Growing up, I remember finding my two older sisters’ magazines and flipping through the pages in awe.
I was drawn to the glamorous lifestyle of the women on the pages of every magazine. Everything from their hair to their Christian Louboutin shoes was perfect. From an early age, I believed that living a good life meant looking like them. Throughout my life, I have constantly been surrounded my images that tell me that I am not the ideal girl. I believed that because I have brown skin, extra curly hair, and wear a pant size that is larger than 00, I am not the “desired” type of girl.
I have gone through my entire life thinking that I am less than. I have never seen images of women or girls in the media who look like me and have felt that it was because people who look like me are not good or pretty enough.
I have always thought that boys can only be attracted to girls who were seen on Teen Vogue or on MTV. However, feminism has thankfully altered my perspective on the world. It is as if I have unveiled the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz because feminism has allowed me to see the truth.
Before taking this high school class on feminism, feminism was a movement that I knew existed, but I never cared to explore in depth. I had assumed that feminists were women who fought for women’s rights and went against the “norm.” Although true, I have come to learn that feminism is way more than that. It is the gateway to a future of equality between all who are oppressed, not just women.
It first occurred to me that feminism is absolutely necessary after watching Killing us Softly starring Jean Kilbourne. The film is targeted at unveiling the truth behind women and men in the media. While watching the documentary, I was sick to my stomach. The amount of Photoshopped images and subliminal messages that are targeted to degrade women, made me want to start taking action right then and there. It upset me because people who are behind the production of the millions of ads and the media in general, take us all as fools. What angers me even more is the fact that not everyone is aware of how feminism can make a difference and instead continue to believe in and support a sexist and racist media.
By the time I had been in the feminism class for two months, I thought that I had a good understanding of all of the truth behind sexist and racist media. However, after watching another film called Miss Representation, a documentary directed by Jennifer Seibel, I continued to learn more. One of the things that shocked me the most about this film was the analysis of women in politics. This film illuminated the fact that women in politics are often scrutinized for everything . . . except politics! Everything from the way they dress, do their hair, to how much skin they show, everything is pinpointed and judged. People who are a part of the feminist movement strive to shift the focus and one day, headlines will be about these women’s values and vision rather than about Michelle Obama wearing a sleeveless dress.
As someone who has fallen into the trap of believing what the media tells us is “pretty” and “acceptable,” I know how it feels to try and reach a level of perfection that is absolutely impossible to reach. The amount of self-hatred and body image issues that young girls and women go through is unsettling. We wonder why eating disorders, depression, and low-self esteem issues that are continuously getting worse, and it is because of the millions of messages that surround us with every step that we take.
My feminism class was privileged to go visit the Dinner Party exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. The Dinner Party was a project that was started by Judy Chicago, an activist and feminist, alongside many other women. This project was meant to highlight influential women throughout time by creating a dinner plate that represented their accomplishments and role in history.
I really appreciated this exhibit because it is solely devoted to acknowledging women for their accomplishments and their strengths rather than the size of their waist or the price of their shoes. We should shed more light on amazing pieces like this, and it will show girls and women that being strong and smart is better than looking like some “sexy” girl in a magazine. Through feminism, we can teach these girls to strive to be like those who sit at the Dinner Party and not the girls who manage to lose fifteen pounds with a diet pill.
I think that moving forward, we need to spread awareness about the truth behind the media. Not only will it allow girls and boys to realize that they are perfect just the way they are, but it will help us change what is put in the media in the first place.
I hope that over time, we can focus more on the content of what needs to be said, rather than focusing on what a woman is wearing. The future of feminism is bright and I have hope that we will reach a point where people no longer feel the need to fit a certain image because they think that it is what is deemed acceptable.
After being introduced to feminism, there is no turning back. I need feminism because I will no longer allow myself to think that I am not good enough. Feminism has taught me that there is still so much more that needs to be done in this world. My eyes have opened and I will continue to try and open the eyes of others.
I am no longer able to walk through the streets without analyzing an ad and I can’t stand to listen to a song that refers to women as “bitches and ho’s.” I will never stop fighting for accurate representations of women in the media, or equality among us all. I hope one day the media will be filled with movies like Miss Representation or school trips that go see The Dinner Party, like my feminism class did.
These things should be an essential part of every school curriculum. This movement is a life-long commitment.