The Role of Women in Society
Spanning the history of humanity, groups of people have come together to fight for their civil rights and the chance at a better life - The Role of Women in Society introduction. The United States had a series of revolutions with many wronged minorities demanding equality. Among these groups of people, women were a major group seeking liberation. The Feminist movement, both the First Wave and the Second Wave, achieved many of the goals its innovators sought to accomplish. Legally, women have gained much equality to men. However, the inner workings of society need to be revamped to eliminate all prejudices women face simply because they are women.
The Feminist Movement has earned women a new status in society that was not possible fifty years ago, but there is still room for improvement. The group that I am studying is women, within the group women I am also touching on the subgroup African American women, lesbians, and Trans women. The group woman is defined as any person who identifies themselves as a woman. For about 194 years, Women were second-class citizens in the United States. The only “right” women had was to the protection of the males in their lives and in return they were to obey.
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A woman’s place was in the home and caring for her husband and children. Being successful outside of the home was considered social deviance and “unnatural” (Chafe 16, 17). Feminists sought to change these social standards. The First Wave of Feminism, earned women the right to vote. Then in the 60s and 70s, another women’s movement arose and it was the Second Wave of Feminism. A few of the aims of the movement were establishment of daycare centers for children, access to birth control, and access to public places regardless of race (Staples 162, 163).
The Second Wave of Feminism is responsible for the establishment of systems put into place both within society and legally (Chafe 142). Women in politics, women in the media, are women equal to men??? Lesbians, Trans women, and black women. http://www. usatoday. com/news/opinion/forum/2010-10-13-column13_ST_N. htm As stated in an article entitled “Women in politics? The U. S. is failing,” we are shown images of influential female politicians, such as Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin, but the reality of the female in the political realm in the United States is not as perfect as it may seem.
Compared to other nations we come in 90th place when it comes to female representation within the government. Other countries, such as France, have policies where women must have a substantial percentage of government representation. Apparently, the U. S. government does not feel it necessary to employ such policies. Statistics, highlighted in the USA Today article, show that Congress is 83% male and 17% female. This is a huge imbalance when population is brought into the equation, as women make up 51% of the population. Reasons speculated for the underrepresentations of women in government include blaming of the women themselves.
The assumption is that women think themselves too busy with managing both their households and careers to take on a government position. Although there is a decrease in female participation in politics, there is still hope for the upcoming elections in 2012. The article states: “congressional districts will be redrawn on the basis of the 2010 Census, thereby creating new political territory devoid of the incumbency bias that perpetuates gender inequities. ” So, without having to compete against a majority of men who have been in Congress for years, hopefully women will have a fighting chance.
The topic woman in the media has been controversial. The media exploits women and portrays them as sex objects. Magazines are a problem for two reasons. The traditional magazines for women always contain topics like fashion, beauty, heterosexual relationships, “cooking, cleaning, and caring” (Tuchman, Gaye, Daniels, and Benet 98). Magazines covers, such as Maxim and Playboy, display half-naked women as the ideal woman or “what the readers would like to be” (Tuchman, Gaye, Daniels, and Benet 100). Violence against women is present in the lyrics of the popular songs within any genre.
For example, in the Beatles song Run For Your Life the lyrics threaten the life of the song’s author “sweetheart” if he happens to “catch you with another man that’s the end, little girl. ” Typically people seem to think it is just with rap music or hard metal, but these types of lyrics can be found anywhere. When discussing the role of women in society, one cannot simply generalize and lump all women into one group. There is much diversity in the group that is women alone. These differences span across sexuality, race, gender, class, ability and other variations.
In order to have inclusiveness, the author has included a few of the subgroups within women in the discussion of the role of women in society. These subgroups are African American women, lesbians, and Trans women. “You already have two strikes against you: you’re black and you’re a woman. So you have to work twice as hard. ” This statement was one that my mother repeatedly to me as a child. Being both an African American and a woman in United States society is “an unique dilemma” (Staples 10). African American women have to deal with both racism from those outside their race and sexism from those outside their sex.
There are stereotypes of the Black woman as the overbearing, matriarch who needs to be put in her “place” by the black man (Staples 10). One might question, in this day of women’s liberation, whether women have to subordinate their individuality to the support of male ego needs. Black women are constantly compared to white women. It is only in a male-dominant society that women must suffer all sorts of indignities and psychological abuses at the hand of a male and remain quiet so they won’t upset his delicate ego. The sexuality of the African American woman is also a stereotype: the Jezebel.
She is seen as “the most sensual of all female creatures” and innately sexual. This view causes the black women to be seen an impure, crude, and solely sexual beings (Staples 36). According to Staples, the black woman’s “virtue” was never a prime concern within the governing society, and therefore was never guarded (Staples 70). During slavery, black women were susceptible to sexual advances from slave masters, whether wanted or not, and this historical happening has resulted in the designation of the black woman as a whore (Staples 38, 39).
Another subgroup, within women is the Lesbian. It is common knowledge the legal barriers homosexuals face: same-sex marriage is illegal and they cannot openly join the military. However, female homosexuals (lesbians) face different prejudices, than do their male counterparts. Lesbians in the United States are seen as stereotypes which are largely perpetuated by the mass media. They are the butch, masculine lesbian, the “sophisticated,” well-off lesbian, or the neurotic, shy lesbian (Gross and Woods 302).
A major component of the media, film is partially responsible for the American view of the lesbian and they are not always portrayed in the most accurate way either. Lesbian depictions on screen are shown either in a pornographic way, as the aforementioned stereotype, or in films made by women and women who are lesbians (Gross and Woods 301, 302). Lesbians are not seen as true women because “the essence of a woman is to be fucked by men. ” In this double-standard society we live in, for a woman to be assertive and autonomous she must be a “dyke. A dyke is the last thing a woman wants to be as it strips them of their womanhood. Men use it to keep women in their subservient roles. Due to the limiting power structure that runs Hollywood, it is rare for lesbians to be shown in any way that is not sexual (Gross and Woods 302, 305). The movie companies are more interested in making money, than in being accurate. A common theme of lesbian themed films is of showing lesbianism as a phase or a fling and ending up in the arms of a man by the film’s completion (Gross and Woods 303).
As the text states: In general it appears that despite the emergence of a new consciousness about gayness and womanity, the cinema is entrenched in viewing both as negative and potentially destructive (either of self or others) unless a safe domesticity prevails in marriage to a strong man (303). The often persecuted and ignored subgroup within women is Trans women. Transgender people are a group that feels their biological and anatomical sex is incongruous with their own perceived gender and sex (Feinbloom 129). Trans Women are people who transition their bodies from male to female (Serano 29).
Society does not approve of trans women (Feinbloom 90). For example, as Feinbloom recalls, one of her colleagues was fired after his transgender status was discovered in the workplace (Feinbloom 189). Not only are trans women persecuted by the majority of society as a whole, they are also oftentimes mistreated by other women as well. They are often labeled as fake and not “real women” (Serano 35). Women groups also exclude them from events such as the Michigan Womyn’s Festival (Serano 238). By banning them from women events, they further perpetuate the idea that trans women are artificial.
Although the status of women in society is better than it used to be, there are still issues that need to be dealt with. There is a lack of females in the political world. Women in the media are sexual objects and violence against them is celebrated in music. Black women face twice as many challenges as both a minority and a female. Lesbians are stereotyped and misrepresented in the media. They are not seen as “real women” in society. Trans woman also lack the legitimacy of womanhood in the eyes of American society. Personally, I think that women will continue to make strides in the pursuit of equality.
With the end of sexism, then too shall the end of all negative results of the patriarchal society that is the United States will come to be. I think in 2012 with the incumbents out of the way there will be more women present in Congress. I do not see a change in the way the media portrays women changing, without a sociological change and the way people are taught to value and treat women. Really, the status of women will not improve in the future without the consciousness of society making a dramatic transformation.
Chafe, William Henry. Women and Equality: Changing Patterns in American Culture. New York: Oxford UP, 1977. Print. Feinbloom, Deborah Heller. Transvestites & Transsexuals: Mixed Views. New York: Delacorte/S. Lawrence, 1976. Print. Gross, Larry P. , and James D. Woods. The Columbia Reader on Lesbians and Gay Men in Media, Society, and Politics. New York: Columbia UP, 1999. Print. Schmitz, Joelle. “Women in Politics? The U. S. Is failing. ” USA Today [McLean] 12 Oct. 2010. Web. 17 Dec. 2010. <http://www. usatoday. com/news/opinion/forum/2010-10-13-column13_ST_N. htm>. Serano, Julia. “Bending Over Backwards: Traditional Sexism and Trans-Women Exclusion Polices. Whipping Girl: a Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Emeryville, CA: Seal, 2007. Print. Serano, Julia. “Coming to Terms with Transgenderism and Transsexuality. ” Whipping Girl: a Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Emeryville, CA: Seal, 2007. Print. Staples, Robert. The Black Woman Sex, Marriage and the Family in America. Chicago: Nelson Hall, 1978. Print. Tuchman, Gaye, Arlene Kaplan Daniels, and James Bene?t. Hearth and Home: Images of Women in the Mass Media. New York: Oxford University, 1978. Print.