When asked to pick evocative objects to photograph, I assumed it would not be easy. Sexism is an idea and is difficult to portray physically. But, the more I dug into my topic, the more I realized everyday objects can be seen as having a sexist or feminist meaning or background. Sexism is found everyday and it was not difficult to find items to symbolize and portray this. Below are just a few of the objects I photographed and simply one of many objects found in everyday life.
The type of sexism women face in America is, in most cases, very subtle. In our society, most people are accustomed to overlooking these instances. After doing some research (finding blogs dedicated to everyday feminism and statistics illustrating dues women have to pay that men do not), I have noticed many things I never have before. I have been, and seen other women, interrupted in class and just in general life by males. I have been asked by one of my guy friends how to iron one of his new work shirts, and been told that I should not study abroad alone because “every girl needs a friend to watch out for her”. As I started noticing these things more and more, I was not offended by any of them, I just realized the differences between how men and women are expected to act.
Along with everyday life, there is sexism in the media as well. I saw this video, by The Representation Project, in 2013 and I viewed the media in a new way. Until I saw this video, I rarely questioned how men and women were presented in the media. After watching this, I began viewing the objectification of both men and women and actually registering it as something that should not be a norm. I believe this is the beginning stage of changing the media industry. If everyone simply looked at the media in a different way, we would have the motivation and the numbers to Demand Better Media (another video by The Representation Project made in 2014).
In politics, many women are focused on for their appearance as opposed to their issues. For example, Hillary Clinton’s fashion sense as well as makeup techniques are highly discussed. I have, not once, heard a comment about Bernie Sanders’ appearance and unless a man looks are as ridiculous as Donald Trump’s, his physical characteristics are not commented on. But, we do not notice this because we are accustomed to hearing about women’s appearances and men’s opinions.
It is also surprising to see the lack of women involved in politics. Elle UK started a campaign dubbed #MoreWomen. They photoshopped all of the men in politics out of photographs. It is an extremely eye opening campaign.
But, for now, men and women are doing what they can to call out the injustices women face as well as their lack of representation in the media. Always launched its campaign, #LikeAGirl. Buzzfeed allows men to experience what being a female entails with their: Makeup Trial, Guys Try Motherhood, Heel Trial, Thong Trial videos, among other experiments. Videos, such as Body Evolution, call out the use of photoshop in our culture today. And, a short film, called Imagine a World, opened the eyes of millions to how the disapproval and mocking of homosexuality in our society should not be a norm. These, among other forms of media attempt to call out the injustices found in everyday life as well as open the eyes of those struggling to understand other perspectives. There is hope for the future, but we, as a society, have a long way to go.
As I have said before, I did not discover the necessity of feminism until recently. I saw Suffragette when it came out and was surprised by the suffering and struggle that went into women obtaining the right to vote. But, although it was depicted to me firsthand, I thought this struggle was long over. That is, until the end of the movie. A scrolling list appeared of countries paired with the year their female citizens gained the right to vote.
Seeing that countries, such as Saudi Arabia, just allowed women to vote in 2015 surprised me. I knew that many women do not have as many rights as men in all parts of the world — some countries more severe than others. But, I did not know they were denied such a basic right as to vote until so recently. I assumed many countries gave women these rights on paper but abused and denied them basic necessities “behind the scenes”. Because of this, it did not surprise me that women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to vote unless it is with a man.
This is the moment I realized that feminism is not an important cause because I and other women around me are affected by injustices. It is necessary because women who are not around me are affected and although I do not have to struggle nearly as much as some women in the world do, I should still care.
When Suffragette movements were happening across the world simultaneously, they were powerful and brave. I believe this is because all women were fighting for one cause. All women. The rich, the middle class, and the poor had one goal in mind. As of today, particular groups of women have gained rights while others have not. This causes the feminist mission to be a little blurred. Many women do not declare themselves feminists, many women are complacent in their position in society, and many women fear the fight for rights.
American women and those living in other developed countries have struggles in society. These women have to deal with men speaking over them when they are talking, men physically walking in their paths, and the expectation that they should have children, among other things. For example: Hillary Clinton. When her husband cheated on her, she was the one who was criticized for staying with him, not her solely husband, who was unfaithful. She is continuously criticized and reported on for her clothing as opposed to her issues. And, her tactic for presenting her views is judged although it is the same as every other presidential candidate. These are all criticisms we, as a society, are used to. But, when examined, we can see that they are not fair.
Women around the world, though, have much different struggles that feminists should work to bring awareness to and work to cease. To list just a few: In Iraq, the literacy rate of women and girls is one of the lowest in the Arab world because many families fear rape and kidnapping by sending girls to school. In Pakistan, women are raped and killed as punishment for men’s crimes. Saudi Arabian women are forced to depend on men their whole lives. They rely upon men in order to drive a car or vote but may not socialize with them publicly (Ten Worst Countries for Women).
The issues of women in developed and developing countries differ from each other greatly. But, one thing they have in common is that, at the baseline, they are simply a struggle. And, because all women are struggling, albeit at different degrees, we all must band together to end the difficulties and the suffering.
The first time I learned about feminism as a young adult was when Emma Watson spoke about it to United Nations. My ignorance on the subject until then came about for many reasons. I was not very aware of the need for a feminist movement (as Emma explains, women in first world countries do not face as much discrimination as other females); I assumed feminists were non-shaving, aggressive women; and, this was the first public feminist speech I had ever paid attention to. Watson explains why some women choose not to become feminists – these reasons I identified with until recently.
She acknowledges that these aspects of feminism are false. Emma points out that women should be paid equally, have complete control of their body, have equal say as the men in government, and deserve respect in society, among other reasons.
By appointing someone similar in age to teenage girls who were continuing to make up their mind about identifying as feminists, the women of the UN broadened the spectrum of proud feminists. Below is her inspiring and empowering speech that commenced my journey to defining myself as a feminist.
When asked which topic I would be interested in to investigate for a whole semester, I thought of a few things but the idea that stuck out to me the most was the feminist movement in Philadelphia. As I researched the topic, I found Feminist Public Works. They seemed really interesting and had a unique approach to combatting street harassment along with advocating for safety and equality of women in the community and in the government.
I have struggled with declaring myself a feminist because, in today’s society, it has somewhat of a negative connotation. And, until recently, I did not believe I was a feminist. But, after a bit of research, I realized that feminists are not aggressive, man-hating individuals. Feminism works for equality for not only both genders, but all genders. Ellen Lapp speaks more on this topic in her essay, Why Feminism Has a Bad Reputation.
I don’t think that I officially decided that I was a feminist until I began researching for this project. And, in my investigation so far, I have found many different non-aggressive, non-man-hating campaigns that simply raise awareness to subtle sexism in our culture by depicting the lack of women in a very powerful industry, that throwing like a girl is not an insult, and that some people still believe that women deserve no rights what so ever, among others campaigns.
Feminist Public Works, specifically, is a local company that does their own campaigning to promote the safety of women in Philadelphia. Here are a few examples: I, II, III. I hope to speak to someone from the organization to learn more about their mission and how they come up with their campaigns. I would like to know what they are doing to reduce gender bias in the community and in government. I believe this is a huge issue that many are interested in and support because women deserve equal treatment wherever they go. That means women should not be called out on the street, receive less pay, and be thought of as lesser because of their gender. I think it is important to raise awareness, no matter how small, about an extremely significant issue such as this and I believe Feminist Public Works does an amazing job of addressing this topic.