Is a woman’s worth solely about the number of men that have been between her legs? Judging by how many conversations that are had on social media about ‘body count’ and the way the sex trafficking business is still booming around the world, you would think so. But I’ll let you in on a little secret; we’re human just like you.
It starts with the representation of women in the media. Physical appearance is deemed an integral part of our careers. We have to do it all and look good simultaneously or we’re dubbed lazy and frumpy. No one likes a frumpy chick. Television anchors have to be young and conventionally attractive to appeal to a wider audience, whereas male anchors are allowed to be old, as it signifies their wisdom and status as a successful member of society. No one wants to watch an old lady, by then we only qualify to be grandmothers and homemakers.
This crosses over into business in general, an opinionated and ambitious woman is labelled a bitch or ‘hard to handle’; whereas an opinionated, ambitious man is a catch. Take Meryl Streep’s character ‘Miranda Priestly’ in the film ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, the title tells it all, a successful independent woman? Naturally, she has to be the devil. We must look good and be amiable to gain any sort of respect in the workplace. Achieve greatness in silence to avoid intimidating the men, and yet they’re supposed to be the strong ones. Showing emotion in the workplace is seen as a weakness and laughed off as being a symptom of PMS.
In the year 2015, women are still being discriminated against by employers for being pregnant, as they don’t want to pay out for maternity leave and paternity leave requests are not taken seriously. If anything men are praised for their contributions to raising children, like that responsibility is only done as a favour to women. This ‘women are the nurturers and men are the breadwinners’ belief starts from infancy with the toys children are given based on their gender. Apparently, a boy deciding to play with a pram and doll is a laughable offence, but these little boys grow up to be fathers.
It’s not just looks and amiability that are important for a woman in modern society; she has to be sexy too. This single quality is way more important than her intellect and character, hence why everything we see now is basically porn. Sex sells and money makes the world go round. The advertising industry bombards us with sexually suggestive images of women on a daily basis; from film posters to detergent ads. Strong, frumpy females are never the protagonist in the film, female superheroes are seen as the lame ones and even in serious narratives the woman’s main aim is usually to get the guy of her dreams.
If looks, subservience and sex appeal rule supreme when it comes to femininity, it’s no wonder that we are seen as something for men to use, rather than respect. Our worth lies in our purity and virginity; which is why virgins sell for a lot more on the black market and why men are so hung up on the amount of sexual partners we have experienced. Crimes that affect women, like rape, child marriage and prostitution, are not taken seriously by our criminal justice system because men are taught from an early age that our only value is in the kitchen and to satisfy their need for sex. Victims hold the burden of proof and are made to feel like it is their fault, instead of men being held responsible for their cruel behaviour.
We are becoming desensitized to the suffering of women so much so that when prostitutes or strippers are abused or killed, the perpetrators are shown more sympathy and are given light sentences. Ipswich murderer Steve Wright felt it was ok to murder five sex workers back in the early millennium and Paralympian Oscar Pistorius was released from prison within a year after murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. I dare say it would have been a different result if the roles were reversed.
This is a global issue. In the Middle East, female protesters are being sexually assaulted, as a way to silence them, instil fear and undermine their agenda. The Taliban have been vocal in their condemnation of educating women and would rather they stay ignorant and stuck in their roles of domesticity. In New York City a woman cannot walk down the street without being cat called and men don’t take well to rejection. Gang culture tends to recruit women to serve as sex slaves for their men and honey traps for their victims. Oriental women are fetishized for their stereotype of thoroughly catering to their men.
This brings me to the inspiration behind this article, the film ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’. A Geisha is defined as “a Japanese hostess trained to entertain men with conversation, dance, and song.” Not to be confused with “Yugos” who are Japanese sex workers. Geisha “go through intense training, learning only the traditional Japanese arts. Geisha are very respectable women in Japan’s society and would never routinely indulge in relationships with different men.” This idea that respectability comes from monogamy irks me.
The film taught me that Geisha women dedicate their entire lives to serving men and forgo their own needs, as their needs are deemed unimportant. In the film, despite the Geisha being the protagonist of the story, the narrative concluded only once the man came back to save her. His affection for her being validation for all she had gone through. This unsettled me because so many women around the world are taught that their needs come second to their male counterparts. Just imagine how different the world would be if women were seen as equally important by men and, mostly importantly, themselves. We are people, not products for your pleasure, remember that.
Fellow feminists read musician Espa’s thoughts on gender inequality here.
Author Chimamanda Adichie also speaks about #Feminism in her book ‘Americanah’, read my review here.