Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Final Essay #1 Inequality in the Workplace and Public Eye.

Over the semester we have read several articles and book chapters related to the equality of men and women in the workplace and the world in general. It has been strongly emphasized that even in the world of third-wave feminism, women are not equal to men. Readings specifically related to the equality issue that I have found informing and interesting are Taking Sides, Opt Out, Fresh Lipstick, He’s a stud, She’s a slut, and the Beauty Myth. Taking Sides focuses on the arguments about the differences between men and women, while the others focus more on specific issues.
Taking Sides has two sides to it—hence the name—one side says that yes, men and women are different but these differences are not enough to make a difference; that these differences are strengths for each gender. The other side says that there are multiple psychological, emotional, and physical differences between the sexes. It argues that these differences are important enough to allow for men and women to be treated differently and given unequal duties in work and school. Over the years men have tried to find ways to keep women subservient, this article emphasized that men will find any way they can to do so even in the present time of supposed equality.
Equality in the workplace is still a big deal in America, specifically the equality of working parents. Opting Out is primarily about women who have gone to college to get a good education but have decided to have children instead of going into the workplace. While some of the women give reasoning along the lines of just wanting children in that time of their lives, others say that by having their children before they go into the workforce makes it easier to get a good job and be promoted. Women who haven’t had children are considered risky hires to some employers because if they have children they will most likely take maternity leave and have to take off for their children. They are not promoted as quickly when they have children and are sometimes “let go.” However, men are not penalized when they become fathers. This is blatant discrimination in the workplace; however, it is not considered as such by the law.
Going back to the first wave of feminism, women who were to be seen in public were supposed to dress a certain way. In Fresh Lipstick, it starts out by talking about how the women of the first wave would dress in “navy suits” or in “Jacky Kennedy-style.” It also talks of how the women were embarrassed by the way Betty Friedman, their first president, dressed. It was not considered “professional.” It goes on to talk about how women were concerned about looking “feminine” in everything they did. This concern was not so for men over the years. The only men who were ever required to look professional were those who worked at banks, in politics, or something of that status. These women were looked down upon if they did not dress in what was considered appropriate. They were not allowed to hold jobs, but still had to dress as though they did. It seems that the men just wanted their women to make them look good, like they had the “trophy wife.” A man could dress down, but women could not. This is still somewhat prevalent today. While women are now allowed to wear slacks and pantsuits, men can still dress down more in the workplace. Women must “look the part” to get the part while men are given the part more easily. Having inequality become so visible is a frightening concept for women striving to climb the career ladder.
Not only are men and women held to different standards in the way they dress, they are in their actions as well. In He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut, the author examines the different ways the sexes are judged according to nearly identical actions. The two that stood out were over sex and leadership. In regards to sex, men can have premarital sex with multiple partners and it is considered a good thing. If it were known that a woman was doing the same thing, she would be called a slut or whore. Men can use sex to further themselves in some part of society, but that would lower a woman in the same circles. It is similar with leadership. A man who is in charge and strict is called the boss. A woman who does the same things to get the same results is called a bitch; however, if she does not push to get things done, she is not promoted to the top positions. It is a lose-lose situation. When women conduct themselves like their male peers, they are judged harshly. Unfortunately, to get to the top, women must sometimes deal with these judgments and act as if they are not affected.
The article The Beauty Myth seems fit to follow this with its study of how men and women are seen by the media today. The media’s portrayal of a near impossible body type for both men and women. This what is considered the ideal look and what is beautiful. Women are more harshly judged against this model then men. Employers hire those they think will best represent the company and that can end up being decided upon by how the person looks. It is considered bad PR to have someone who is not a representation of the what a company is trying to sell, so the better you look the more professional you look, which reflects better on the company. Unfortunately, what the media portrays is not the norm. Women are judged inferior to airbrushed, molded models and are treated as second class if they do not fit that mold. This is the most detrimental type of inequality to the female sex: the inequality of image. Making women fit a mold instead of admiring the individuality of each is demeaning.
The inequality between men and women in the workplace and public life has changed over the years. These articles discuss how it has changed, and how it affects today’s women. While the inequality may not be as noticeable to those who have not been introduced to the many types, it is just as widespread as it was before. This makes me wonder if men and women will ever be treated equally in the public eye. Will we always have to conform to the mold to be successful? This has caused me to strive to be treated as an equal in all that I do. I will hold my employers responsible and make sure I am not looked over just because I am a woman. We must all do this to help bring about change.

Works cited:
Fresh Lipstick by Linda Scott
He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut by Jessica Valenti
“Opt Out” by Lisa Belkin
“Taking Sides” by Kingsley Browne
The Beauty Myth “How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women” By Naomi Wolf

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