I identify as a woman. It plays a huge role in my lifestyle as it sometimes dictates my personal choices and decisions. Society has made my gender control what opportunities are open to me. It has always made me embarrassed to be the gender I am. I’m angry at the fact that my biological identity is the reason why I can’t reach the same peaks as others of a different gender. I’ve always been aware of this inequality between men and women and the power struggles women have, but I’m now ready to turn my anger into action. Women are constantly being stripped of their voice in politics, the work place, and in the media. Women are powerful and just as intelligent as their male counterparts, but they are not getting the opportunity to show their skills and qualifications to the world. Because of this, women are being put down due to their gender and are being treated unequally compared to men. Why am I being treated differently for something that I truly cannot control?
To begin my journey of fighting for women’s rights, I watched a documentary named “Miss Representation”. Jennifer Siebel Newsom wrote and directed the film as a way to expose mainstream media and how it contributes to the under-representation of women in America. This is relevant today because the media controls every aspect of our lives. The documentary mainly focuses on women of power and influence. It features female leaders including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, actress Geena Davis, actress Daphne Zuniga, former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi. This documentary is on Netflix, where a membership is needed. As I was searching for my SAMOS, I came across “Miss Representation” and immediately became interested when I saw women from ranging ages and backgrounds being credited.
Watching “Miss Representation” solidified and added to the knowledge I already had. I knew that women were constantly being brought down through the media because I’ve seen the disgusting comments left on profiles. The media has become a dangerous place for young girls including myself. I get nervous posting a new picture on social media because in my mind I think what I post will play a huge role in the rest of my life. The media is teaching us girls that our worth and value depend on the amount of likes we get. Also, when the media tears down women in power, it forces young girls to think that women are incapable. We need to be there for those women because we’re all that we have as of right now. These women in a position of authority are only paving the way for young leaders. Hating on them undos their work and gives into perceived assumptions about females. We need to be building each other up, so we can start to breed strong women who can become the next leader. It will be scary fighting against the norm, but if we follow and stand behind these women who are setting an example, we will make great strides. This documentary had teenagers around my age, similar and different to me, and that has shown me that no matter who I am, I can make a change. I loved seeing women who were like me and also women who were the complete opposite of who I am speak up on this issue and take a stand for us.
Because of this documentary, I am more determined than ever to make a change and to try to stop the media from silencing women. It has shown me that there are no limitations to what I want, and if I want to fight for equality, then I most definitely can. I am glad that I found this documentary as it has brought to light the cons of social media and has pushed me to think past what I already know. The movie has inspired many movements like the hashtags #RepresentHer and #DisruptTheNarrative and the Representation Project. This project is a non-profit organization that takes the message of the film onto a broader scale like celebrity ambassadors. They really are just fighting for a world free of gender norms. The project has many documentaries and has information on this grave issue. “Miss Representation” exposes the sad and ugly truth of women in the media and the overall idea of sexism in our country. I refuse to let the media and people behind a screen bring down women who are making a difference. According to Ashley McCall in “What If We Radically Reimagined The New School Year?“, she brings up how our curriculum, which can include the media to an extent, needs to change for the sake of our children. McCall writes, “It tells our children to dream of a better future instead of a better now, in the communities where they live” (McCall). This documentary shows the state of our society, and even though this documentary came out in 2011, others criticizing women is still present today. This should motivate us to change our tune and make these alterations now. We need to stop waiting for the right moment because there will never be one. We need to start as soon as we can before this is all irreversible, and it’s set in stone. If we continue going down this path, more women are going to be put down. Social media is becoming more dangerous by the second, and women are at the center of that.
“Miss Representation” was just the first step to getting myself educated. Actress and activist Sophia Bush has given more perspective on this problem. Sophia Bush is my favorite actress as she was in my favorite show, “One Tree Hill”. She is an activist, fighting for equal rights including womens. Bush has contributed to change by creating a podcast titled, “Work in Progress”. She brings on guests who are fighting for varying ideals. She has professional and personal conversations with her speakers, asking about how they got to where they are.“Work in Progress” focuses on the idea that we can be enough while being a work in progress because they aren’t mutually exclusive. One can listen to her podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or pretty much any listening platform that offers podcasts. I personally listened to her podcast on Spotify. It piqued my interest hearing from different guests, so I decided to listen to two of her episodes.
The first one was released on March 31, 2020 which was Equal Pay Day this year. This day differs each year. The episode was called, “Equal Pay Day: Closing the Gender Pay Gap with Katica Roy”. Katica Roy is a gender economist and is well-known for “Pipeline”, a company that uses artificial intelligence to make economic gains in gender equality. Roy and Bush go into Roy’s background as she is a daughter of an immigrant and a refugee. Her family’s journey to get where she is today was difficult but also rewarding. She mentioned the dangers they had to go through like crossing a minefield to get to Austria. With this, she pays thanks to President Eisenhower for sending Air Force 1 to bring Hungarians to the U.S on Christmas Day in 1956. Her family, which included her three older sisters, was on that plane. Roy and Bush continue to converse about the widening pay gap between men and women. Bush and Roy discuss that if the U.N’s fifth goal, gender parody, were to be achieved, it would accomplish the other half of the goals. Roy brings up that if we were to close the gender gap, $512 billion would be added to the GDP. This would completely better our economy and our country.
Listening to this episode has made me more aware of the growing gap between men and women. I had no idea that Equal Pay Day is the day that shows that is how long it takes for women to make as much as men from the previous year. Yes you read that correctly, the previous year! Roy and Bush made it obvious that women deserve to be paid as much as their male coworkers. Women are just as smart and capable of doing the jobs that are primarily filled by men. Women make up more than half of America. 51% of the U.S is made up of beautiful and empowering women. So why aren’t they the majority let alone equal? Only 24% of women work in Congress. Although that is an increase from the 20% it once was, it is missing the other 27%. We have to continue this momentum, so we can close the gap and move towards gender parody. I want my payment to reflect my work not my gender. It is demeaning to not give women the same chances because of something that they can’t control. If we just give women the opportunity to be paid the same, we would get so much more done because we are working together. We have this us vs. them mentality that is getting us nowhere. It has come to a point where it is affecting our economy. There is unnecessary competition between males and females that is slowing us down. We could be improving and growing at a more rapid pace if we just got past our bias and allow women to be treated equally.
To add on. we need to amplify women’s voices by not only being conscious but implementing plans to reach this. According to Bobbie Harro in “Cycle of Liberation“, she says that we need to, “Check our reality and to expose ourselves to a wide range of differences than we had before” (Harro 4). We need to practice skills that’ll lead to equality. Women are a target group, in the words of Harro, and in order to help them, we need to do some things differently, regardless if it makes us uncomfortable. We need to be more aware and awake to what’s truly going on in our lives and how women are being undermined for who they are. Let’s use this new thinking to undergo change. When things become more equitable, more good will come out of it. This inequality is not only affecting women, but it affects men. Inequality acts as an invasion of one another because we aren’t used to working alongside each other. We need to do better for each other. We are hurting more by creating a bigger gap between women and men. This podcast episode was only more evidence that women are being treated differently based on their gender. We need to be willing to take this jump and to walk through the scary unknown regardless if we are successful or not. Let’s be brave for and to one another because women depend on it.
Next, I listened to another podcast. The podcast is called “Stuff Mom Never Told You” with host Anney and Samantha of IHeartRadio. The episode that I listened to was “Feminism and the English Language” with Amanda Montell. Amanda Montell is the author of “Worldslut”, and in her episode they talk about gendered insults and the way people talk to women. “Wordslut” is a feminist spin on taking back the English language.
Montell grew up loving linguistics and studied that in college. She loved trying to find those hidden biased parts of our language. Montell with the hosts talks about how interesting it was to learn about the judgements of not only women but marginalized groups. In our culture and in our language, we have a male-defaultness, and what “regular” white men say becomes the norm. These men use language as a source of power. Word choice has to do with gender and affects the way that we talk and what we talk about. Montell later says that the English language isn’t sexist, but the way people who use it has become sexist. In our language and in our culture, we have downgraded women into a sexual slur. When women are insulted, we reduce her to a sexual object. Montell wants us to use gendered insults in a more positive manner. She wants us to change the meaning of certain words, so that we aren’t putting down others. She wants us to reclaim these words and change the context, so the future doesn’t associate those words with a negative connotation. We can then be more specific with other people because we wouldn’t be addressing a problem with their gender but with their behavior. Montell says that titling her book “Wordslut” is an example of reclamation and trying to fix the definition of the word. Words can disempower or empower people. I know that I get criticized because I am a woman, and people use “female” insults towards me like “You’re good at that for a girl”, etc. Just tell me that I’m good, my gender has nothing to do with my success.
Additionally, the media loves to critique women and their voices. It is coming to a point where it is forcing women to conform to a male-dominated society. They want us to accomodate to those standards because it is “proper” grammar. But there isn’t good in keeping a language at the same level. We need to claim our space and own our voice. I refuse to fall in line with the norms because I’m tired of society being disrespectful to women or other agent groups. Montell says we need to make our own female-dominated words so we can bring some power back to us.
I can safely say that I can take away some new information from this podcast episode. I never realized the power of our language. I know that what we say matters, but huge chunks of our language needs changing. Montell truly opened my eyes to the importance of reclaiming a word. I will not let certain words keep the same meaning any longer. I will call out whoever uses a derogatory word about my gender. It is giving into stereotypes about women. Montell also shines a light that our language is mainly male-dominated. We say things that are usually directed towards men. How exclusive! We need to be more conscious about the things that we say so that they include everyone. We also need to make sure that we aren’t hurting women and perpetuating gender inequality with the words that we use. I am going to try to be more careful with what I say because I want better for our world. We need to be accepting of what we have to say and at the same time hold each other accountable if something is hurtful. Words shouldn’t be based on gender, so let’s focus on being gender-inclusive or keeping gender out in general. When we become more educated, we can make better informed decisions on how we use language. We need to foster a world that we want to live in, otherwise we will keep perpetuating an unequal and oppressive world. If we want change, our words and actions need to reflect that.
Going back to Bush’s podcast, I listened to another episode with Victoria E. Jackson. The episode was titled, “Victoria E. Jackson: Entrepreneur, Activist, and Advocate”. Victoria Jackson is an activist for women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship. In 2017, Jackson was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Bush and Jackson discuss her journey of how she got to be the inspirational leader she is today. Bush describes her as an example of what you can be when you’re determined.
This episode focuses on women empowerment. The other resources I listened to and watched were about how women were put down. But this episode shares Jackson’s inspiring story that showcases pain turning into self-confidence and power. Growing up, she struggled with family as her parents got divorced at the age of ten. Her mother got remarried to the next door neighbor, and she got three step-siblings. Jackson fell in love with makeup at a young age. She loved doing makeovers on her friends because it made them feel better about themselves. Then tragedy struck when Jackson was raped by the Pillowcase Rapist in the 1970s. This led her to dropout of high school and develop extreme anxiety. Due to her anxiety, she was not able to fly for 37 years and became very claustrophobic. With her not being able to fly, she missed lots of opportunities, including talking to Oprah. As a result of this event, Jackson realized that she had always been in survival mode. Bush and Jackson talk about the trauma that she had gone through, but also the life she led after. She decided to pursue her passion of makeup and began teaching cosmetics at UCLA. She even overcame her claustrophobia and anxiety when she went to go teach women how to apply makeup in a jail. She went on to make her own makeup products and became the CEO of her own makeup company. Jackson continued her success as she was a makeup artist for infomercials and for magazines. She loved the idea of being natural with makeup so you can still love yourself. There were times where she didn’t think that she was good enough due to her lack of self-esteem and anxiety. But she turned it into a time where she can be her true self and to just live her life without caring what anyone else has to say. Bush mentioned that Jackson never let fear paralyze her and that she turned her fear into fuel. Jackson is a prime example of someone who was thrown many obstacles and overcame every single one of them.
Later in the episode, Jackson and Bush talk about Jackson’s daughter’s rare neurological disease called NMO. But these unexpected news didn’t stop Jackson. She was ready and motivated to find a cure for her daughter, working with resources to figure out what she could do to help. Jackson really showed how life will try to knock you down, but with the help of the people around you, you can see herself in a new light. She is now a role model for women and is a figure of empowerment. I can take away how regardless of how hard life can be, I can get through it. I can look up to Victoria Jackson as a pinnacle example of perseverance. I feel like I’ve gained a new sense of thankfulness in the life that I have been given despite all of the struggles I’ve gone through. As someone who deals with anxiety, it was inspiring and life changing to hear how one can struggle but come out stronger on the other side. I now want to empower the women and men in my life to keep fighting. We were all chosen for the life that we are in, and everything happens for a reason even if it doesn’t seem like it. I want to be there for someone whenever they need it, but also show them that their past and their flaws don’t define who they are. Jackson has shown that women can have a voice in their life. Bush’s conversation shows that Jackson leads by example and that people can do what they want if they put their mind to it. I am ready for whatever is coming my way because of Jackson’s courageous story. I have acknowledged my worth and my purpose, and it’s my turn to allow other women to do the same.
I went into this experience with basic information: gender inequality exists in our country and our world. What I have come out with is ideas and stories about how we can fix this gap and the benefits of equality. “Miss Representation”, “Work in Progress”, and “Stuff Mom Never Told You” has given me a deeper perspective on this very real problem.
I’m really excited to start paving my way and fighting for women. This doesn’t mean I’m going to put other people down in order for women to be respected. Fighting for women’s rights means fighting for equality. Fighting for people to be treated the same regardless of who they are. At the end of the day, we are human, and we are all on the same playing field when it comes to that. I now know what to look out for, like in the way that things are said to me, and how to combat them. We’ve let this way of life go on for too long, and change is long overdue. Margaret Wheatley in “Willing To Be Disturbed” mentions how we don’t take the time to listen to others because we don’t want to change (Wheatley 3). Let’s cut the crap, and be there for the other 51% of our country. We need to be open to understanding, listening, and empathizing with our peers, and stand up for them when they need it most. Women will be vocal and aggressive to reform our country, but we also need the help of others to make that change happen and permanent.
I’m also not only going to put myself on the line for myself but for the future females who I know for sure will take over and dominate. Change won’t happen overnight, but this is the beginning of my new journey. I am speaking up for something that I not only believe in, but something that I am a part of. Gender equity is within our reach as long as we are willing to take that leap of faith and use our voices for those who can’t. It’ll be terrifying, especially if we fall, but it’ll be rewarding when we rise. It’s going to get complex and confusing, but what I’ve taken away from women like Katica Roy, Sophia Bush, Victoria Jackson, Condoleezza Rice, and Amanda Montell is that women are amazing and will get it done. I’m proud to be a woman, and damn, does it feel good to say that.