|If men and women work together, our current digital society can be a force to empower women.|
My wife has always planned on becoming a speech pathologist. Her older sister had speech impediments as a young girl, and my wife saw the benefits of the therapy her sister received. When she came to Brigham Young University, other girls thought her desire to graduate quickly and pursue her masters degree was odd and unconventional. "Don't you want to get married and have kids?" Obviously she did, but why do women feel the need to choose one or the other? The answer is not so simple.
The Effects of Media - The Bad
The 21st century digital media we consume today - movies, TV shows, music, social networks, video games - conveys a specific message as to how women should behave and are perceived. Both men and women have been influenced for centuries by the various forms of media that declared what the gender roles and norms were. During the mid 1900's, women were depicted as only fit to be a housewife and companion to the hard working man. The national government and other educational agencies produced movies, like the below featured "The Problem With Women," highlighting the personality problems, absenteeism, and marriage interference that made women terrible employees.
Movies like these made men change their perception of women, seeing them as employees who made their work-space their bathroom countertop, who needed to be explained things 10 times over to get it through their heads. During the time when these movies were being produced, one female author in particular stepped forward and posed "the question that had no name." Betty Friedan writes about the way that thousands of wives and mothers are feeling across America in her 1963 Feminine Mystique. Women feel they are going through the motions, expected to be a domestic housemaid who does everything the men expect. Those who are in the workplace are treated as second-rate employees, receiving less pay for the same work. These conditions, believe it or not, still exist here in America.
"In the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series, which has repeatedly broken video game sales records, women are typically depicted as prostitutes and men as violent thugs. A male character can have sex with a prostitute, then kill her and take his money back."
In the 21st century, video games in particular highlight the problematic gender perceptions that dominate our digital culture today. Women are over-sexualized, while men are shown as forces of violence and power. The article "Video Game Characters and the Socialization of GenderRoles: Young People’s Perceptions Mirror Sexist Media Depictions" discusses the way video shape the way young people perceive the opposite gender, creating problematic sexist perceptions. The author writes that "those who played more violent video games also endorsed more traditional views of sex roles, such as the idea that men are more capable as leaders and professionals, while women deserve less freedom than men and are subservient to men." Women are seen as sex objects, not just in the video games, but in real life.
In 2011 the government performed a study, revealing that one in five women have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Man is not understanding something crucial: women are not objects that can be used and disposed of at his pleasure. Socially acceptable jargon only aggravates this problem. Feminine terms are often used pejoratively to describe weak people, such as "pussy," "don't be a girl," and "you hit like a girl." Conversely, masculine terms are associated with strength and fortitude, like "man up" and "grow a pair." The media has influenced the deprecating way we address the opposite gender.
Can This Change?
Colin Stokes gave a TED talk in November 2012 entitled "How movies teach manhood." wherein he highlights two movies, The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars. In the former, Dorothy saves the world through making friends and having influence for good. In the latter, Princess Leia waits around to be saved, scantily clad, in the end awarding the men with medals and a wink. I side with Stoke when he poses the probing question: "Why is there so much Force ... in the movies we have for our kids, and so little yellow brick road?" Movies don't need to have violence and force, like GTA and Star Wars. Instead, the movies can have female protagonists who solve problems using their talents, intelligence, and ingenuity.
We Can Change