Finding My Feminist Stand Through Media and the Arts

I need feminism because... I wasn't born in BOX. Photo credit:  Ileana Jimenez
“I need feminism because…
I wasn’t born in BOX.” (Photo credit:
Ileana Jiménez).

I need feminism because I wasn’t born in a box.

I should not have to live in a world where I feel like my gender and my race are two strikes against me. I should not have to live in a world where I feel uncomfortable with being in high places. I should not have to live in a world where I feel limited.

I need feminism because it gives girls like me a lens to look at the restrictions that our ignorant society puts in place to keep us down.

I need feminism because at the start of my high school feminism course, I didn’t have a clear definition of what it really meant to be a feminist. I didn’t know that feminism was not only about women but about all types of people that have been marginalized in society.

Hatshepsut's Dinning set up at "The Dinner Party" by Judy Chicago when I went to the Brooklyn Museum  Photo Credit: Brooklyn Museum
Hatshepsut’s plate and runner at “The Dinner Party” by Judy Chicago (0hoto credit: Brooklyn Museum)

I was giving the opportunity to see “The Dinner Party” by Judy Chicago at the Brooklyn Museum and it was an amazing experience. “The Dinner Party” made me realize that feminism wasn’t just a modern day idea. It predates to Classical Rome.

Hatshepsut (15th century B.C), is one of the many women who sits at this triangular table; she was a powerful pharaoh in ancient Egypt. Her reign was considered to be one of the “most successful, reigning longer than any other woman of an indigenous Egyptian dynasty.”

Despite her legal title as regent, Hatshepsut actively took the pharaoh role due to the king being too young to rule. She asserted her power by representing herself as a male.  Sometimes she’d often wear a fake beard. Hatshepsut was undoubtedly a female, but she wore the royal regalia of a male pharaoh to emphasize authority.This take-charge persona shows that women, even in this era, were ready to be heard and seen. They took initiative, much like current day feminists of this century. “The Dinner Party,” for me, is a tribute this powerful history and pays its respects to the women that have gone unnoticed in history.

In my high school feminism class, we watched a documentary film titled, Miss Representation, produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsome. It explored the ways in which women and girls are presented in the media and how this affects positions women hold in U.S politics.

For example, one question that the film asks is: Women are 51% of our population, so why do women only make up 17% of Congress?

More importantly, why is it that in my school, the student government is all male? As Alice Walker says: “The most common way people give up power is by believing they don’t have any.”

When girls are young they aspire to be police officers, and doctors, and president of the United States but as they get older, their dreams of becoming leaders fade away. A reason for this loss of passion could be from the lack of women they see in these positions. When Hillary Clinton was running for president, she was called a “bitch” and her credentials were questioned. In the white, male dominate society that we live in, it is said that women are too emotional, can’t handle pressure to make difficult decisions, and therefore aren’t fit to lead.

This scrutiny is also another reason why there are very few women in politics. While watching this film, I began to realize how sexist this world I live in really is. It’s something that you don’t really pay attention to if it’s not happening in your face, but the truth of the matter is is that it’s right in front of us and we are right in the middle of it.

This is a documentary about how women and girls are used as sexual objects in the media.  Photo credit: n/a
This is a documentary about how women and girls are used as sexual objects in the media. Photo credit: n/a

My feminism class also watched a film titled, “Killing Us Softly 4” hosted by Jean Kilbourne who is internationally recognized for her work on analyzing images of women in the media.

One thing that she said that resonated with me was that advertisements that show women ultimately portray an “ideal female beauty.” This spoke to me because I remember being one of those girls watching America’s Next Top Model and reading magazines like Essence, Cosmopolitan, and Seventeen wishing and dreaming to be like the girls on the cover. It never occurred to be that the images I saw were digitally enhanced and that that type of “beauty” wasn’t natural.  It leaves many young women feeling as if they have failed themselves.

Another issue that Jean Kilbourne brought to my attention was how women and men are portrayed differently in the media. Girls are taught to be small and childish and are very often seen as weak while boys are taught to be strong, dignified, and to not only hold but to demand power. This is a sad finding and watching this film changed the way I view commercials and read and look at magazines. Now that I have taken this feminism course, I go through daily life analyzing and reflecting on jokes, music lyrics, and commercials, as well as ads in magazines or on buses. Ultimately, this class has made me think differently about human behavior.

As for the future of feminism, I say it started the moment I took this course. I remember coming home every day and telling my mom and dad about what I learned or about a guest speaker that came in to share about the remarkable things they were doing to help jump start this global movement of equality for all types of people.

Knowledge alone on the issues that we are facing is a very powerful thing because once you have the knowledge, you start to learn about the ways in which you can approach the situation. I plan to further better myself by actively engaging in being a womanist and telling people about what it means to love your body in its entirety and to find and own the things that make you, you.

Although it sounds cliché, everyone is unique and has something that makes them different and special. It’s just up to them to find it and then own it.

I need feminism because I wasn’t born in a box and I’d be lost without it.

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