The Inequalities of Being a Woman

by Madison Rheam about a month ago in feminism

Gender Gap

The Inequalities of Being a Woman

Women’s rights have been a topic of discussion for years and some progress has been made. However, in today’s society, women still face inequality in the following categories: media, education, and the labor system. Men and women receive two different educations because of the way each gender is treated in the education system. Following the education they received, these men and women enter the workforce under the impression that they’re under equal standards. Yet, the gender pay gap still highly exists today. Finally, our media focuses on women in such a negative way, leading to mental health problems that we see in the women’s population today.

Of the United States population, 3% suffer from an eating disorder. Out of this 3%, 90% of them are women. This is tremendously related to society’s representation of women and women’s beauty. Most of the women featured in the media are never overweight, yet 69% of adult Americans are considered obese in the United States. The true, ideal beauty featured in the media is a tall, skinny, white female. Most of these qualities are genetically related, but women still find ways to alter their bodies according to society’s views of beauty. In 2014, there were over 9.6 million cosmetic procedures that women had done. That’s 9.6 million times women didn’t think they were beautiful, and thought their only choice was to alter their God-given bodies. Women in the media are not only portrayed as objects, but they’re portrayed in a violent way. The key example that was used was a woman’s legs dangling from a trash can with an emphasis on her heels. The advertisement was giving the message that the shoes were "to die for." In many of these ads, women are sliced, maimed, raped, and deformed, all for the purpose of selling a single product. By portraying women in such a way, it is denying women of their true value, and in my opinion, promoting domestic abuse against women.

Not only do women get portrayed in an unequal way in these advertisements, they also get portrayed in the same way in many movies and television shows. In an article published by Forbes, the author instructs us to imagine to ourselves a CEO, a top surgeon, a scientist, a hero, a Hollywood director and then asks us what "he" looked like. This is because, more than likely, a man was the one pictured. This is how the media portrays these leading characters in movies and shows. The majority of the time, these leading characters are always men and the women are portrayed as the sidekick, the friend, or the significant other. This sends a message that women can’t be the lead role, making them a lesser person with a lesser value. By leaving these examples in the widely spread media, it’s altering our social norms. A study that was done by Common Sense Media showed that American teenagers are spending an average of nine hours a day on some form of media such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc. For nine hours a day, adolescent brains are being molded by societies current, degrading views of women. In between these shows, adolescents are viewing advertisements, which surely represent women in the same negative way. Although portrayed in such a degrading way, women are always the main focus in the media; however, this is not the case when it comes to the education system.

From the beginning of education, boys and girls are categorized according to their gender. They aren’t treated equally, resulting in two separate educations. As early as preschool, children are pushed into gendered categories by being told what colors are appropriate for them to like and what toys they should be playing with. In classroom discussions, girls are quickly silenced as the boys interrupt them and seem to always get away with it. I feel this also relates tremendously to domestic abuse because as young as grade school ages, girls are taught that they don’t have a voice. Most of the time, boys get called on more in class too, making girls believe when they’re so young that they aren’t allowed to voice their opinion either. At such a young age, during the crucial time that their brain is still continuously developing and being molded by their surroundings, girls are taught that what they say or want to say doesn’t really matter. Fast forwarding to higher education, men have women outnumbered in the higher-powered professions such as finance, law, and politics, whereas women are overrepresented in the "feminine" fields such as humanities. It is proven that women have a harder time getting into elite colleges compared to men. According to the United States Department of Education, the men’s acceptance rate at Vassar College was almost double that of the women’s. Much like the higher-powered professions, men focus on the "masculine" fields such as math and physics, which eventually lead to a much higher paying job with better benefits.

In today’s society, women’s employment rates are at 57% and men’s are at 69%. Maybe these numbers are the way they are because of the sexual harassment women receive in the workplace. In 1982, sexual harassment was ruled as a violation of the Civil Rights Act, yet it still widely occurs today. I feel this can be related to the way women are portrayed in the media. Women are sexualized in the media, leading to men only seeing women as a sex object. Women are ,once again, viewed as something much less than they really are. This is the case in "pink collar" jobs. Feminized jobs have been given this title because of the duties that come with them. These jobs usually include duties such as cleaning, filing paperwork, or making coffee, and always have a much lower pay, less prestige, and offer not as many benefits, as compared to male-dominated jobs. Most men don’t work in these jobs because of them being known as "pink collar" jobs; however, whenever men do choose to work in these jobs, they experience a glass escalator. A glass escalator refers to the fact that when men work in these "easier," women-dominated jobs, they never find it hard to progress to higher positions in no time. The situation is flipped for women. When women enter a male-dominated job, they, more than likely, experience a glass ceiling. This is the invisible limit women have in male-dominated jobs, preventing them from progressing to the higher job positions. In the rare case that women do reach these higher job positions, they constantly have men breathing down their necks, waiting for them to mess something up. This gives them another reason to say why women shouldn’t be in these positions. Even when women rightfully earn their positions, they’re never treated with the same respect that men receive.

Not only do women tend to receive less respect than men in the workplace, they also tend to receive less money than most men. Women earn 81 cents for every dollar a man earns. Men and women tend to receive the same pay when they first enter the workforce, but a gap seems to form between the ages of 20 and 40. This was found to be closely related to motherhood because women tend to earn less after having children. Many places of employment don’t give women of this age much responsibility in their job because of the fact that they might need maternity leave, making it a lower paying job. Regardless if women have children or not though, many employers will treat women with less respect and responsibility because of them being "fragile" and the employer is anticipating the future of her motherhood. To truly avoid the gender pay gap, women should remain single with no children, but that obviously does not occur all the time, nor should it have to. When woman are around the age of 25, they’re making 90% as much as men; but by the time they reach the age of 45, they’re only making 55%. There’s an obvious difference in the salaries men and women receive, but the value of each of their money is different, too. Of course, the women’s money is considered of lesser value in the family setting. Women’s earnings tend to be spent on the extra, nonessentials, therefore making their money known as "fun money." Men’s income is considered necessary and used for the essentials, making it have a much higher value.

There are many things that could be changed as a society for the gender gap to finally meet. Firstly, the media needs to be focused on both the sexes in a positive and more realistic way. Education needs to be set to equal standards in the classroom. Colleges need to update their ratio of gender and make it an equal opportunity for everyone to get accepted. The labor system needs to finally close the gender pay gap and allow for the same benefits for both men and women. Lastly, both men and women need to have equal opportunities when in the same occupation. The glass escalator and glass ceiling need to be eliminated. Women have faced inequality since the beginning, but it’s time this generation changes the ways equality is seen in our society.

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Madison Rheam

HACC student majoring in social work & women's studies, love blogging, work out enthusiast, cat lover, coffee addict

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