Gender stereotypes abound with vigour in our society. Despite the many claims of progress, in the modern world they are perhaps more accentuated then ever thanks to the influx of media and information we now have access to.
With the idea “sex sells” being taken to heart by companies across the commercial world
never before have gender roles been so defined, stereotyped, caricatured and never has such blatant sexism and objectification (especially that which is inflicted upon women) been so prolific.
With the advent of so many magazines and online websites heavily sponsored by corporate advertising who have a vested interest inn reinforcing these constraining roles in order to make purchase their product they push the message through advertisements and commercials
that we must assume cartoonesque versions of ourselves in order to be successful.
Never before has such a shallow and ultimately pointless lifestyle such as that of a “footballers wife” been held up as the ultimate achievement of femininity, the other side of the looking glass is of course the footballer himself, successful, usually with more money than sense who is lauded primarily not for his sporting successes but for the five cars in his mock Tudor mansion and the number of bleached blonde, artificially inflated glamour girls who hang on to his every word.
Cosmopolitan magazine a magazine which masquerades as empowering women
features regular articles entitled “How to become every mans fantasy woman” illustrated with writhing half naked underfed, glossy limbed nubile models draped in Agent Provocateur underwear and airbrushed to an inch of their lives. The message is clear.
If a magazine like Cosmopolitan in the year 2007 is advocating the moulding of the average female reading their magazine in to such a creature, a creature whose primary aim should be men’s pleasure then nothing has changed. In fact the situation may have worsened since the second wave of feminism in the ’70s as now people are aware of the term feminism, corporations and the mass media have taken care to brand it a dirty word to associate it in the public’s subconscious with failure and marginalization, to paint those who advocate the cause as extremists, outsiders or man haters.
Such has the public consciousness shifted away from feminism as most people in society want to be successful, to be part of something, not marginalized and often don’t bother to question or don’t have the time to question why this term is so demonised. Cleverly the marketers attempt to subvert those that do bother to question feminism’s unpopularity by claiming that today it is irrelevant in our modern society, that we have no need for it, that we already have it all. Modern feminists in this day and age are painted out to be difficult and awkward, trouble causers, intend on causing disharmony between the sexes.
Traditional gender stereotypes too now more than ever are reinforced regularly. Recently, on the popular website Tickle.com I recently took a test entitled “Are you more masculine or feminine?” to see what the outcome would be. The website has millions of visitors every month and the test I took purported to be based upon scientific study but the analysis of the results proved it to be based on nothing more than false assumption and gender stereotyping.
The four possible outcomes of the test were; Highly Masculine, Highly Feminine, Androgynous or Sex Translucent, to score highly in the Highly Masculine category it was mandatory that you had an interest in sports, were aggressive, decisive and a principled individualist. I’m sorry but since when have these qualities been the exclusive territory of the male? It’s laughable to assume that females on the whole do not have an interest in sports, can’t make decisions and are so weak minded that they can’t think for themselves!
Worse was to come, to score highly in the Highly Feminine category you must hold the following qualities in abundance; cheerfulness, compassion, timidity and a trusting nature.
I burned internally at the picture being pushed here that to be successfully female you had to adopt the characteristics of Bambi, Florence Nightingale and Mother Teresa rolled into one!
It is sickening the notion that while the characteristics ascribed to men were essentially positive for the benefit of the individual, the characteristics ascribed to women were positive for the benefit of others! Implying that women do not have the right to enjoy life for themselves, rather that they are here to please others, to facilitate the ease with which others experience their lives and not supposed to have their own healthy desires. This is obviously an unhealthy picture but sadly Tickle.com is not alone in it’s projection of qualities of today’s “feminized ideal” a stereotype which has not really changed since the 1950’s.
Publications abound telling women with healthy bodies that they need to diet, lose weight, have cosmetic surgery or emulate Victoria Beckham’s wardrobe in order to be “successful” women therefore in order to please men. The irony is this unrealistic hypersexual, overtly feminized, immaculate unattainable and frankly scary idea of the perfect female idea that is being pushed by the mass media is ultimately detrimental to every person in society today, most especially the women it is attempting to infect.
By re-enforcing outdated, outmoded irrelevant gender stereotypes we stifle creativity and individualism, smother progress and marginalize whole sectors of society such as the transgendered or inter gendered community who happen to either not fit in to these constraining ideals or who are not willing to fit in to them. It can be argued that these people are a minority but they are extremely relevant because once you stifle their voices you begin to silently suffocate humanity as a whole eventually extinguishing the two things which enabled humans to evolve to the level we have, inventiveness and a strong sense of the self.
Uniform conformity may be good in the short term for profit but in the long term it is lethal for humanity.