I don’t listen to Women’s Hour very often, but, in a desperate attempt to avoid football, I downloaded the pod cast of the Saturday ‘Best of’ version. What was was that they had two very different members of celebrity culture discussing how women are seen in society.
This gives rise to a number of debates around the way in which women are represented as archetypes in society, something that is perpetuated through consumer culture and generates further problems for women in all areas of their lives.
Charlotte Church, coming across as very articulate and intelligent, made the observation that women are continuously and subtly degraded in mainstream media. This can be in subtle and often humorous ways;
“she’s having a blonde moment”
through to direct assaults on female biology
“what’s wrong with you love? Got your period?”
which even women are inclined to laugh at, thus perpetuating degradation.
Women’s behaviour and intelligence is often criticised as being the result of their biology, something that has been observed since Freud coined the phrase “hysteria”. The perpetual ignominy presented by both genders in reducing women’s social, cultural and intellectual standing for referring to their physicality is a systemic problem in the Western world.
When Charlotte Church’s astute comments are taken alongside the interesting interview with Katie Price a.k.a. Jordan, a further degree of abasement of women can be seen. Katie makes the argument that people make an active choice whether or not to buy Nuts, Zoo or other borderline pornographic magazine targeted at young adult males, where as children do not make the same choices when watching music videos. The conclusion that she draws is somewhat spurious, that Britney Spears is more responsible for sexualising children than she is, is almost laughable. However, she raises an interesting point in choice to participate in an overtly sexualised culture.
Price may make the argument that children, and indeed all people, ‘choose’ to purchase iniquious magazines, but as feminist action group Object observe, the magazine replaced the eyelevel and one cannot avoid the offensive representations of female models, actresses and singers they display.
A colleague of mine, Dr Laura Nelson, has had significant success taking on Hamleys toy store for actively dividing children’s toys by gender.
The now ubiquitous pink and blue, for which there have been outcries on and off since the 1970s, lend credence to the above representations of women, the ditsy, unintelligent, hormone driven blonde. The continuing need to restore hunter gatherer balance and impress upon children the different roles of men and women is a depressing element of the differences between gender in the UK. And it’s not just toy shops, you go into any supermarket and the cards are segregated into a repulsive puce and prussian scheme so we don’t mistakenly buy the wrong card.
All of this gender division is fuelled by consumer marketing and it takes a lot of action to tackle entrenched sexism when money is its core.
The final observation of a very unpleasant representation of women is the language given around the basic biological function; menstruation.
Most supermarkets talk about “hygiene” products. The very term “sanitary towels” conjures up basal attitude toward defilement of women through a biological function. Rather like that scene in Carrie where a gaggle of girls scream “plug it up”, the onset of puberty for woman is distressing enough without the entire market for suitable facilitation representing a degree of impurity.
Simply eradicating detrimental language around product used for menstruation would go far to separating the unnecessary psychological ties in the besmirchment of women’s biological functions and their ability to compete with men on cultural, social and intellectual levels.
Rather like Object’s campaign to cover up the detrimental images on men’s magazines, we should all be taking slow but sure action at removing the stereotypes in society, primarily marketed in a consumer industry.
Write a letter to your supermarket that uses the broad sign “female hygiene products”. Write to your local council licensing department for the unnecessary display of sexualised imagery outside pole dancing, underwear and sex shops. Actively reject statements please detrimental language such as inappropriate nicknames, “birds” etc. Do not allow human to persuade you to take an alternative view but stand up for your rights as a woman or a man not to see either gender detrimentalised.
If we don’t, we may as well look forward to a world in which Katie Price is seen as a career idol, and were eventually we will begin to feel like we’re living in an action movie with guns in our garter belts running around in high heels for the sole pleasure of other people.