I am allergic to outdated stereotypical gender roles and societies that enforce such roles through sexism and consumerism. You might have not read these two ‘isms’ in the same context before, but I find these two concepts to be one all-encompassing issue. And here’s why:
Let us first start with a generic definition of sexism. The Oxford Dictionary states that sexism is: Prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex: ‘sexism in language is an offensive reminder of the way the culture sees women.’
Is that all? No, sexism is far more comprehensive than that. It is often an institutional form of discrimination on account of sex that is embedded in society. How? This is where for example consumerism comes into play. What is consumerism? Again, Oxford defines it as: The protection or promotion of the interests of consumers: ‘the growth of consumerism has led to many organizations improving their service to the customer.’ Is this a fair explanation? Today more than ever, we live in a consumption society – meaning, individuals are focused on satisfying their needs and pursuing self-interest. This form of egoism and ideology of self-interest (in the context of sexism) does not lead to beneficial and morally accepted results. Evidently, women are mostly affected.
Sexist Power Structure
To link the two concepts, let’s read into a scenario of an ordinary commercial for a product. For example, yoghurt. (see video) This Dutch commercial shows a woman eating yoghurt in a dress that reveals obvious cleavage. You might think what’s the big deal, it’s just a woman in a dress – but that’s where you fail to see through the message. My concern is not her outfit nor am I arguing e.g. the opinion many feminists hold regarding sexual liberation of the female body. The fundamental question that should come to mind is: Why is it necessary to portray women as mere objects in order to sell a product? What in the world does yoghurt have to do with the female body? Nothing at all..
An equally disturbing example is the story behind the hashtag #MoreThanMyUnderwear. It involved an advert by Calvin Klein of a female model with her legs open and the words ‘I seduce in #myCalvins’ whereas a headshot of a male rapper in the same advert says ‘I make money in #myCalvins’. See picture below. How is this clear reflection of sexism okay? Why is a woman’s value degraded to a condescending position of being used for her sexuality to sell and men seen as the (sole) breadwinner? We should not still be conforming to these ridiculous outdated stereotypes.
Let us Fight the Mainstream – Stand for Female Empowerment!
Such adverts perpetuate gender discrimination and shape the minds of millions of people and that is the danger. Rather than uplifting and educating girls about their immense possibilities, girls grow up with the idea that their purpose in life is to serve the needs of men. What an awful pattern. Shame on you, society. Shame.
There are countless examples of sexism in relation to consumerism. Check out this article by TIME Magazine that lists a few sexist commercial ads. By merely pushing the on-button of our televisions, we are very much exposed to sexism and misogyny through media. The over-sexualisation of women is problematic and it occurs on every level in society. It survives because the sexist power structure is preserved. This needs to stop.
The fact that companies design business models based on sexism evidences institutionalised sexism within consumerism, because apparently, sex sells. This level of sexism is very obvious, you just need to open your eyes and think. What is the underlying cause you might ask. Well, it’s all about attracting the male sex. Institutional sexism is patriarchy in its most agonizing form. A patriarchal culture is one where men dominate and women are told to submit. Women are seen as too emotional and irrational to make decisions. Not only are they not granted the same opportunities as men, are paid less than men, but are reduced to being sex objects. Men are in control of policy and decision-making. Female involvement is minimum – consequence: inequality.
This social construct is very toxic. Hence, I find it essential for women to decolonize and reclaim their bodies from male appropriation. Don’t maintain and conform to society’s patriarchal order. Essential values of equality, emancipation and liberation are intangible concepts within a society that is patriarchal, materialistic and focused on consumption while affected by corporate greed. I call upon both women and men to unite because only a collective unity can dismantle the core of a patriarch society – a society that discriminates against women and controls them is one that is ultimately not sustainable in terms of politics, economics and more importantly: peace. As Kofi Annan clarifies: “Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”
| “I am a feminist. I’ve been female for a long time now. I’d be stupid not to be on my own side.” – Maya Angelou |
Why do I care? The goal of this blog is to educate about an issue that must be addressed for education equals liberation. I want you to stop and think. Realize and recognize. Start by making small changes in your everyday life. Patriarchal thinking does not change in a heartbeat, it requires process and investment. Men: refrain from sexist comments that only serve to degrade and emphasize the fact that a woman is indeed a female. We don’t need the objectifying reminders. Women: take control of your being. Businesses: stop making policies on account of gender that either directly or indirectly constitute sexism. Governments: ensure gender equality and refrain from contracting with sexist businesses. That would be a nice start.