Shut up and Look pretty



by Jessica Ranae Feminist Wednesday University Writer

Growing up I wanted to be as beautiful as a supermodel, with perky tits and long, smooth legs. As an adult I do not possess those model standards, but I am blessed with a nice face and stick-thin body, so that men only talk to me because of my appearance. I used to wear short skirts, work out my ass and was subordinate in the bedroom-all to be sexier. Not because I wanted to but because isn’t that what men want? Beauty and inferiority? I was trained, pressured to conform my body, my mannerisms, my sexuality not necessarily to men’s ideals, but to the media’s idea of what women should be and what men should want.

Miss Representation opened my eyes to the severity of mainstream media’s effects not only on women, but its impact on men as well. We, as women, learn to see ourselves as objects because of the way the media portrays us. And men, in turn, learn to see us as objects and treat us as such because the media dictates men should be aggressive and dominant. Striving to live up to media’s approval and expectations limits everyone’s freedom to express their true selves without judgment, and disempowers women when our bodies are the only supposed tool of expression, that our voices are irrelevant. This film taught me our media-depicted gender roles are an intertwining cycle of suppression.

According to Miss Representation, at seven years old, girls and boys in equal numbers want to be president when they grow up. By age 15, the number of girls interested in leadership roles drops significantly. Through television, the computer, billboard posters, media feeds the image of idealistic perfection and idolized desire; that women are objects on pedestals whose bodies are only meant to impress and seduce. Our mistake is that we are sucked into this idolatry and thus consumed by physical presentation. We, as women, are constantly reminded that our bodies are the only thing that can matter in our society. We are taught women’s power is sexual, in how we can use our bodies to attract and manipulate men. However, we are the ones manipulated and disempowered when such extensive emphasis is put on our body image, refuting our voice and discouraging us from utilizing our intellectual power. Women are just supposed to shut up and look pretty.

How are we to advance ourselves and become active role models and leaders, when we are taught our voices are insignificant? What really struck home with this film was not only the realization that women are expected to be subordinate creatures discouraged from leadership, but when women do achieve political power their bodies are still the main focus, comparing female politicians’ level of beauty instead of their policy ideas. Women’s authority is constantly undermined by how we look.

Miss Representation shed light upon how the media portrays an archaic view of women that perpetuates traditional gender stereotypes and prevents young girls from establishing a sense of purpose and self-worth, that isn’t tied to body image. While I am still uncertain about the future of the advertising and media industry, I believe that Miss Representation initiated the first step in recognizing and publicizing the problem. Awareness is not a solution, but it is a step towards action in providing a progressive, thought-provoking dialogue that can work to change advertising.

I like to think that I’ve grown out of my naïve young girl notion that I want to be recognized more for my beauty than my brains. Yet I still find myself fixating on my appearance as I pound on makeup and clip on push-up bras, with the hope of gaining attention from my looks. Maybe it is because I mistake sexuality for control. Maybe it is because I believe beauty will provide me more recognition than my intelligence ever can. Either way I am stuck between the grayness of carrying my feminist principles forward of meaning more than lust, and reversing back to the shallow assumption that my body is my sole identifier in this culture. What is even worse than living in this gray contradiction is that I not only judge my own appearance, but the appearances of other girls and how their beauty determines their self-worth. After watching Miss Representation I am compelled to change this mindset I have and end the destructive behavior we, as women, cast on ourselves and each other. We have to be active forces in the fight against discrimination; befriending each other, mentoring each other and accepting our natural bodies, instead of shaming ourselves and others for not fitting into unrealistic ideals of beauty.

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