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I Complain

With the coming of age we’re all bound to experience in one way or another, we gain not only new likes and dislikes, but become conscious of certain social expectancies engrained in society. At a certain point in our lives, we all wanted to be President. We all thought we could be President. Before we reached an age of both joyous consciousness and melancholy realization, we saw no limits to what we could do with our future. But for some of us, the unlimited horizon once accessible fades to an omnipresent shade of bleak unawareness when we hit a certain age. And the worst part, the most painful, disturbing, subconscious truth is that our abandonment of awareness is at times self inflicted.

Forget for a moment the gender of the speaker of the words “Because I’m a woman,” or “Because you’re a woman.” How many times, from both males and females, have you heard these words come up in conversation, or blared from cinema sound systems, or been typed on a keyboard in response to why someone cannot do something? They are more than a vocal acceptance of female stereotypes. They are more than a punch line to a joke that was never witty. Here we are in 2011, 90 years after women gained the right to vote in the United States, and last year we ranked 87th in the world in terms of women in government. Only 16% of all writers, producers, directors, editors, and cinematographers are women. Are you bothered yet? We pride ourselves as being a nation of equal opportunity, yet we have fewer women in government than countries like Cuba, Iraq, China, and South Africa, whose governments we often criticize.

I recently watched a documentary entitled Miss Representation, a film detailing the portrayal of women in the media. The film was driven by the values the American public holds for women versus men, with commentary from influential women in the public eye such as Katie Couric, Condoleezza Rice, and Jane Fonda. It forced the viewer to scrutinize what media we absorb every single day. The most unsettling epiphany I had watching Miss Representation was the familiarity of the headlines that flashed on screen, which made me realize how conditioned I was to read and accept the objectification of women in the media. The documentary showed how powerful women make headlines for their weight or clothing choices, not for the speeches they make, or the positive changes they bring, because as we know, what really matters in a Presidential candidate is their dress size.

Who or what allows for this objectification? When we are programmed to downplay our abilities or worth, it does nothing but enable the continuation of certain people being treated as second class citizens. Some may not even be aware of the fact that women make only about 77% of what their male counterparts do, or that the previously mentioned statistics of women in government are what they are. As a human race in pursuit of true equality, it is necessary for each one of us to know our place: where ever we want ourselves to be. A woman’s place in society is where ever she chooses to put herself, but unfortunately the generations before us have created a culture in which women can’t freely do certain things that are predominantly male dominated.

Some time ago I happened to stumble upon a clothing label at a store reading, “Dirty laundry keeps women busy.” This tag, no larger than a square inch, reflects years of history, millions of people, and generations of stereotypes that are stitched in its physical being. Maybe it was the manufacturers’ futile attempt at humor, but it brings up such degrading views on a woman’s place in society that I cannot ignore such a statement made by some third rate clothing brand. Do we actually still live in a world where the woman’s job is thought to be only at home? Where ‘dirty laundry’ is only there to keep women busy, to save ourselves from the apparent doldrums of an otherwise meaningless existence? Whatever the manufacturer’s attempt was—to be edgy, or to be funny or to make a controversial statement—disproves the belief that our country is one where a woman is able to do traditionally male-based jobs without ridicule or judgment by her peers. As someone who is part of a generation who will one day inherit the beautiful growth of humanity as well as the gross injustices still alive today, I am fearful of the continuation and acceptance of behavior that promotes the normalization of any kind of oppression.

I don’t consider myself exclusively a feminist. Women are not the only group of people who endure this kind of mistreat. But the greatest mistake anyone can make is submitting the power they have by completely forgetting they possess it in the first place. Our individual abilities are not bestowed upon us by society; we aid society with them. I have witnessed people of all genders, races, religions, ages, and physical abilities do extraordinary things, and it is about time everyone realizes what those around them—and they—are capable of doing.



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