Sexism and the Media: Womens' Appearances

March 29, 2016 0 Comments

by: Lydia Hanicak


Women in today's society face countless pressures and expectations to be society's expectation of "beautiful", whether it's through the media, peers,  movies, or through other mediums. It is ridiculous how often celebrities and models are photoshopped to appear thinner, with longer hair, or with clearer skin on the covers of magazines and posters. It dawned on me that men do not face this ridiculous standard to the extent that women do.

Of course, men face constant expectations and stereotypical characteristics of male behavior- hypermasculinity, toughness, strength, inability to show emotions, etc. I am not making the suggestion that men do not have ridiculous societal expectations as women do, but I am choosing to focus on the struggles that women face, as unfortunately women have faced countless injustices in the past and continue to be discriminated against in this patriarchal, male-dominated society.

There are countless examples in the movie industry in which an older, masculinized "lady-killer" type men are fawned over by young, beautiful women who have no other purpose than to please this man in whichever ways they deem fit. James Bond of the Bond movies, Indiana Jones, American Beauty, Frank Abagnale Jr. of Catch Me if You Can, Dracula, and Sir Lancelot of First Knight are only a few examples.

The women in these movies are always sexualized, portrayed as beautiful, flirty, simple-minded, and virginal, as if they have no quirks or eccentricities, no matter how mentally screwed up or psychotic her male counterpart character is. This common trope is shown in the media, videogames, TV shows and movies, books, among others. This can be representative of, and perhaps has a connection to, how real women are viewed by their fellow women and also men in society.

This is perhaps why it is seen as obscene for women to be sloppy, burp, and show other normal bodily functions that are seen as funny if performed by a male. It is seen as "unladylike" to use profanity, to sit open legged in public, and to eat a lot. It is often seen as "unattractive" by men for women to have short hair, to not wear makeup, to have acne, or not have the desired body type.

Even in the present day, women are encouraged to conform to society's vision of attractiveness, usually shaped by men (!!!) and their preferences. Even as children, young boys are given compliments such as "The girls will fawn over him someday!", "He looks so strong!", and "He looks like he'll be a football player someday!", while girls are given ones like "What a pretty girl!", "Dad will have to scare off the boys!", or some other compliment regarding her appearance.

Boys are given (without their personal interests in mind!) toys such as action figures, cars, and toy soldiers, where girls are given dolls, makeup, or toy kitchen supplies. (And yet, people still make the argument that "that's just the way it is.") The fact is, even as children, gender differences are given and expected to be accepted, and this continues as the children age.

As adults, women are often expected to be submissive to their male counterparts, conform to beauty norms, and not be "too smart" or "too confident", which is seen as overbearing or bossy. It is up to the current generation who will have children and the generations to come to change this toxic societal normality, which will eventually change society for the better.