As a woman, wife and mother, I believe women have been exploited terribly over the years. Why do we allow the media to put so much pressure on us making us feel inadequate against the “ideal” images portrayed? The focus on a women’s appearance is very strong throughout our popular culture. Women’s roles on television and in magazines & newspapers is often seen as a sexualised adornment.
Despite the women’s movement over the years, it has not substantially changed society’s attitudes towards women, when they are still portrayed in a two-dimensional way. It is a continuous struggle for the women of today to be seen as strong, important and valued members in our country.
Women have come so far and made significant changes over the years which has forged pathways for other women. It wasn’t until 1902 that women were given the right to vote in Australia and stand for a federal election. However women were not present for the first 20 years of Australian politics. Since the 1970’s women have increased their representation in politics.
Women have made significant strides towards equality in workplaces, at universities, in boardrooms and in Government, taking on leadership roles. It was 1974 before women were even granted a full adult wage.
Women and girls make up over 50% of the Australian population. While women comprise of 47% of all employees in Australia, they still earn about $250 less than men each week. The national gender “pay gap” is 15.3% and has remained between 15%-19% for the past 20 years.
It was not until 1984 that the Sex Discrimination Act came into force, making sex discrimination and sexual harassment against the law. This has played an important role in changing community attitudes and helping advance gender equality in our country.
More than 50% of women, aged 18 or older, have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime. More than 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. These figures are quite alarming.
Despite the progress, women and girls continue to experience inequality and discrimination, which can limit the choices and opportunities available to them.
There is a competition of ideas about what a women’s role is in our society. Today, Australian women have many more choices about how to live their lives. It should be what is right for each woman… as every woman has her own idea as to what fulfillment is for her. A woman can be a mother, or she can be career-orientated, or both… she can be single or in a relationship of her choice… there is no right or wrong. Women have the power to exercise their freedom, despite the limitations placed upon them.
Yet why are women still portrayed in the media in an inferior light? Women are not objects, we are not weak and there is no need for the exploitation of our gender. How would you men feel, if the roles were reversed? It is unfair to both genders and is ridiculously accepted in our society. The air-brushed models and actresses, are not what young women need to be comparing themselves to today.
As a young girl, at an age where our culture started to define me… I remember the inadequacy I had felt, the inferior complex I developed and the limiting beliefs that I accepted. Sadly, I never felt “good enough” to be able to be the girl that I thought I was supposed to be and what I perceived as normal in our society. As young girls we want to be prettier, be slimmer, more curvy, to look different… thinking that would make us more acceptable to others. Sadly we are never comfortable in our own skin. To much emphasis is placed on our “looks” and not enough on what true beauty really is.
As a mother, I felt satisfied that I had sons, and not daughters to raise with the unfair burden of sexualised adornment within our society. But as a woman who has experienced a lot of sadness, judgement and annoyance with an industry that takes advantage of women and their emotions… I have something to say.
After decades of allowing the exploitation of women to affect my own mindset, an inner fight refusing acceptance and the reliance on depression/anxiety medication… I want to educate others with what I have learned. I now realise that I want to protect the esteem of girls and young women in our society. I want my nieces and my son’s partners and all young females to not accept and under-value their self-worth because of a culture that is unfair to a women’s sense of self. Every girl and woman is of value… we are all unique and on our own journey in this world. We all need to like ourselves and learn to love the person you are.
I ask you to think about how you would feel if it were your daughter or your sister, being exploited in that magazine or in the movie you are watching. We need to band together, boosting up the girls and women in our lives, and protecting our loved ones, ensuring their self-esteem is not harmed and they are aware of their self-worth.
When I think about how far women have really come and the obstacles they have incurred, it really is a remarkable achievement in improving the lives of women today. Don’t let our media culture affect the young women in our society. They are the future of our country… our future mothers, our future leaders and we need to ensure they develop into confident women of value. Women are worth no more or no less… we just balance life with our men. Let the women in your life inspire you and raise your daughters to be those inspiring women.
Take care, Karen.
“A women should be two things:
who and what she wants.”
~ Coco Chanel
(French Fashion Designer & Business Woman)