Marisella Rodriguez, Former NOW Communications Intern
You can’t be what you can’t see – Marie Wilson, founding president of The White House Project
My body is far from perfect. I don’t have perfectly rounded, large breasts, my hips and thighs are way too large, and my skin will always be darker than the preferred clean color of white. Everything about my body screams different from what society has defined as appropriately sexually appealing. Instead, my physical image offers a fantasy of exotic sensuality and passionate lovemaking. Men are encouraged by the media to believe that not only am I hard to obtain, but once I am conquered, I will scream your name in between Spanish exclamations. Well, I hate to ruin the illusions of the next GQ photo spread, but this exaggerated image of Mexican women is not true. In fact, the only time we will scream your name in between flustered Spanish sentences is when we are passionately pissed off.
Growing up, I resigned to the fact that my peers will never appreciate, let alone love, my body. They were not socialized to appreciate my wide birthing hips or stout figure, because we have been drowning in images of “perfected bodies” for the last few decades that only apply to roughly five percent of the female population (Killing Us Softly 3). The remaining females will biologically never achieve the glorified characteristics of long legs, white skin and blonde hair that men have been brain washed into expecting and women have been manipulated into imitating.
Yet who can blame us? Every media genre, from print advertisements, commercials, music videos, television shows to movies, exemplify overly sexualized young Caucasian females as the perfect submissive woman. To make the situation worse, we are bombarded with these images so often throughout the day that we subconsciously blur the lines between fantasy and reality, between photo-shopped and natural, between surgically enhanced and plain old good genes. Since most of the media messages are targeted towards younger demographics, young girls quickly find these dreamland characteristics necessary to be socially accepted, feel confident, and content with their bodies. Growing women feel constant pressure to be a size 00, to be quieter, more submissive, to literally disappear in society.
The social norm for females to be invisible is only reinforced as we continue to be severely underrepresented in Congress and the Equal Rights Amendment gets pushed aside year after year. How can young girls be the powerful, confident women they deserve to be when there are so few strong women embraced in American culture? How will growing females find the strength to be heard in their society when they are invisible in their nation’s constitution?
I struggle accepting the imperfections of my body everyday, often needing to remind myself that what may be socially ideal is not always healthy for me. I encourage young girls to trust their bodies; eat healthy, exercise appropriately and be proud of your physical image, whatever it may be. For adult women, I implore you to do the same; be proud of your tall, short, heavy, thin, curvy, muscular, fat, skinny, stout, or slim frame and finally give young girls an empowered image to emulate.
I love movies. I love seeing stories come to life with superb acting, beautiful cinematography, intriguing storylines, and the list goes on. To me movies are much more than entertainment — they are an art form. As a mass communication major, I aspire to one day pursue a career in film, whether it is producing, directing or editing. It is a dream of mine to see my creation on the big screen.
Unfortunately, the film industry is still a male dominated world, but slowly this is changing. Two years ago Katherine Bigelow became the first women to win an Academy Award for best director for her movie “The Hurt Locker.” As a woman, I was very proud watching her receive the Oscar — it was history in the making. However, we still have a long way to go. Last year, women made up just seven percent of the directors of major motion pictures. Furthermore, women accounted for only 18 percent of all editors, 15 percent of executive producers, 10 percent of writers and two percent of cinematographers working on the top 250 films of 2010.
Some days I go to bed so beat, I am amazed I made it out of bed in the first place. This consuming fatigue has nothing to do with one day’s worth of work, but years of having to affirm and reaffirm my abilities and potential to society. I am a woman, and I am not represented in the United States Constitution.
More than 85 years have passed since Alice Paul first introduced the Equal Rights Amendment into Congress as an expansion on women’s right to vote. Since then, women’s efforts have faltered against the patriarchal governing system currently in place that legitimizes a woman’s right to vote and little more. As we move further into the 21st century, females are finding that there is actually very little progress being made.
Being a young woman has its perks: I can wear dresses in hot weather, march in Slutwalks, hell, I can bring a whole new life into this world. What I can’t do is be seen as an equal to my male counterparts. Too many times my sense of worth is doubted or eliminated in everyday environments, such as work and school.
“I wasn’t looking at what you were doing, I was looking at you baby…”
“Hey honey you’d be so much prettier if you smiled at me…”
The Equal Rights Amendment means a day of peace for me. A day where I won’t have to be harassed while walking to class. A day when my thoughts aren’t interupted by a man yelling at me from a car. A day where I can wear a cute skirt without fear of being catcalled all day long.
Last month, I participated in a time-honored tradition amongst the feminist community: I attended a rally supporting the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ERA, first drafted by Alice Paul in 1923, is a constitutional amendment that simply states, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.“
The ERA passed through Congress in 1972, but fell three states short of ratification before its expiration date. It has been introduced into Congress every year since, and every year women’s groups like NOW congregate on Capitol Hill. This year’s primary sponsor is Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).
On June 30, a few of us interns teamed up with United for Equality to lobby senators to support the three-state initiative, a movement that would eliminate the expiration date and allow pro- ERA groups to simply gain the support of three more states rather than starting over.