I’d like to take a small chunk of your time to discuss something very important: The way that our entire culture demeans and puts down the female gender. TV shows, movies, billboards, news stations, books, newspapers, lawyers, doctors, politicians, it’s hard to find people who have honestly never shoved someone down because they are a woman and thus cannot possibly be worth as much as men. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. Hopefully out of ignorance, which is what I’m trying to help fix. There are some links below for visual aids and further articles.
Women are shamed for being fat, or for being sluts, or for emotions, or for assuming that they’re worth as much as men. And when they stand up and tell people, no, this is not okay, they’re shamed for being man-hating feminists. Go figure.
There’s this thing. It’s called fat shaming. It means people implying or outright saying that people over a certain weight are inferior. It’s being called a whale by a random stranger, and when you tell your friends their eyes slide away. It’s being told that because you don’t meet an ever-changing, vague, unrealistic standard for beauty, you are worthless. It’s the implication that because you are fat, you won’t ever be loved.
Recently, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) put up a billboard with a picture of an overweight woman in a bikini, and the slogan: “Save The Whales, Lose The Blubber, Go Vegetarian.” A dating site for married men who want an affair called Ashley Madison, (Yes, to the disgust of the general population, it does exist) has an ad with a fat woman in sexy lingerie, and the slogan: “Did your wife SCARE you last night?” There are many others, all giving the clear message that Fat=Gross.
There seems to be a misconception, even among licensed medical professionals, that you can’t be obese and sick at the same time. Obviously, if you’re overweight and feeling ill or in acute pain, all you need to do is lose weight and everything will go away. If a thin person and a fat person are displaying the same symptoms, the thin person will, generally, get told they are indeed ill, and receive medication. The fat person will, generally, be told that the reason they are in pain is because of their weight, and get sent home, presumably to work off their disgusting fat before they come back.
Most of the time, people seem to think that fat shaming will somehow motivate people to lose weight. It won’t. It doesn’t. Having your self esteem crushed by everyone you meet, every billboard, every ad, isn’t going to motivate you to put in the time and pain and effort to lose weight. It’s going to make you want to go home and put a blanket over your head and never come out. In extreme cases, it might make you starve yourself, convinced that you need to be thin because otherwise you can’t be beautiful. Women Are Dying To Be Thin is an illustrated series of graphs and statistics showing how fat shaming and Photoshopping ads are affecting the health and self esteem of women across America, especially in teenage girls.
How many shows have you watched where an overweight, balding man is married to a beautiful, thin, glamorous, flighty woman who is the “bad guy” when it comes to their children? Three? Four? Alright. How many shows have you watched where an overweight, conventionally ugly woman is married to a handsome, flighty man who is the “bad guy” when it comes to their children. That’s right. None. Those shows do not exist.
There’s a simple test you can do for most shows and movies: Do they have more than one named female? Do they talk to each other about something other than a man? Seems simple, right? But no. Only about half of the movies in the Bechdel database pass the test. Star Wars doesn’t. Star Trek 2009 squeaks by, with a fifteen-second conversation between Gaila and Uhura in which they are both in their underwear with the male protagonist under the bed watching. None of the Dark Knight movies do.
And the only women who aren’t beautiful on TV are the mother figures, the stupid girls who dare to disagree with the male protagonist, and hardass bosses that give the protagonist stupid rules that only he is exempt from following.
The message we get from this is that women’s lives should revolve around a man or they’re wrong, and if a woman isn’t beautiful they must be stupid or old or a bitch.
And to complicate it further, the commonly accepted standards of beauty are a lie. The thin, sexy, doll-like models on ads that guys admire and girls despair over are a lie. Nobody looks like that. The models don’t look like that. They’ve been altered with makeup and lighting and Photoshop to look unrealistic and childlike and very, very thin. Runway models are heavily made-up too, and almost all of them fall within the physical parameters for anorexia. The girls on TV have makeup artists that spend hours getting it right and trainers to get them fit and go on diets and work hard for that beauty, because if it was anything less we wouldn’t accept it.
The myth is that women do diets and spend a long time on clothes and makeup so that they can show off for men, which has sparked the recent rise of supposedly “feminist” comments like “I prefer a natural woman” “Short skirts are for sluts, I like a modest woman” “I like women with curves”
News flash, guys: We’re not doing it for you. You’re not helping. All you’re doing is giving us another, completely opposite set of parameters for beauty so that no matter what we do we are criticized. We wear our pretty clothes for us, because otherwise we feel inadequate and ugly. We spend an hour on makeup so that we feel good. And then you call us sluts and tell us that we’re vain.
In the workplace, however, the game is taken to a whole new level. See, they’re still judging us by our looks, but now they’re judging our personality too. And it’s the same thing. If you’re nice then you’re “soft”, if you’re strict then you’re a bitch, if you’re authoritative you’re bossy, if you’re gentle then you’re not cut out for management, if you’re well dressed you’re a show off, if you dress plainly you’re a slob, if you show any emotion than you’re fragile and PMSing, if you don’t then you’re frigid.
You’re trapped. There’s no escape. There is no perfect path to the top. If you’re a working woman then at some point, someone will tell you that you can’t do it. Because you’re a woman.
And then they roll their eyes and say that women are insecure.
Yeah, no shit.
Slut shaming, as you probably guessed, is when women are shamed and ridiculed and not taken seriously because their skirt is an inch too short, or their neckline is an inch too low, or because they’re comfortable in their sexuality. Women are shamed for wearing clothes that they like and are comfortable in, and for doing things that they like, and not committing to relationships.
The interesting thing about slut shaming is that it only applies to women. A man who sleeps with a lot of people is a player, a man who wears revealing clothes is sexy, a man who cheats is usually excused or glossed over in favor of shaming the woman he cheated with. The term for those is homewrecker. And yet, everybody tiptoes awkwardly around the fact that the man is the one who chose to cheat. Women are not allowed to be sexy or have sex, unless, and here’s the kicker, a man tells them to. And if she says no when he does, suddenly she’s a prude and a frigid bitch. If she says yes, she’s a slut. It’s a trap, and there’s no way out.
One of the huge problems with slut shaming is the fact that when a woman is raped, the first question most people ask is “What was she wearing?” No. She could have been wearing nothing and that would not give you permission to rape her. And yet, half the time, when a rape case goes to court, the defendant’s case revolves around she’s a slut she provoked him she should have worn more clothing should have drunk less. They blame it all on the woman. Rape happens because of rapists, and yet, because of slut shaming, women are afraid to report it for fear of being put through an ordeal that ends with their rapist going free and themselves branded forever as worthless sluts.
And it doesn’t end there.
There is no concrete definition for slut. Almost everyone will get called a slut at some point in their life. Usually by other women. We live in a culture where half of all ads have some sort of semi-naked woman on them, where boys are encouraged to be promiscuous, where teen pregnancy is consistently blamed on the woman, where everyone tells us what to wear and how to act and how to look, and when we take these sexualized ideals and turn them around and wear high heels, red lipstick, short skirts, anything sexy for ourselves, because we feel good, we’re branded sluts.
This is bullshit. If they’re not hurting themselves or other people, why should you give a damn what they’re doing? Why should you care if Miley Cyrus wants to spike up her hair and shoot racy videos? Why is it acceptable for a male artist’s music video to have naked women in it and not a female artist’s?
It’s ingrained in our very being that a woman’s body and sexuality must be controlled by men, whether your father when he gives your boyfriend the shovel talk, or your principal when he tells you to change because your bra strap is showing, or your boyfriend when he tells you you’re being slutty and embarrassing him, or, you know, our entire culture when it tells women to shut up, dress modest, and listen to the men because obviously they know best, right?
I don’t hate men. Not at all. If a man is respectful and polite towards women, I respect the hell out of him, because men are told that it’s okay, encouraged even, to disrespect women. (I also would like to point out that a lot of the things I mentioned above get ten times worse when referring to women of color, because they’re either exoticized or assumed to be stupid, which is racist and sexist and generally an all around douchey move.) When men, or anyone really, is sexist, I tend to assume that they’re just ignorant, and attempt to educate them.
It’s only if they refuse to listen that I start to dislike them. It’s kind of a vicious circle, because men won’t read feminist articles because feminists are inferior and so they don’t learn that feminists and women aren’t inferior and it just spirals down into black pits of ignorance and not very fun times.
And to all the women out there, it doesn’t matter what they think. They’re wrong. They’re taught to be wrong. They aren’t allowed to decide who you are, or what you should wear, or if you’re beautiful, or if you’re right. That’s your choice, and only yours.