Misogyny & the Media

20Aug11

How many of you take it for granted that women are silly vain creatures who spend all their time on make-up, gossiping and back biting? They are also the ones who love cats – silly vain selfish creatures just like themselves. Right?

And if you ever come across a woman who’s kind, gentle and intelligent – she’s the exception to the rule! The same goes for a cat; if you ever have the opportunity to really bond with one and discover there are many other facets to it than just being the annoying, manipulative little critter that your girlfriend loves and so you have to put up with – that’s just an exception to the rule as well! ๐Ÿ˜›

I am a woman and a cat lover – but growing up, bombarded with the above two stereotypes continuously, I fell for it too. Some of the girls / women I knew were gossippy, back biting and very conscious of their looks and ways to improve it – so obviously, I thought, the stereotype was true.

And as for cats and dogs, well I grew up in the Maldives where there were no dogs but plenty of cats – but unfortunately, I wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about either on a personal level because of my mother’s ‘No Pets’ policy.
However we grew up with various stories about my father’s childhood dogs and so I learnt to love dogs without ever having one of my own; so that stereotype held too – cats were stupid and uninteresting and only silly people liked them as opposed to dogs who were almost human in their intelligence and ‘cool’ people liked them.

Both the stereotypes that I accepted without question developed some cracks around the same time in my life; high school! I was for the first time, in my A’Levels attending a co-ed school and came into contact with guys! Until then, all my friends were girls! Around the same time, a cat walked in one fine day and decided to adopt us. And with all the intelligence of her sex and species, she decided my mother was the one to please and work on and soon had her wrapped around her little finger – or paw as the case may be! ๐Ÿ˜€

It took her only a couple of months to demolish all my misperceptions of her species – but for some reason it took far longer to get over my misperception of the female sex! Or rather my misperception of the male sex! I think therein lies the problem; it was not so much that the stereotype of females being silly and vain was untrue – it was that males were by no means any better. Having interacted with both sexes for a long time now, I am convinced that shallowness and vanity are human problems – not a problem exclusively of one sex or even predominantly of one sex as all the media around us – books, movies, cartoons, newspaper articles et al would have us believe!

When I first attended high school, I was extremely surprised by the guys’ behaviour; they gelled their hair, they carried combs and mirrors in their pockets (in all these years, I have never carried a comb OR a mirror in my pocket *snicker*), they couldn’t seem to pass parked vehicles without checking their reflections in the rear-view mirrors and they continously traded notes with each other on which cosmetic products were the best. I first found it shocking and then hilarious!

On a side note, what’s the word you’d use to describe this? Effeminate? The culture around us is decidedly anti-female, whether we are conscious of it or not! These are words and ideas we’d use without even thinking about it first! If so many males do it, then obviously, it’s typical of their sex. Why bring in a feminine connotation into it?

This post was inspired in part by my annoyance with myself over a certain conversation with my sister.

She brought up a certain Hollywood actor whom I considered to be a gossippy jerk – someone who whined about his colleagues and bitched about fellow actors to the media; typical spoiled celebrity behaviour I’d say – of both males and females, but when the fellow’s name came up, I snapped “that guy is such a female.”

She laughed and agreed, but ever since I started working in the media myself, I am a little more conscious about my use of words. I was brought up short; Why on earth had I used that word? I am a female myself and (at the cost of sounding self-congratulatory) am most certainly not the stereotypical bitch that most females are portrayed to be. Yes, I knew some women who fit the stereotype but only some! I have many female friends who are not at all in that mould and so, unlike in my naive youthful years, I no longer subscribe to the stereotype – at least consciously! So why on earth had I used that word to describe a male whom I considered to be gossippy, vain and stupid?

It’s probably because we are all unconsciously influenced by all the media around us – and even if we know something to be true or untrue through direct experience and rational reasoning, we still pick up some of the irrational consciousness around us!

Silly, shallow and stupid is equated with ‘Female’ as opposed to macho, rational and trustworthy with ‘Male’ and we are bombarded with these stereotypes so much that many of us start subscribing to it either consciously or unconsciously!

Ha! Get over it people! I know plenty of women who are intelligent, kind and not at all obsessed with their looks! And I know plenty of guys who attend beauty parlours, have facials, manicures and pedicures (Some even WAX their bodies, Dear Lord) and constantly bitch and back bite on their colleagues.

We even have a term for them now; the Metrosexual male! LOL! SO now they are out there in the open! They no longer stealthily purloin their mother’s and girlfriend’s Fair & Lovely! They’ve got their own Fair & Handsome! And more and more of the beauty salons that once catered exclusively to women have turned ‘Unisex’ now. I still get a kick out of going into salons and passing males with white gook on their faces and potatoes over their eyes ๐Ÿ˜€ (By the way, I go in there only for hair cuts! I am a thrifty soul who doesn’t believe in Rs.2000 facials, heh!)

And that brings us back full circle – so yeah I know many males like that but then I do know some guys who are not obsessed with their looks or gossip and back bite either! Just like many women out there! The problem is that we’ve lived in a male dominated world for several centuries; they are the ones who were allowed to study and to teach. Consequently they were the ones who wrote books, became orators and philosophers and influenced cultures. And they have been reinforcing the same untrue stereotypes for so many millenia that nearly all the males and even most of the females have bought into it!

The question is, how do we break it? After this many years of die-hard feminism, we are still at this stage today. Pathetic!

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11 Responses to “Misogyny & the Media”

  1. 1 Hayah

    Tis’ is true! I work in the gender field and I ask these questions more each day. Its boils and breaks down to the individual, the individual man or woman in question with traits of their own. The “collective male” and “collective female” stereotypes have thus blurred. And this is one good thing we see more so in our generation, this blurring of gender stereotypes and roles.

    Perhaps our generation will need to be content with this blur, and the next perhaps will see it being redefined and reordered to be more egalitarian. We’ll just have to wait and see till we turn 60 ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I applaud your use of the word “female” as an insult. I see it has spread far and wide.

    ๐Ÿ˜›

  3. 3 Tulie

    Oh go thread your eyebrows Jerry ๐Ÿ˜›

  4. I guess the stereotype is going to be very difficult to shake off when you consider how it’s so integrated in the media. From commercials to movies portraying vain and gossipy women.
    At least Disney has taken a step out and no longer produce ‘damsel in distress’ heroines.
    So I guess it’s entirely up to the the media to dispel that sort of thinking… it won’t happen over night but if stick to it we’ll get some where.

    Then again… the media is all about making money. They won’t be interested in dispelling the stereotype if it isn’t marketable. Dilemma, dilemma…

  5. Haha, Jerry. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Stereotyping sexes is just stupid. And I think that it’s also a way of coping with the fact that it’s nearly impossible to fully understand a fellow human being, unless we’ve known them for years. I dunno. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Also, dogs > cats, but that has nothing to do with gender. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Hello.
    Love this post. You raise an important issue here. Would you mind if we re-post it on our blog referring back to yours of course. Thanks!

  8. 8 Tulie

    Not at all! Go right ahead ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. 9 Mathias

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    Thanks a lot!

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