Feminists have been fighting for equality in America since the first women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls in 1848. It was at this meeting where people gathered and discussed injustices against women and increased support for women’s rights. Since then, the feminism movement has made progress, but the fight is far from over.
At the 2015 Academy Awards, Patricia Arquette explained in her acceptance speech that now is the time to “have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
I don’t think any woman would argue against the fact that she wants to be seen as more than just what mass media portray. Women want to have their potential acknowledged through equality; yet, the popular culture that women participate in contradicts the idea of them being more than mere objects.
The book “50 Shades of Grey” written by E.L. James is a perfect example of how society supports the objectification of women. The main character, Ana Steele, is portrayed as an introverted, self-conscious girl with daddy issues; Steele is barely self-sufficient when the great Christian Grey, an attractive and successful CEO, comes along and gives her life meaning. He reshapes her sexual identity by taking her virginity, then continues to gain authority over her by making it seem as though his controlling tendencies are done out of love.
“The book totally neglects the equality that every relationship should have,” undeclared freshman Katie Carter said. “The submissiveness of Ana sends a bad message to women regarding what their role is in a relationship and in society.”
Grey is obsessed with commanding every decision that Ana could possibly make. He requires her obedience through a contractual agreement that not only constitutes the rules of their sexual relationship, but the rules of her lifestyle, including what she eats, when she works out, what she wears and how much she sleeps.
He objectifies and dominates Steele for his own selfish purpose, and yet some women who indulge in this book envy the couple’s relationship and believe that Grey’s controlling nature is a symbol of his deep love for Steele.
This book and recently released movie promote the idea that lust is love and how a woman’s role in a relationship is complete submission to her significant other. It is scary to think that some women have such low self-esteem that they would envy and long for a relationship where their purpose would be to please. Women are equipped to do so much more than entertain men’s sexual desires, which is why this book is so insulting.
Dr. Daniel Pawley, associate professor for the Department of Communication Studies, is an expert in fandom and explained how the emphasis is more about the consumer than about the product.
“Media products like ‘Fifty Shades’ … mirror the motives and desires of audience members who consume them,” Pawley said. “So it’s really more about the consumer than it is about the product. Of course, when we look at ourselves in the mirror, it’s possible that the image we see also has an influencing effect. So in that sense, any media product can affect our reality.”
This realization that women are not just victims of the book, but instead consume it based on a desire predating this twisted love scares me. I always assumed the media impacted society’s ideology more than society’s ideology impacted the content of the media. It is no longer about first changing what constitutes popular culture and expecting that to change the way society views women. Rather, it is about changing how women view themselves and how they act on their motives and desires.
I wrongfully assumed that the book was the reason for the portrayal of women as objects in society. I realize now that it is actually women who are corrupting their own image. Every woman desires love, but love is something that takes time and involves understanding oneself first.
The craving of attention from the opposite sex begins far before women have had enough time to discover their spiritual identities and establish their self-worth on a foundation much more concrete than changing appearances. Instead of taking the long route to a healthy relationship, women substitute love with lust and visually attract the opposite sex, causing society to see women as just being pretty objects.
The mass media came to this realization far before I did and have used it to turn a profit by luring its audiences. Lisa Nena, Azusa Pacific University alumna and second-year graduate assistant at the Women’s Resource Center, explained how Hollywood encourages this objectification.
“It is insane how physically attractive people are in Hollywood,” Nena said. “You watch interviews with celebrities and they are not talking about what you do or how good you are at doing it, but about how hot you are. This reinforces and enhances the idea that looks are everything.”
I believe that the cure for the portrayal of females as objects involves women taking a step back and thinking about where their self-worth lies.