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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Editorial: Not there yet

It’s (still) an uncomfortable time to be a woman.

This week, the Women’s Resources and Research Center is holding Gender Equity Awareness Week, spreading the all-too-unknown information that women, in fact, have yet to reach an equal status to men in the United States.

Although this is evident through an infinite number of statistics (women compose only 14 percent of executive office positions in Fortune 500 companies, 17 percent of Congress, 5 percent of movie directors, etc.), it is compounded by the more subtle effects of the portrayal of women by the media — which largely goes by unquestioned.

A recent episode of “Modern Family,” for example, portrayed all three ladies of the Dunphy family having reached that time of the month simultaneously, and, oh, the hilarity that ensued. These poor victims of womanhood poured orange juice into cereal bowls, burst into tears with the slightest provocation and unleashed their shrill female voices against the terrified Phil Dunphy — in short, pure chaos of the most epic proportions.

The show’s intentions may have been innocent enough, but women cannot thrive in a society where family television allows basic reproductive processes to be perceived as terror-inducing threats to all that is peaceful and holy. How can women reach equality in government when a majority of the country still believes that once a month smart, collected women will break down into emotional ineptitude, exposing Congress to unparalleled disaster?

It is this type of misrepresentation of women that allows men like Rush Limbaugh to call a female law student a “slut” and claim she is asking to be “paid for sex” on public radio for suggesting that contraceptives be covered by health insurance. This following a recent birth control hearing on Capitol Hill made almost entirely up of male witnesses.

The most egregious success in the battle against women’s rights was won by Texas, which has now passed a law that requires doctors to show women images from sonograms, play fetal heartbeats and describe the features of fetuses, and then force women to wait 24 hours before returning for an abortion. A similar law that would have required women to have transvaginal ultrasounds was narrowly scrapped after protests in Virginia last week, and states are finding new ways to curb the right to choose all the time.

But these are just large-scale examples of the types of gender disparities that occur every day. Women are more likely than men to be judged by their appearance rather than the content of their words and actions, and less likely to be covered in the news.

Here at UC Davis, we have only had one female ASUCD president in the last decade — though that is about to change with the incoming president-elect. The same problem goes for editor-in-chief of The Aggie, who is chosen by the Campus Media Board, which is overseen by Student Affairs.

What this all comes down to is that women have yet to reach equity in the United States, a point that many of our generation are still unaware of. In fact, women’s progress has stagnated; last year women lost ground in U.S. corporate boardroom representation, the number of women behind-the-scenes in top-grossing movies has only gone up 1 percent since 1998 and women’s election to statewide office and state legislatures has declined since 2000. Women are still making 80 cents to the dollar earned by men.

It is not only necessary to be aware of these discrepancies, but also to think critically about the way women are portrayed by the media. Pay attention next time to the way a female political candidate is talked about on the news, or the way female roles are written in your favorite sitcom. Characters, including the images of real people projected by the media, aren’t born — they’re produced, and they very much shape the way we as individuals construct our own roles and behavior as we try to reconfigure our position in the world.

1 COMMENT

  1. One place women are reaching gender equity is family court in California where increasing numbers of men are seeking spousal and child support and getting it–often after the husband has intentionally quit his job or is hiding assets. This can happen even if he leaves you or you kick him out for abuse (unless he is convicted of attempted murder!) Young women beware as this CAN and does happen everyday. Courts are tickled to treat a woman “equally” when it means she gets treated very poorly. The lawyers and judges just gloat over how a professional woman can be screwed in that system. A recent case in San Diego the husband was convicted of RAPING his now ex-wife and was sentenced to 4 years in prison. He got out in 2 and now she has to pay him $1000 a month spousal support because he is an unemployed ex-convict! The rape conviction doesn’t block the spousal support order because it’s not attempted murder.

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