It has only recently come to my attention that, while painfully present in today’s society, sexism has become a very subtle thing. I look at advertising and the media and lack outrage. It was only when watching excerpts from ‘MissRepresentation’ in class this week that I realised, while I am fully aware of the inappropriate way in which women are portrayed by the media, I have a tendency to ignore it. I have become so used to the hyper-sexualisation of females that I now barely recognise the underlying current behind it. I was brought up watching women be exposed this way to a point that I subconsciously accept it.
In the aftermath of Thursday’s class, I spent a lot of time considering just how affected by the media we really are. Essentially, it is everywhere. The average adult spends 20 hours a week online. What is even worse than this statistic is that the impressionable teenagers of our generation, are spending an average of 27 hours online every week. During this time, they are being exposed to images that are unrealistic portrayals of the female body. Websites such as Facebook and Instagram are forums for people to display themselves, to show the world the best physical version of themselves. Many take these as opportunities to distort themselves and their natural appearance with the intention of gaining “likes” and “followers”. The concern for people using these sites is rarely the substance of their post and, often, the popularity it will help them achieve.
Moreover, the media is also feeding women and girls a false notion that their highest priority is to look like the best version of themselves. Amy Schumer recently highlighted this issue on her Instagram page. She posted a photo in which a magazine aimed at women was placed next to a magazine aimed toward men. The cover of the male-oriented magazine contained the headline “Explore Your Future” while the female cover stories were much more superficial, for example, “Your Dream Hair”. This shocked and outraged me. How is such blatant sexism on display? After further consideration, I realised that I witness such things on a very regular basis and never find myself noticing or caring about them. Sexism has become a thing so normal to me that I am basically unaware of its existence in the media until someone else draws my attention to it.
The thing that struck me most by the documentary, however, was not just the way in which women are scrutinised but the extent to which it occurs. Watching and learning about the comparisons and contrasts made between Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin made me very concerned about the criticism we, as women, are bound to face. Regardless of their appearance and whether or not it was considered attractive, they were being scrutinised based on how they looked. Clinton, a dignified woman with plenty of experience and qualification, was being regarded as old and haggard. While Palin, on the other hand, a young mother who was considered to be very beautiful looking had, due to her good-looks, difficulty being taken seriously. It seems to me that, by this standard, women can never win. Either you are criticised for not looking the right way or you are criticised for looking the right way but that, in turn, meaning you couldn’t possibly be regarded in a sincere way.
It scares me that these comments are made so frequently. Everyday new stories emerge in the media and new photos are posted online, all accentuating the “perfect” way to look. In the lead up to summer everyone is so worried about getting that “perfect bikini body” and all the tabloids are trying to guarantee women the quickest and easiest route to getting there. But men don’t wear bikinis. Where is the pressure for men to get the “perfect swimming-trunks body”? We see these messages and allow them to influence us without ever really noticing that they do. I see coverage of the presidential election and accept the media’s perception of Hillary Clinton because she is a woman, without ever paying homage to the fact that a man in the same position would never be regarded from such an angle. I worry that somewhere down the line we grew so accustomed to sexism that it is now almost acceptable.