Our society might be considered as the most advanced and fair as it comes to diversities and minorities when compared to the past. Yet, women, as almost half of the world’s population, are still thought to be inferior and somehow to have different capabilities compared to the other portion of the population. Even though women have achieved huge goals in parity of sexes in politics and human rights, they are still experiencing sexism and discrimination in different contexts of everyday life, especially at the workplace. As a result of a culture which values masculinity and physical strength, individuals grow up with sexist mindsets, consequently creating a society in which women’s capabilities are under underestimated and minimized. One of the many aspects of culture to assert as the main cause of this sexist mindset is advertising. Since images are the most powerful mean of communication in modern society, values conveyed by those images have a result on people’s ideas.
As a matter of facts, we let children grow up with the idea that women have inferior abilities and possibilities compared to men’s, for this is the way women are depicted in advertainments and modern visual culture. One of the most glaring examples is the recent Aptamil baby milk advert, which showed baby boys growing up to mathematician and baby girls becoming ballerinas claiming “since their very first day, your baby starts to write their future”, as if because of their biological sex they would be bound to have a certain future.
Another example is MR Clean advert in which are shown a woman and a girl, representing a mother and her daughter, with on top written “ This Mother’s Day, get back to the job that really matters”; in other words the advert is encouraging women to go back to the job they really belong to. Allowing visual culture to express such images of women means accepting this stereotype of women to be inferior to men and to belong to a feminine world of cleaning and dancing. In an article published by The BBC, on 18 July 2017, it is stated that “advertising standards can play an important role in tackling inequalities and improving outcomes for individuals, the economy and society as a whole” and this adds weight to the idea that visual culture perpetuates the value of sexism in our society. As already stated, the justification of women’s underestimated capabilities at the workplace is bolstered by a culture that encourages and evaluates masculinity as the best characteristic for a worker. As the contemporary economy is based on aggressiveness and competitivity, men are usually regarded as best fitting. Contrarily, women are directly underestimated for their biology. This results not only in the low presence of women in those industries that require high levels of aggressiveness, such as The Tech Industry but also in particular attitudes towards women which are somehow used to place them in an inferior position. This aspect is particularly explained in the podcast “Don’t Call Me Sweetie”, published by The Broad Experience on 8 February 2016. In this podcast, Ibby Caputo, who has experienced indirect sexual harassment at the workplace, stresses how men by using terms of endearment as “sweetie” or “my dear”, indirectly mark their superior position at the workplace.
Also, in another podcast “Men on Women”, published by The Broad Experience, Benjamin DeBoer, who was interviewed in the podcast, emphasizes how masculinity is valued both in men and women in business, and how men are supposed to be better in controlling their emotions than women. All these experiences and opinions, reinforce the idea of the celebration of men and masculinity in our culture. In his speech “Suffrage and The Working Woman” of 1871, Susan B. Antony in which she expresses why women, that at that time were not allowed to work as labor was considered degrading to them, should have the right to be responsible for their subsistence, she claims “Society dooms her (a woman) always to a subordinate position, as an inferior”. As already proved previously, this situation has not changed despite 147 years have passed. Furthermore, in her Ted of 2012 “We Should All Be Feminists”, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie supports how we have not made any step forward in changing this situation: “We have evolved, but it seems to me that our ideas of gender have not evolved”. She also points out how those women who stand for themselves and express how they should be regarded equally to men, are often considered “intimidating” and “emasculating”.
As a society, we still have the belief that a woman must have a man that protects and defends herself. We think of a courageous woman who defends her rights as intimidating. All in all, in order to change this situation, to have men and women stand on the same level and fully declare gender equality under every single aspect of life, we do not need laws or regulations. A cultural change is needed, and this is possible only with the elimination of stereotypes about women capabilities at the workplace. For a better future, we need to raise our children by teaching them that women, as well as men, from any race and ethnicity, are able to do everything, and that ability is not given by their sex, but by their intelligence.
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