It’s International Women’s Day and I’m celebrating being a woman. I’m also taking the opportunity to vent a bit about an issue that’s been bothering me for a while, now. It’s about the glaringly different ways that men and women are represented in the entertainment industry.
First, let me say that I unequivocally support any grown-up person who chooses to dress sexy or present themselves as a sexualized being. If that’s what they want, good on them. I believe that everyone should be free to put themselves forward in the world in whatever manner they prefer, as long as it’s their genuine choice and no-one is getting hurt in the process.
That being said, I wonder what it means when I look at starkly different representations of men and women in every magazine article about a new young celebrity, or almost every photo or video of people performing at a concert, attending an awards show, going to a club or attending a film opening.
In these pictures, I invariably see the men in suits or casual clothes – all covered up – and wearing comfortable shoes, and I see the women, especially the younger ones, in clothing that’s overtly sexual. It strikes me as odd that the women are so consistently portrayed as sex objects and the men so consistently are not.
I can totally accept that some of the time, these women might really want to present themselves in this way, but every single time? Do they never wish to be photographed in jeans and a t-shirt? Or even in a dress that isn’t particularly sexy, and shoes that aren’t sky-high?
I also wonder whether sometimes the men might want to walk around in tight or skimpy clothes and shoes that make their legs look longer and that push their behinds out further. But neither of these things seem to happen much at all.
Am I mistaken when I conclude that women in the media are being portrayed in a consistently sexualized manner, whereas men are portrayed merely as human beings doing a job? If, indeed, I am correct, it means that we have a huge problem on our hands that very few people are talking about.
Like I said at the outset, I have no problem if adult people want to dress sexy. That’s their free choice. What I do have a problem with is how differently men and women in the entertainment industry are being portrayed. I detect a double standard here.
What I’d like is a little bit more consistency and parity. Maybe, if we have young people doing a photo call for a new film, let’s have both the males and the females in the same type of garb. Either all of them should be in lingerie, or none of them. All should be in clothes with peek-a-boo cut-outs and thigh-high slits, or none of them. Why do the guys get to wear sneakers while the women must totter around in stilettos?
Sex is great, being sexy is great, looking sexy is great. Double standards, not so much. I don’t see why a young actress in a magazine article describing her talent and her latest projects must be photographed in her underwear, when a young man in the same situation is photographed in jeans and a shirt.
These very different types of representations make me feel like women in the entertainment industry primarily are being valued for how sexually alluring they can be to men, as opposed to how talented, interesting or intelligent they are.
That makes me frustrated, because the men in the same industry do seem to be valued for their talents and abilities. Even the admittedly sexy ones aren’t expected to be photographed in their underwear, every single time.
If I had my druthers, I’d have both men and women in the industry free to choose if and when they want to look sexy and if and when they want to be casual and comfortable. And most of all, I’d have our society valuing women not just for their looks or their ability to turn men on, but for their brains, their skills, their sense of humour, and their talents. In exactly the same way as men are.
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