Friday, 10 April 2015

Thinking Out Loud

I was watching the newest episode of Black-ish, a sitcom about a black, American, upper-middle class family with four children and their trials and tribulations. In this episode, the wife discovers Facebook and sets up a dinner at her home with her old college friends, whom she intends to impress at this very dinner with how great her life is. Some of her husband's work friends are also in attendance, and as they linger around in the kitchen drinking Scotch or Whiskey or something the first couple arrives. What follows are two minutes of manly appreciation for the wife having lost a lot of weight (going from "fat" to "phat"), but now looking really good. A bit later in the episode, one of the colleagues comments that the women he sleeps with have all been recently dumped: he waits for the ones with the smeared mascara next to a food truck in front of clubs, so that when they drunkenly and sadly stumble towards a burrito he is there to catch them, so to speak, and tell them that they deserve better, just "not tonight" as he adds.

This may seem just like ordinary sitcom scripting. Haha, the joke is on the drunken, dumped girls. Or the fatties who are now phat. But for all this show could be, this episode just made me angry.
Ask yourself:
  • Why is it ok to spend 2 minutes of a 25-minute sitcom on the male description of a female body? 
  • Why is the conversation by the colleague not seen as extremely creepy? Irrespective of how drunk a girl or how much she is crying or what she looks like, it should not be ok to imply that any girl is "easy" and does not deserve to be treated respectfully. 
Here, I am not being oversensitive. I am asking you : what is popular culture teaching the next generation of of young people about how to interact with other humans? 

Consider this scenario: a young woman sends the guy she has been dating a text, saying "It has been nice knowing you", and next thing you know he is standing in her bedroom, surprising her, and they have sex. How did he get into her house? How does she not call the police and say a stalker is in her there and instead reacts overjoyed by dropping her panties?

Well, this is a scene from the box office hit 50 Shades of Gray. I realise this is a fictional story. But considering the audience of millions that the books and film(s) have, I cannot help but wonder why women have to regress into these subservient, superficial roles and why society (through portrayals of women in the media) seems to encourage this? 

Dove has been campaigning for years to 'real' women to accept themselves as beautiful. Always tried empowering young girls through its #LikeAGirl campaign, where doing things "like a girl" equals doing it well as opposed to weakly. BeyoncĂ© sings about women being 'flawless' ("I woke up like this"). There are so many women fighting for gender equality, and yet as soon as the word 'feminist' is mentioned people seem to lose their minds. Feminism does not mean that one gender is better than another, feminism wishes to promote the quality of the genders (if that was not clear). I certainly have to read up more specifically into the history and objectives of the various waves of feminism, but that is the central argument: we are all equal. 

Why then, in 2015, is it still a contested idea? Understandably, there are numerous cultures across the world with a strong history of patriarchy that is hard to erase. But I think that that is exactly the problem: what is the point in women fighting for equality when men do not do the same? 

I dislike being seen as a strong woman. The reason I believe I can cope with anything, the reason I chose to think that I can do anything, is because there was no one else. There was no man to save me, so the only option was to do it myself. Women are not stronger for having had to fight, for having had to do everything on their own. Women are not intimidating for having opinions, for standing their man (so to speak), for living proudly. Instead of falling into a trap of binary oppositions of gender and strengths/weaknesses, I think one person's belief in him/herself should be encouraging to others to do the same. 

Recently, a friend posted Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TEDTalk We should all be feminists, where she recounts how a friend asked whether she was not afraid that men would find her intimidating. She replied that she had never thought about it, because she had no interest in men that would see her that way. 

I would dare to take it a step further even: rejecting gender stereotypes, we should (idealistically) not be afraid that anyone might find us intimidating, and instead see it as the opportunity to learn from someone who has more knowledge in a particular field than oneself does. 

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