We Still Prefer John Over Jennifer
Written by Dede Chapline*
*Dede is a guest writer from Bishop McGuinness High School, where she is a senior. Dede is one of the top two students in her class and is passionate about equal rights, service dogs, yoga, and environmental protection*
Last March, the Polish Member of the European Parliament, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, stood up to give his two cents on wage inequality. With an alarming amount of confidence, he announced, “women must earn less than men, because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent.” The Spanish MEP, outraged, repudiated his comment, saying, “I need to defend European women from people like you.” Thankfully, many media sites condemned Korwin-Mikke’s sexist and outlandish musings. But can we really blame him for thinking this way? Boys grow up being fed content that teaches them of their feigned superiority. They grow up attending church services where women are still barred from leadership roles. They grow up with role models like Hugh Hefner who are lionized for using and abusing women. They watch news and media channels that ask female politicians and public figures about their home life and workout regime as opposed to their accomplishments. Or worse, they blame any actions they deem irrational on their menstrual cycle or too much estrogen. They grow up seeing the toy aisle separated into blue and pink. Aisles are separated into toy doctors, servicemen, and firefighters for the boys and baby dolls and strollers for the girls. Society propagandizes to children early on that women are destined to be caretakers, housewives, and flight attendants, but never successful surgeons, businesswomen, or pilots. Boys as young as 12 start watching porn and are exposed to scenes that portray horrible violence toward women. Only about 10% of the pornography boys consume does not contain aggression, and 94% of the time, the object of the aggression is a woman. Sexism and oppression is not a women’s issue and it’s not a men’s issue; it’s a societal issue.
I see sexism all around me. I live in a time where it is typical for random men at work or in public to make sexual gestures and comments toward me that make me feel disrespected and belittled. I live in a time where it is customary for people to implore I work on my cooking and domestic skills in order to procure a good husband. I live in a time where people like Brock Turner, the Stanford rapist, receive reduced sentences on account of their “bright futures.” The chaplain at my school condemns girls for wearing short skirts or tight pants because they are creating lustful thoughts. Other comments around school include discriminating against girls who play traditionally male-dominated sports, suggesting women be obedient to men, and dismissing sexual violence as something that is “normal.” I kept up with the 2016 presidential election and saw Americans sincerely questioning the legitimacy of a female president, claiming she could start a war or set off an H-bomb if she experiences a bout of her female emotional instability. Many facets of our society enforce rape culture and gender bias that continue to hold women down today.
Rape and sexual harassment are rampant. One in six American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape and it is estimated that about 70% of rapes will go unreported to the police. Women are afraid that they will not be taken seriously, especially if they are sexually abused or harassed at work. Attempts at reporting sexual harassment often scare some employers into retaliatory tactics such as reduction of wages, benefits, or loss of employment. For example, one American engineer was drugged and raped by her coworkers on an international job, and after filing multiple complaints, she was fired for no apparent reason. Brave women like her are punished for standing up to the “boys will be boys” attitude that is endorsed by our society. Sexual harassment should not be seen as “harmless fun,” but should be seen for what it is, dangerous habits that normalize rape and damage the self-esteem of the victim. In one incident, a woman was catcalled on the street by a few men and brushed it off because it was routine. But later they tried to drag her into their car. Violence does not just occur to women living or working in dangerous areas; one out of three American women have been victims of either rape, beating or stalking, or another combination of assaults. And it’s no wonder that sexual violence is an epidemic; it’s not because women are too sensitive or can’t take a joke or dress too provocatively. It’s because video games, TV shows, advertisements, and movies all depict women as pretty things that exist solely for the pleasure of men, which does a great disservice to both genders. The postures of women in advertising are vulnerable and submissive, and young girls are sexualized. In one video game, Grand Theft Auto, the women come in just three forms, general “skanks,” prostitutes, and strippers. Women are slut shamed and degraded because, as the lead writer puts it, the game “needed to be masculine.” We are so numb to these images that we forget the impact they have on the subconscious and on the way women view themselves. Society as a whole needs to become more conscious about the discourse and images surrounding women so that we can ultimately foster a more respectful attitude.
There still remains significant discrimination against women. The majority of people are subconsciously bias against women. Even girls ages six and seven “overwhelmingly think men are inherently smarter than women,” according to a recent Science study. These predispositions can be measured by an implicit association test, created by Harvard University, which tests how people associate words with either a picture of a man or a woman. Out of 16 million people, most associate men with leadership, power, and strength while associating women with nurturing, emotion, and weakness. Growing up in our society, we are programmed to think of women as naturally less competent than men. Traditional gender roles are still prevalent, pushing men toward leadership and women toward more “pink-collar” jobs. Most likely this is the byproduct of a huge misrepresentation of women in today’s society. Of all executive officers, 14.6 percent are women (although women hold 52 percent of all professional-level jobs). Women today only hold 18.5 percent of congressional seats and make up 20 percent of the senate. In the health care and social assistance industry, women are 15 percent of executive officers, zero percent of CEOs (yet they are 78.4 percent of the field). The proportion of males to females at the top of every industry and field represents the implicit gender bias that all carry. Women have to constantly prove their credibility. This is especially apparent in STEM. An experiment conducted by Stanford University gave STEM professors across the country the opportunity to assess one version of two nearly identical resumes, the only difference being the name at the top: John or Jennifer. Although both resumes detailed the same qualifications and experience, John was overwhelmingly preferred for the lab manager position. It is still an uneven playing field, with women having to work harder for equivalent results. Even when women do make it to the top and execute identical economic roles to men, they still earn considerably less than men. When the wage gap is broken down by different jobs, the wage gap still exists at 83 percent. Additionally, multiple studies have demonstrated that around 40 percent of that gap is unexplained, or cannot be accounted for by factors like experience, education, race, age, hours worked, and union status. It seems that women have yet another glass ceiling to break in the home. Although women make up almost half of the total workforce, women still do the bulk of childcare and housework. Societal standards and prejudices continue to make it hard for women to advance in society.
Progress is attainable. As a society, we have the ability to change the attitudes toward women. We have the potential to become more conscious, to call out sexist comments and degrading ads. With our example, our youth can be raised to respect to all genders and disregard gender stereotypes and roles. We are all bystanders to the oppression of women, and we all have the chance to stand up and challenge inequality.
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