Keeping Women “In Their Place”
Women everywhere face restrictions on their public presence, appearance, and their private and public behavior. Mobility and dress restrictions, which are enforced in a number of countries, are rooted in standard patriarchal assumptions about men’s right to control women, in combination with fundamentalist religious interpretations.
Here are some of the surprisingly common restrictions that are placed on women in countries all around the world:
* In Egypt, only males may confer citizenship and children born to women with foreign husbands are not conferred the benefits of citizenship.
* In Syria, a husband may file a request to prohibit his wife’s departure from the country.
* In Qatar, women need male permission to obtain a driver’s license.
* In Kyrgyzstan, family law prohibits divorce during pregnancy and while the child is younger that one-year-old.
* In Yemen, by law a wife must obey her husband; she must live with him at the place stipulated by him, consummate the marriage, and not leave home without his consent.
* In Uganda, in some ethnic groups, men inherit their brothers’s widowed wives; and some men of the Karamojong ethnic group in the northeastern section of the country continue their cultural practice of claiming unmarried women as wives by raping them.
* In, Swaziland, married women are legal minors.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, women need their husbands permission for most routine legal transactions, including accepting a job, and opening a bank account.
* In Venezuela, a provision in the penal code provides that an adult man guilty of raping an adult woman can avoid punishment, if before sentencing, he marries her.
* In America, state legislatures enacted anti-abortion measures between 1995 and 2001; and now 87% of all U.S. Countries are not served by an abortion clinic.
As we can see from the statistics Women’s rights are threatened by pressure from religious fundamentalism in many countries, like Nigeria, where increasing fundamentalist pressure from Shari’a courts imposes severe sentences(including flogging and death by stoning) on women for sexual impropriety. However ultimately, we see the way that women are doomed to live in hopeless situations due to patriarchal rule.
~Sasha Sanders, Alum, 2013
I find it really interesting when I see a movie that portrays women in such a negative way, or more than likely from the gaze of a male, who is probably the network producer. It’s caused me to wonder… where are the women producers? Maybe if a TV show, or movie that displayed women’s issues what actually overseen by a woman, things might make sense a bit more.
With that being said, I decided to examine the power of women in the media through four different women, Sherry Lansing, chair and CEO of Paramount Pictures, Cathleen Black, President of Hearst Magazines, Geraldine Laybourne, Chairman and CEO of Oxygen Media, and Judy McGrath, President of MTV. These women exemplify the reason that it’s crucial to have women in high positions in the media.
Sherry Lansing was the first woman to be in charge of production 20th Century Fox. She has headed hits such as Braveheart, Clueless, Runaway Bride, and The General’s Daughter; this is because she brought to the movies something that never was there before, the perspective of a woman. Lansing put her personal taste aside and thought about what “the people” wanted to see. One top filmmaker even said, “Sherry’s the first executive who succeeded by expressing her womanness, not by trying to be a guy” (guardianunlimited.com). This is very pleasing to hear because very often, women in high positions try to imitate the men in high power positions, rather than just being themselves.
When it comes to the question of whether Sherry Lansing has power in the media, the answer has to be yes. However, we ask “does Sherry Lansing holds as much power as men in similar positions”, I believe it takes more evaluation.
Cathleen Black is another important female player in today’s media. She is the president of Hearst Magazines, the world’s largest publisher of monthly magazines, and she oversees the financial performance and development of famous magazines like Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, and Harper’s BAZAAR (hearstcorp.com).
Black also marked an important point for women in history when she became the first woman publisher of a weekly consumer magazine – New York, and also when she became the first woman President of Hearst Magazines. With an impressive resume that includes her being President and Publisher of USA Today, and being named President of the Newspaper Association of America in 1991, Black brings a certain female perspective to all of her endeavors.
She has the ability to be open-minded and look at all possible problems and solutions. One of Black’s huge successes has been promoting her titles worldwide. She owes a great deal of this success, in my opinion, to her female perspective. While marketing Cosmopolitan to countries like Russia and the Philippines, Black realized that specific changes had to be made to accommodate the women of these particular countries. She recognized that women in “third world” countries did not necessarily want to read the same things as American women. As a result, she created original editorial material for each region. Eventhough they were across the ocean, Black still related to her customers.
There is no question as to the power that Cathleen Black holds on a daily basis in the media. But then again she does not have the same power that a man would have in her same position. Although there were no offensive headlines to announce Cathleen Black’s appointment to presidency, I came across an interview in which she was referred to as a “top-ranking woman executive in magazine publishing (Outlook Magazine)”,and she was aksed how she felt about this title, she responded to esponded to the question, answering“I would rather not be known as the top-ranking woman anything. I’d rather be seen as an effective and strategic leader of a large organization, the same way one would describe a male executive”. She doesn’t want to be seen as successful, for a woman, she wants to be seen as successful, period, and her response reconfirms the fact that even women in extremely powerful positions are treated differently than men holding similar positions. I mean I’ve never heard a man being referred to as a “top-ranking man executive”, he is simply a top-ranking executive – sex need not be mentioned I suppose – you tell me.
~Sasha Sanders, Alum, Class of 2013
I have touched upon so many subjects since my first Women’s Studies course, however, a huge subjects that has constantly circled my mind; after the recent “Women and Globalization” course I’ve taken, is the notion of the “disposable woman”. To begin, I was very intrigued by the stories of the women working in “maquilaroras”. The movie Senorita Extraviada, and readings about women working in factories and “sweatshops”, in places like Asia and Mexico, are very important examples to help understand the way that these labor facilities operate when it comes to female employees.
The movie and these readings have helped me learn a couple things about the reasons for why women take these types of low wage jobs, with bad working conditions. They do it because it may honestly to be the only way that they can find to support their family. I think it’s sad that some women are encouraged by their own mothers to work these types of jobs because it is so common in their culture. It’s ‘s even more upsetting to know that women are being called “bad girls” for not being obedient to the cultural norm because it causes there to be pressure on a woman who wants to be seen as a “good girl” in their society.
At the end of the day, these women who are working in sweatshops are in a bad predicament because if they get the job, and don’t perform as expected, they will be easily be replaced by another ready and willing woman; this proving their disposability. Nanny’s, maids, and ses workers are another example of jobs they a woman can have, but easily lose if they aren’t obedient. It breaks my heart to learn that in many severe cases, women have brutally lost their lives due to their employer.
All of these things make me get a better picture of how globalization really assists in the oppression of women. The need for income in impoverished, or third-world countries causes women to have to take on jobs that fuel our oppression. In my opinion, being a sex worker, jobs in sweatshops, or as nannies and maids aren’t bad, as long as it’s a woman choice (not including being coerced into doing so). In order for these industries to be more considerate to women, they need to provide proper treatment and compensation.
~Sasha Sanders, UMass Dartmouth Alum, Class of 2013
In a course I took where the focus was on different successful methods of building an argument, we ended up watching a video clip titled “Too Big to Nail”, where Stephen Colbert sarcastically gave his opinion on a situation where The Supreme Court threw out a class action lawsuit brought against Wal-Mart, by its female employees.
Colbert’s claim was basically that Wal-Mart is too big of a corporation, for that lawsuit to have been successful. The reasons that he uses to support this claim are that “it’s not the largest private employer (Wal-Mart) in the US repeatedly violating rights; it’s the thirty-four hundred completely different locations, individually violating their rights in different ways”. He also says that the class was too big for the lawsuit to become successful. The evidence of this is because the women suing had different jobs, at different levels, in all 50 states, and if Wal-Mart lost they would owe at least a billion dollars back and therefore have to raise there prices. He also uses the evidence that according to Wal-Mart’s lead attorney, “Wal-Mart as a whole cannot be held responsible because they have a strong policy against discrimination and in favor of diversity” (Colbertnation.com), and this is written in the employee manual. Though his tone is sarcastic, he still manages to establish a sort of credible tone with the use of logos with some of his logistics.
After watching this video clip I’d have to say that the he was somewhat persuasive for me, because the incorporation of the facts that he had, were useful in convincing me that Wal-Mart was “Too Big to Nail”, however his sarcastic tone took away from the level of persuasion because it was sometimes hard to understand if the facts that he used were truly facts, or just opinionated sarcastic remarks.
I’d have to say, it’s really discouraging to women in the the work force who wish to gain equality. Especially, when things like this are happen all too often, with no way to protect women’s rights, and with the issues being “too big” to nail.
“I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother, I’m a sinner, I’m a saint, I do not feel ashamed.”
~Meredith Brooks – Bitch 1996
When Bitch, by Meredith Brooks, came out, I was only 6 years old, but for some reason, it liberated me. I sung the lyrics to myself, very low of course, and for some reason I didn’t want to be a “Barbie girl, in a Barbie world”, I wanted to be “a sinner” and “a saint.” I felt like this was the type of woman who had an individualistic mindset, and could definitely relate to me. I would also watch television shows like Living Single, where the women weren’t portrayed as submissive to men, or as non-complex beings as individuals, which also related to me. These things lead me to wonder; does television teach its viewers to see that the “realistic woman” is a bitch, mother, child, and lover all at once? Not really, it teaches us that women may possess all of these qualities, but not collectively, we are more shown to have each of these qualities, split amongst the individual woman.
Over time an endless progression of television programs that tell stories about women’s lives. With so many shows targeted to, and cast with women, we can notice many similar characters reappearing. The most pronounced group of characters I see recurring on television involves a group of four women. Within this grouping, there is usually ‘the smart one,’ ‘the sexy one,’ ‘the naive one,’ and ‘the motherly one’. It would be foolish to believe that the similarities amongst these characters in TV shows over generations are an accident. In fact I think that they are important to understanding our culture, not only because of their common re-productions, but also because the variations among these representations, point to significant cultural differences in society. These characters teach viewers that women are versatile creatures,
Let’s think about these three different television shows (all top rated), from different eras: Golden Girls (85’-92), Living Single (93’-98’), and Sex and the City (98’-04’); which each includes a quartet of women characters. Now while these shows are about very different modern women (older White women in suburban Florida, twenty-something African-American women in Brooklyn and thirty-something, White, professional women in Manhattan), the four main characters in each show similarly represent four feminine models found throughout Western culture: the iron maiden, the sex object, the child, and the mother.
Miranda from Sex and the City, Max from Living Single, and Dorothy from Golden Girls represent the iron maiden archetype. These women usually wear business suits and have sharp, blunt, and shorter hairstyles. They’re cynical, competitive, sometimes abrasive and mean-spirited, and often antagonistic toward men. Their viewpoints might be considered feminist or just plain “bitchy,” and they value women’s right to be equal. These women work in male dominated professions and achieve high status (Miranda is a lawyer, Carrie a writer, Samantha is in PR). Most interestingly however, for these women, although they may desire a romantic partnership, they’re independent and do not need a men in their lives. They more commonly find romantic love impractical and/or incompatible with her career ambitions and independent needs. For example when giving advice to Charlotte, Miranda says, “it’s all about control . . . if he goes up there, either he’ll have the upper hand or you will . . . the question is if he goes up your butt will he respect you more or less . . . that’s the issue,” exemplifying her focus on blockading male dominance.
Samantha, Regine, and Blanche embody the sex objects in Sex and the City, Living Single, and Golden Girls. They are concerned with the male gaze and do what is necessary to get that attention. They’re sensual, superficial, and take great pride in sexual experiences. Money, power, and sex are central to them. They also feel power from sexuality and believe that women should use their sexuality to get what they want. The comments made by them are mostly sexual and shallow, and they are all about being “lovers.” For example, in the first episode, Dorothy says, “I would kill to be 40 again” (TVLand.com), talking about how, when with a group of 20-something male teachers were at work earlier that day, she had forgotten that she was older than the other women.
Charlotte, Synclaire, and Rose portray the child character. They’re usually dressed in skirts and girly accessories such as bows, ribbons, or flowers. They’re prudent and conventional, and often seen as simple characters. These “childish” women portrayed as immature, although sometimes making surprisingly profound statements as children sometimes do. They’re naive and their comments are usually silly and discounted as ridiculous. Similarly also, these women believe deeply in romantic love, and desire romantic love above most other goals. Interestingly enough these women seem to have a relationship and have the most content love life. In a conversation about sex Charlotte decides that she cannot be “the up-the-butt girl” because “men don’t marry the up-the-butt girl . . . whoever heard of Mrs. Up-the-Butt . . . no, no, no . . . I can’t, I want children and nice bedding,” this showing her use of ridiculous phrases, and her longing for a loving family like a child would want.
Finally, Carrie, Khadijah, and Sophia are the characters portrayed as the mother. While Sophia is reduced to the comedic stereotype of the ethnic mother, Khadijah embodies the strong independent mother common in notions of the Black family. These characters are central to the group, and ultimately help seek wellness for the group. The stories they tell reflect the complexity of the world, like a “mothers” would, even with the use of wit and sarcasm like Sophia often uses. The mother character is more neutral on issues, and often contemplates, and over-analyzes the dilemmas in her life as well as in others. For example in the episode where Sinclair blurt outs the secret that Regine’s new “man” is married, to comfort Regine, Khadijah puts her arm around her and says, “Look . . . listen, as much as I love to be right, and you know mother does love to be right. I wish I was wrong this time, but girl, the man is married,” referring to herself as a “mother” type.
These shows provide examples of the different personalities women have and help us see that the “realistic woman” isn’t much of a “Barbie Girl”, but is more commonly “a sinner and a saint”. However, these archetypes placed within a cultured system can then become stereotypes, and while stereotypes can change over time, they generally become set within specific cultural contexts. The women portrayed in this show are from different time eras, in different settings, and yet, they embody almost the same exact personalities, ideas, occupations, and personal issues, and this is what teaches people about the lives of realistic women. If only Television could show us that there is more versatility within the personality of the individual woman, they would really accomplish teaching us about what the realistic woman is. They need to teach more that we are all uniquely different, rather than being confined to the “Same ol’ Hips, Just a Different Sway.”
~Sasha Sanders, CWGS Alum, Class of 2013
Although neo-liberal penetration has brought along many negative drawbacks for women women, it’s existence also creates a movement of global resistance, in the struggle against neo-liberal authority.
Filipino women’s resistance to globalization is led by GABRIELA; a militant, national coalition of women’s organizations, and GABRIELA has facilitated the organization of grassroots women. It has helped to raise consciousness among its members and the larger public on the impact of neo-liberal globalization on Filipino women and one of its major political campaigns is the “Purple Rose Campaign”, which is an international campaign against the sex trafficking of Filipino women and children.
According to the Office of Institutional Research Assessment, roughly 16% of the UMass Dartmouth College of Engineering students are female. This means, the College of Engineering is 84% male! This is not surprising considering the social and institutional barriers that drive younger women away from perusing majors in the sciences, but this is particularly interesting when discussing discrimination within the College of Engineering.
As a female engineering student, who has experienced multiple cases of discrimination while attending a different institution, I have not experienced discrimination from my professors or administrative staff at UMass Dartmouth. I have a profound respect for the College of Engineering on this campus and I have always felt that I was treated the same as my male peers. However, my male peers did not feel the same. Over this past year, many of my male peers have suggested that professors have favoritism for female engineering students. Many of them believe that Engineering professors are more lenient with grading and are more “easy going” with the females in the class. I asked several of the male students why they felt this way and the cumulative reason was “girls are just obviously treated better and professors like them more. They give them better grades because they feel bad for them. Prof. A is a creep and likes girls and Prof. B is a female so she likes girls.” This is when I realized that many male students in the College of Engineering have NO IDEA about the challenges that female engineering students face. Maybe, the entire campus community may not see the full story when it comes to our female engineering students.
I can honestly say, that of all the things I’ve learned while taking women’s and gender studies courses, the most important topic has been the social construction of gender. I believe that understanding this concept is key to helping liberate women because if everyone would realize that we only view gender the way we do because we were nurtured to do so, we would live in a world where people are more accepting of each other’s differences.
In the Judith Lorber’s “The Social Construction of Gender”, she explained that gender is a human production which is dependent upon everyone constantly “doing gender”. She says that gender is maintained as a process, and as part of a stratified and structured system; which has caused gender to be “so pervasive that in our society we assume it is bred into our genes”. Lorber’s excerpt concludes, stating that, gender inequality “is produced and maintained by identifiable social processes and built into the general social structure and individual identities”, and I absolutely agree with this statement because this is the same way that the idea of race, class has been produced in our society.
Since when did no mean yes? Since this is apparently still an issue today, let’s break it down in the most logical sense. Yes: a sign for going, green, a nod of the head from up to down, a smile even, and sometimes the casual thumbs-up. No: a sign for stopping, yielding if you need to hear it one more time, but that should never be the case, red, a nod from left to right or vice versa, a frown, and that thumbs-down has to mean something undesirable. Being categorized as a victim is the worst feeling, many of us have been there once, maybe twice. No one wants to be the one blamed and no one wants to get hurt.
Often time’s people try to blame the victim for the rape. They’ll say something ignorant like, “She was drunk, and she had it coming!” Yes, because she had a sign that said, “Please, scum of Ohio, rape me!” How is the one or many that forced themselves on a girl and took videos and laughed because the victim was unconscious, not being questioned? How is it that a girl passes out that makes her an easy target? Here’s some food for thought: what if that girl was dead the whole time, surely necrophilia is something to laugh about and show to all your guy friends.