Moroccan woman Fulbright says American media sells women and violence

Kaouthar Elouahabi  – WNN Opinion

Documentary film poster for "Miss Representation"
Film poster for 'Miss Representation.' Image: Jennifer Siebel Newsom/Girls Club Inc.

(WNN/MWN) United States: In the supposedly most democratic nation in the world women of all ages are suffering from the way they are looked at or treated. In other words, here in America women are defined by their ‘looks’ and their bodies rather than their minds. Arriella, a teenager in a U.S. high school, said that “there is no appreciation of woman intellectually; it is all about the body, not about the brain.”  This statement of a female high school student sums up all the suffering that girls in the U.S. in her age group experience when it comes to their body and how they look.

To accomplish this the media keeps sending messages to girls that the only value they can find in themselves is in their body. That is to say, it is assumed that men in America are implicitly associated with privilege and power; while women are described as emotional and weak personalities who are tied to sexual issues. Instead of making history and fostering values and ethics it seems the American media’s main objective is to make as much money as they can.

A very expressive and true statement from Alice Walker says, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any” and it helps us understand that power is meant to be possessed by every human being, male or female. Nowadays, there are many factors which cause American women to think of themselves only as ‘weak creatures.’

Fortunately my presence here in the US as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar has helped me a lot in approaching this issue. In fact as part of the cultural diversity in the American media course that I took here, I had the chance to attend an exclusive screening of a very interesting documentary film, “Miss Representation.” The film dealt with all the questions I had in mind concerning this issue. It also provided me with shocking facts, statistics and statements from a lot of people from different walks of life here in American society as it covered how American Media portrays and sees women.

The film also reveals that American teenagers spend more than 31 hours a week watching TV and more than 5 hours reading (entertainment) magazines. This is due to the type of content American media is delivering; a content which is also shaping society as a whole. Specifically it is shaping young people’s minds, brains and emotions.

“Miss Representation” states that women now represent 51 percent of the U.S. population. Yet women only make-up 17 percent of U.S. Congress. At this rate women may not achieve parity for another 500 years. In the media industry sector women make up only 3 percent of leadership positions in telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising. In the political sector images of men enjoying their decision making positions is common and normal for Americans.

In terms of women being represented in national legislatures worldwide the U.S. is ranked in the 90th position in the world after Cuba, China, Iraq and Afghanistan. This is crystal clear when the “Miss Representation” shows statistics about the amount of American money spent in advertising.

As a woman, I strongly believe that trying to objectify woman by focusing just on their physicality is the first step toward practicing violence against her. “This is all about capitalism: the exploitation of women’s bodies to sell products and magazines,” points out Chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women, Lindy Dekoven. “They are creating a climate in which there is a widespread increase in violence against women,” she added.

As an urgent call, among other calls, to take a serious stand toward what is happening “Miss Representation” kept me wondering when it finished: “Is this (the true) America? Is this how American media treats its women? Women that are considered to be the main pillar in the development of society? Is this how it goes as the United States makes speeches to the rest of the world?”

I believe that media can be an instrument of change and can awaken people. Still, it depends on who is piloting the plane.

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Kaouthar Elouahabi is a Moroccan national. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and Linguistics from The Faculty of Letters in Tetouan, Morocco.  Getting her license to teach high school in Morocco, Elouahabi also graduated from the Regional pedagogical Center in Tangiers, Morocco. She is currently a FulbrightVisiting Scholar at the University of Idaho, USA teaching Arabic Language and culture. 

First edited by Benjamin Vilanti along with additional editing by WNN – Women News Network.

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