Kristin Kittell | Assistant Perspectives Editor
Nearly a century after the American suffrage movement sparked a slew of anti-sexism progressions, the obstacles preventing gender equality seem to be fading. USA Today explains there were 13 female CEOs leading fortune 500 companies in 2009 — up from just one in 1996 — and that six out of 10 university degrees were awarded to women in the same year.
Women such as Geraldine Ferraro paved the way for public figures Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton to impose a sense of feminine strength on American government. Just last year, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to take home the Oscar for best director, proving her gender could conquer the film industry as well.
We’ve come a long way in proving not only our competence, but our capabilities to excel. In 2011, a society in which the proverbial “glass ceiling” has shattered and women finally receive equal compensation for equal work seems less out of reach than ever before. But none of this means anything if there is still a faction of us willing to cater to an outdated ideal of womanhood and sexuality.
There’s a concept in the entertainment known to as the male gaze. It asserts that films are shot through the perspective of a masculine entity — the world is viewed by the standards of a man and everything that occurs within it is the result of male desire. All of that gratuitous nudity and random intercourse strewn about in movies we watch is there because that is what men enjoy. I would argue in the 21st century, this is not true.
There is no longer an overbearing male figure presiding over the film universe. Women are doing this to themselves. By my estimation, girls do not wear leather mini dresses and intense push-up bras for each other. They do not do it because it is comfortable, because it is efficient or because it is beneficial at all, save for the realm of sexual appeal. I do not understand why women have worked tirelessly for so long to prove we do not need the confirmation of men, only to stand up in 2011 and tell the world we are nothing without our abilities to please men sexually.
We live in an age where musical artists will, in one moment, sing lyrics celebrating self-confidence and contentment, such as Lady Gaga’s line, “I’m beautiful in my way, ‘cause God makes no mistakes,” and in the very next moment exploit their own sexuality for the sake of attention. Gaga is not alone in this practice.
Artists like Katy Perry are guilty of the same, singing, “You don’t have to feel like a waste of space/You’re original, cannot be replaced,” then pairing them with a reputation for sexual experimentation and an inclination to be barely dressed. Rihanna’s recent bout with domestic violence in the form of violent abuse from her then boyfriend Chris Brown, made her a poster girl for female independence and empowerment.
Yet, somehow she still took no issue with singing lyrics laden with encouragement of sexual violence. She croons about the graphic, physically abusive nature of her sexual desires singing, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me.”
Wait, didn’t you just finish telling the world about how terrible that was? I’ve heard it argued before that this is how women are taking back power of their sexuality and placing command in their own hands.
I don’t buy it and wonder if there’s a single woman in the world who would use this argument and not understand, deep down, they’re only making excuses for themselves. This behavior only encourages objectification of women under the guise of feminine pride. How is conforming to the stereotypical male fantasy possibly giving us any control? We’re only letting ourselves become exactly what we told the world we didn’t want to be anymore.
Male musicians don’t dance in thongs in music videos in order to be successful. Why should we? The world can only measure our potential by our cleavage if we continue to do so ourselves. The movement for sexual equality is pushing forward. Women are more than their sex appeal and it’s critical we stop pretending we are. TAS