Every time I am writing for my high school feminism course, it seems that there’s something else that I find out about, not only about myself but about everything around me that cracks the view I previously had of the world.
In my high school feminism class, we were each given two Ms. Magazine issues, the 40th anniversary issue and the Spring/Summer issue of 2012. The articles were great and covered topics such as voter suppression and unequal pay based on gender and race.
One article really stood out to me in the Spring/Summer issue called “I Can Handle It” by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano. This article is powerful because Whitefield-Madrano writes about her own experience with domestic abuse. I always seem to forget that rape and abuse are global epidemics and occur within the borders of a first-world country such as the United States.
It is hard to read a story like this when someone just cannot see and fight against their abuser. If someone as informed as Whitefield-Madrano could just as easily suffer from abuse, then what happens to someone who is not as informed?
I have had a bit of experience in the sense that I know someone who suffered from sexual abuse as a child. They seem so powerful and happy on the outside but on the inside, they are screaming for help and tearing themselves down. It is a terrible feeling when you feel like you can’t help the person. That feeling of being weak is hard to get past.
Now, when I walk down the street or ride the train, I can’t help but wonder if there is a girl there that is being abused by a boyfriend or a family member. The worst part is when I look at people I care about and wonder if it is happening to them. It just fills me with so much anger to wonder what kind of sick, twisted person would ever hurt someone.
It brings me back to how hard it was to watch Half the Sky and looking at Fulamatu’s rapist with the desire to end that disgusting excuse of a human being’s life. That desire only brought me back to square one when I felt weak and unable to help the situation again because I knew that I could never end someone else’s life.
At the same time we were reading these Ms. articles, we watched a film in class called Miss Representation. This film really opened my eyes to how much the media has contributed to the common mentality that the exploitation of women is a natural part of everyday life.
My favorite part was when they went through a hundred different photos and videos of women in different aspects of society such as advertisements and video games. One hard truth that I had to accept about the media occurred during this section. The film hit me right in my comfort zone: video games.
I grew up playing video games and I would always giggle at all the women in them because they always showed incredibly large breasts and always wore close to nothing. I guess I should admit that I felt that it was natural for women to be displayed like that. No one ever told me it was wrong, so I grew up thinking it was right.
It wasn’t until now that I look back at the way my friends and I acted towards girls and I am pretty disgusted by it now. However, I can’t blame myself for being trapped in the media’s grasp. Miss Representation forced me to notice these problems in the media, including the representation of women in comic books.
All of the female superheroes, even Wonder Woman, are drawn with such exaggerated features such as large breasts and overall perfect bodies. Even in something as geeky as comic books, there are still examples of the sexual exploitation of women.
I look at a magazine like Ms. and notice how interesting a magazine can be without Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie posing with hardly any clothes on the cover or with a deodorant ad that ensures that I will attract hot girls in bikinis.
Stuff like that seems to be everywhere now and is a force that has no age limit. It is going to take time and a lot of work but I hope that one day, as a society, we can move past the use of sexual images in everyday life. I can say from personal experience that growing up around images like these can have some really bad effects on children and society.