Our culture is oversaturated with hypersexualized images of women. If you should know anything about Wonder Woman, it is that she was raised with the Amazonians - a society populated by immortal super-women that had once been victims of male abuse– thus, no men were allowed on their island. But if Wonder Woman grew up without the unrestricted commercial power of the male gaze, why does her uniform and body language always make her appear as less of a superhero?
According to Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristoff, authors of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women, all should be knee-deep in the struggle for gender equality:
“It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century. In this routine “gendercide,” more girls are killed in any one decade than amount of total people slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century. In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism. And in this century, according to WuDunn and Kristoff, “the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world.”
Gender equality is not an issue that can be resolved in a matter months or years, but we have to start somewhere.
When I look around this summer at my colleagues, many are too busy operating in the “passive female archetype” which is, according to WuDunn and Kristoff, derived from our media and overly-infused with hypersexualized depictions of women. Our obsession with celebrities and summer anthems such as Drake’s “Fancy” keep us from realizing that there’s more to life than being “fine like a ticket on the dash.” Most women around the world are not “in the mall steadily racking up the air miles.” Nor are they “spending hours in salons on their hairstyles.” Rather, the majority of women in this world are confronted in their daily lives with the global water crisis. In most places, there is a life-threatening lack of accessibility to clean water. In accordance with traditional gender roles that charge women maintenance of the domestic sphere, most women spend eight to ten hours a day collecting clean water for their households. This leaves women with scant time for pursuing an education, taking care of their children, or even resting.
As stated in www.water.cc: “time spent collecting water disempowers women by reinforcing time-poverty and lowering [a woman's] income.” Generally, women are not given the chance to be on the water-planning committees even though they are the group most involved with water-gathering. Unfair, right?
In a recent interview in Marie Claire, Olivia Wilde highlighted the divide between the media’s focus on the role of women and the actual situation of most women in the world. She stated: “I’d like to refocus everyone’s attention away from the Kardashians and onto Doctors Without Borders or aid workers. Let’s redefine scandal. Scandal is not who so-and-so is dating; scandal is the fact that 1.2 million people are still living in tents in Haiti, and cholera is rampant because Nepalese U.N. soldiers dumped shit from their Porta-Potties into the river. That’s a fucking scandal. If the average 15-year-old was hearing about that instead of so-and-so’s plastic surgery or cheating in Hollywood, I’d feel better about our future.”
Getting informed is the first step, but considering the volume of hypersexualized images we view on a daily basis, it’s going to take some effort to look past our body-image issues and see what the other 90% of the world is faced with.
Wonder Woman once said, “The only thing that can surpass super strength is the power of the brain.”
Around the world women in low-income and under-priviledged communities get less of an opportunity to show and strengthen their brainpower. As privileged individuals living in the wealthiest nation in the world, it is time we get ourselves educated and have our voices heard. It’s time to start getting involved with youth and feminist campaigns that give us the chance to move our world forward.
Editor’s note: Check out Vanessa’s blog on feminism & American Muslims at: vanessagotswag.tumblr.com