I saw this video yesterday entitled “How the Media Failed Women in 2013,” and it confused the hell out of me. It’s only about three minutes long, take a look.
Am I the only one that thinks the message got a little lost here? Don’t get me wrong, overall, I think The Representation Project, which produced the video, has a great mission and anyone striving to make the world a better and fairer place should be commended. But this particular video completely missed the mark to me for a couple of reasons.
One, women did a lot of great things this year. The first part of the video supposedly focuses on this, but I lost the plot. How is the Hunger Games and Gravity breaking box-office records a win for women? Because it’s a strong female lead? That’s great and all, but we can’t just skim over the fact that two stunning, Oscar-winning actresses starred in said movies and that just *might* have had something to do with it. Malala Yousafzai being named one of TIME magazine’s most influential people? Yes. GoDaddy veering away from the sexual in their multi-million dollar Super Bowl ad and sticking with humor? NO. Not the same thing. Not even close. Aside from the fact that one is fighting for women’s rights in a war-torn country at an age where most American girls are still getting a allowance and one is changing their advertising – the real reason they’re not doing those commercials is because they were stupid, awful commercials, despite the pretty and talented women involved. I promise you they’re not changing their tune out of respect to women. It’s simply a poor example. What is being celebrated here is a lack of perceived sexism as opposed to actual accomplishments, and it defeats the purpose.
Which brings me to the second part of the video, where we start to see how far we have to go. In this segment, there’s several clips of current advertisements, music videos, and performances all portraying women in a sexual manner. There’s Rihanna in her own music video, Miley Cyrus in a performance she helped design – and seriously, we all just need to get the fuck over that one – Megan Fox on a magazine cover. To say that they are being sexualized and exploited is ridiculous. These are grown women who are using their sexuality and talent to make money and achieve celebrity and there is nothing wrong with that. They aren’t the victims we somehow we want them to be. But by victimizing them, we make them into poor misguided little girls who don’t know up from down or left from right instead of the strong, confident women they are. Which only perpetuates the stereotype that women are easily confused and will blindly go along with whatever the media tells them they should. We live in a world where sex and beauty sells. What do you want them to do – put on their sweats and recite math problems onstage to prove a point?
Also, since when are we offended that attractive people are being cast in commercials to sell products? This part of the video targets commercials showing attractive women in bikinis because again, this can only be perceived as exploitative and misogynistic. Untrue. Why don’t they show average looking people in their commercials? I’ll tell you. Because one wants to see me chowing a giant Carl’s Jr. cheeseburger in a bikini. TRUST. I certainly don’t want to. Here’s the thing. What do we want to happen differently here? What should a commercial for Axe Body Spray be? Explain it to me. Don’t use anyone who fits society’s standard of beauty, male or female, and make it interesting and suggestive to the prospective buyer. It’s for Axe freaking Body Spray. Why are we placing one iota of importance on their commercial?
The last portion of the video has nothing to do with the sexualization of women, nor is it exploitative. To me, it’s a hundred times more terrifying than seeing a woman in weird bikini dancing with a foam finger. Why? Because it’s not commercials, it’s not advertising, it’s not music videos. Nor, to be clear, is it a misrepresentation of women. It is actual comments from men, both elected officials and media personalities alike, in regards to women in positions of power. Comments like, “Well, you can’t do that, to be fair…women just haven’t done that much.” Men lamenting the fact that the changing the hats the military wears to something more unisex actually has a headline that reads, “Military switching to girly hats.” Fox News, “We only have the prostate, the women have the breasts, the ovaries, the uterus,” in regards to women paying more for health care due to having more working parts, apparently. Fox News again, “I’m not saying she deserved to be raped, but…” which is a sentence that has no possible acceptable ending. Fox News yet again, “Know your role, and shut your mouth,” to the lone female on the panel. Perhaps the most frightening, a headline from the New York Post that reads, “No Wonder Bill’s Afraid!” next to a picture of Hillary Clinton. Why is this the worst, you ask? Because Hillary Clinton was the fucking Secretary of State at the time, furious regarding one of the most maligned operations of the United States and somehow this headline tried to reduce her to a hysterical female and elevate her husband - who held no office at the time – as the more important party to the story.
Let’s pick our battles, shall we? Let’s concentrate on getting ignorance – both male and female – out of office and making our decisions. I don’t know about you, but I’m much more concerned that an elected official in the United States of America believes that women have super abilities which make their bodies able to distinguish rape from consensual sex than I am about what Robin Thicke’s backup dancers are wearing. I’m much more worried about the fact that people like Rush Limbaugh still have a following than I am about the fact that Flo-Rida’s latest video has half-dressed girls in it.
The fact remains that WE are the ones watching this. WE are the ones demanding it. We can’t keep blaming the media for clamoring to provide exactly what we’re asking for. They aren’t going to change their content until we change the channel.