothing is viewed as a physical representation of their worth, men’s clothing is just clothing. And that’s not even digging into the issues of dress codes and the way they reflect on the clothing.
Since the US Senate’s establishment in 1789, only 57 women have served as Senators. Hopefully this year we can raise that number. Winning back the US Senate in 2020 is the goal for Democrats this election season. Since 2018, the House of Representatives has been controlled by Democrats, but most bills that the House wants to put into effect are shot down by the Senate. At a recent press conference, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of the United States House of Representatives, said, “The Senate is the graveyard where bills that pass in the Congress, that have bipartisan support in the country, go to die”.
It is much harder to flip the Senate than it was to flip the House. The House of Representatives reelects every two years, but that is not the case in the Senate. However, for the 2020 election there will be 23 seats that are Republican that could be taken by Democrats. In order to flip the Senate, the Democrats will need to keep their 12 seats that are up for election this year and gain at least three more from the Republicans. Sound doable? Here are some of the Democratic women running for Senate in 2020.
With the number of women owned businesses increasing each year, it’s important to recognize the accomplishments of these women and their companies. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, there are over 11.6 million US businesses that are owned by women, with 5.4 million of those businesses being majority-owned by women of color. A study from 2014-2019 shows that while America’s overall business growth was 9%, it was outpaced by the 21% growth in women-led companies – with Georgia, Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, and Nevada leading this increase.
While many of these are million-dollar businesses, only one in five businesses with revenues of over $1 million or more are women-owned, leading to only 4.2% of women owned businesses surpassing that million-dollar mark. In 2018, only 1.7% of women owned businesses made over $1 million. Even though there are growing numbers in the amount of businesses, employment, and revenue from women entrepreneurs, there is still a long way to go.
Women on average pay more than men for the same products. Gender discriminatory pricing is the tendency within the health and beauty industry to price products marketed towards women higher than products marketed towards men. The term “Pink Tax” comes from the color schemes associated with female products. Even if the product functions and is designed exactly the same, but the women’s ‘version’ is pink, on average the price will be higher.
How much higher? Bank Rate published an article at the end of March 2020 that states the tax costs “the average woman $1,300 a year and impacts all aspects of daily life from shopping to dry cleaning.” This article also speaks to the scope of this issue and gives some incredible information on the topic. While often not considered, this gender price discrimination can also drive the cost of young girls’ toys 2 to 13 percent higher than toys designed for boys. This discrimination is far reaching. What about our clothes? Are women’s clothes using the same amount of labor and fabric but being sold at a higher price? Most people would automatically say yes and there is hard evidence to support this. There is about a ten percent difference between women and men’s designed jeans. Women tend to get quotes or pay higher prices on services, such as drycleaning or auto mechanic work. The Bank Rate article also reveals how tarrifs, taxes imposed by the federal government on imported goods, also falls criminal to this discrimination, though not always in men’s favor—women’s bathing suits face lower tariffs than men’s.
In the age of social media it is extremely hard to be considered a “good mother.” If you look up any video of a mom and her baby on the internet, there are going to be people (mainly other women) telling her what she is doing wrong, or “mom-shaming,” even if the baby is laughing and happy in mom’s arms. Someone will tell her she is holding him wrong, or that the baby is wearing something inappropriate. Literally anything a mother does is wrong in someone’s opinion. Mothers are judged so harshly in today’s world for what they do with their babies and for taking any time for themselves to just be them, without the baby.
I understand that when you have kids, everything is about them because kids take up a lot of time. They are constantly learning and growing, and they need constant attention, supervision, and stimulation. Parents should want to be around their kids and they should be the center of their world. Creating and developing a new life is an incredible thing. It takes a lot of work. But this does not mean mothers have to completely abandon their personhood and who they are as people. Mothers are still people who have needs and desires separate from their children. This is a hard concept for many to grasp. There is a balance between being completely devoted to your children and giving up your entire self to them (which is unhealthy) and not caring about your children.
Life is a balance and it is normally not healthy to do one extreme or the other. Mothers have to find the balance that works for them. Just because a mother takes a few hours per night, or one night per week, or one day per month for herself does not mean she doesn’t care about or like spending time with her children. These few hours, nights, or days are essential to keeping sane. Kids are extremely draining, delightful creatures, and they need a lot of attention, especially from their mothers. This time away can’t just be at work, because work is draining too. Constantly running around working and taking care of tiny humans is exhausting, and not taking a break is unhealthy. Mothers need to let go of that guilt from others and from themselves for needing some “me time.”
Mothers are told even before they become mothers that they need to do everything they want to in life before they have kids because they can’t do anything afterwards. I’ve been told to travel, go to school, etc. before I have kids. The reality is that mothers can go to school with kids as long as they have a support system (although it is much harder). Mothers can travel either with their kids or without them. I’m not saying to go on solo vacations every 6 weeks to get away from the kids. I am saying that it is okay if you travel without them if you feel like you need to. Give yourself permission to be a person, to do things that you like because you like them. You can do things without your children. It’s okay.
Mothers are pressured to completely let go of their personhood in order to be good mothers. Fathers are not really pressured to do the same. This may be because fathers are still somewhat removed from raising children, at least in the US. Most companies don’t have paid maternity leave, let alone any type of paternity leave. Many couples can’t afford to have both parents not work, so the mother is the obvious choice to stay home. Fathers can still have a “man cave,” a garage, tool shed, office, etc. for themselves. They have time to themselves to do things they like to do, like fix things or create something. Mothers are typically watching the kids or cooking dinner while they do this. We should encourage parents to switch off having this time to themselves while the other parent watches the kids. Obviously, this is harder with a one-parent household, but it might be possible with a support system or at least when the child is older.
In this day and age, we need to go easier on mothers who are doing the best they can. Everyone has a different situation, a different lifestyle, and a different child. The needs of each family and each mother are different. Unless the child is in actual danger, we need to ease up. Stop judging mothers and start offering to help them, maybe by offering to take the kids while mom gets her hair done and takes a walk or a drive. Raising children is hard, and having “me time” is beneficial to both mom and baby. Let mothers be people, not just moms.