|My wife Maya and I on our wedding day. The media dictates women should fit a particular mold. If we work together, the media instead can be a force to strengthen female identity.|
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 does, but why do women need to choose one or the other? The answer is simple - they don't.
The media we consume today - movies, television shows, music, social networks - conveys a specific message in regard to how women should behave. Each unique identity is lost in the whirlwind of mass media. Women again face the question that had no name, as Betty Friedan writes about in her 1963 Feminine Mystique.
Friedan argues that the women in society were being forced into the role of a domestic wife and mother, losing their unique identities. Interests, hobbies, talents, and education are placed in low priority. Although it is the 21st century, this problem still exists, but it has been transformed. Women are still wondering "how do I balance my family life and a professional life? Is it possible?"
As I mentioned before, these questions and this issue is particularly important to me. My wife is currently working on her masters degree in speech pathology. We are planning to work to find this balance in our own lives because I know that if my wife didn't have professional work in speech, she would feel part of her life is missing. Media pushes that women need to be seen one way, and this has detrimental consequences.
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.
The media we consume often gravitates around violence, vice and viciousness. This leads to the type of men who are sexually assaulting the innocent women of America. Men see women as less than they are, a servant or slave, dedicated to living their lives vicariously through their men. Can the media be used for good? I believe it can. And I'm not the only one.
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?"
Today is March 8, International Women's Day. This day is dedicated to instilling a vision of equality among men and women across the globe. Currently, the majority of the media is working against this mission, create an image of a weak, helpless, servile women, who lacks a true identity or purpose. Women are 3D. Women are leaders, ambitious, determined, powerful. As we see more female protagonists in the media like Dorothy, the beautiful identity each women possesses will be free to blossom and influence the world for good.