March is Women’s History Month, and while many will be looking to the past in the next few weeks, it’s also a time to look to the future. The fight for equality has long been focused on political action, and while the movement has had great success in changing legislation and introducing the woman to the world table, it has neglected to put the same emphasis on social change. This is not a criticism, but merely a recognition of the work that still needs to be done to reach true gender equality.
Over the past few years, the media has become the number one platform for news, activism, global interconnections, and, sadly, a reminder that there are still huge problems affecting women in society. A major instance of this comes from the 2016 election campaigns. In October 2016, a tape came out that heard Trump making obscene comments about a woman he had once sexually assaulted. While there was major outrage from women across the country, the issue was eventually pushed aside, and Trump was elected to the highest position in the United States. Since that time, twenty-three women have come out with sexual harassment and assault allegations against the President. Again, these allegations have been ignored and excuses have been made for him. This has brought on the creation of the #MeToo movement, and every day new horrors come to light about the depth of the inequality issue. Just recently, interviews from a very popular Fox News host, Tucker Carlson, were unearthed. In these interviews he made remarks about women that were extremely inappropriate and objectifying, calling them “basic” and “primitive,” among other unrepeatable things.
What these instances show is that women are not equal. Legislation has been passed, and women are free to make all of the same choices as men, but they are still not safe walking home at night, or from being blackballed by employers for not providing sexual favors, or from comments that use their number of past relationships or the shape of their body to determine the value of their character. According to the website Makers, women serving in the U.S. military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed on enemy lines. According to the website Bustle, one in five American women will be raped at some point in their lives. This is an insane statistic. Essentially, the political aspect of equality has taken leaps and bounds, but the children who will someday be the leaders of this country are still being raised with the sexism of fifty years ago. They’re still being exposed to the same gender-stereotypes and double standards, and these things are encouraged by peers, other adults, and social media once the children reach school age. “By the time they’re seventeen, girls have seen 250,000 TV commercials telling them they should aspire to be a sex object or have a body size they can never achieve,” says Amanda Oliver, a writer on Groundswell.org.
This is not something that is going to change overnight, and one hundred years from now the fight for equality may still be a massive movement that garners worldwide attention, but it’s important to recognize the problem. The media can be a huge help or hindrance, depending on how society decides to take control of it. Even now social media is shifting, impacting the way big businesses run. Companies like Dove, Aerie, and Seventeen Magazine have all pledged not to retouch images used in their ads in promotion of body positivity. If the women’s movement can continue to direct the conversations and bring a wide, diverse range of women to the table, then it is entirely possible for true equality to be achieved.