A husband and wife smile at the camera. The husband wears a suit, and the wife a dress and chef hat. The caption reads “the chef does everything but cook – that’s what wives are for.” This 1950s ad for Kenwood Chef completes the sexist ad with their marquee slogan, “I’m giving my wife a Kenwood Chef.”
Ads of this kind were used numerous times during the ’50s when women were still being held down by social cues, even 30 years after the 19th amendment was ratified and women were given the right to vote. But we’re in the 21st century. Ads like the one Kenwood Chef published no longer exist, right?
In Spring 2007, Dolce and Gabbana printed an ad that has four men and one woman. The female is being pinned down on the floor by a shirtless man who is positioned above her as the other three men watch. Dolce and Gabbana is recognized as a high-end clothing line, but in this ad, it seems like it’s trying to sell gang rape and male dominance rather than fashionable clothing.
The portrayal of women as a weak individual is not limited to ads. In primetime television, women roles are submissive to the strong male character on the show.
ABC’s hit series Scandal has Olivia Pope at the center. She’s a powerful lawyer, crisis manager and White House correspondent who fixes any scandal politicians get themselves into. All the while, Olivia Pope is involved in one of those scandals by being in a relationship with the married President Fitzgerald.
The show points out the double standards that are present for women in the workplace. A black female lawyer seems to defy all sexist cues of women not being able to carry a position of power, and yet, Ms. Pope just can’t seem to be away from the President, while continuously he treats Pope like an object.
In a more than one episode, the President uses the Secret Service to spy on Pope to make sure she doesn’t get out of his control. In an episode of season two, Fitz uses the Secret Service to bring Pope to him as if Fitz owned her. After hailing Pope to his presence, Fitz (who’s out hunting like any “manly” man would do) doesn’t ask her to exit the car, he orders her to.
And the forceful grabbing that goes on throughout the series does not help the case.
Produced across the pond, Doctor Who is the world’s longest non-consecutive running science-fiction show, totaling for 51 years and 812 episodes. The BBC show is known for the Doctor and his companion traveling through space and time. And for the 51 years the show has been on air, the Doctor has always been a white male and the companion always a woman.
The show’s current writer and producer, Steven Moffat, has been called a sexist and a racist countless times. Moffet has been quoted saying, “there’s this issue you’re not allowed to discuss: that women are needy. Men can go for longer…without women. Meanwhile, women are out there hunting for husbands.”
Since Moffet took control of Doctor Who in 2010, the companion has been used as an object of desire or plot device. Prior companions Rose Tyler, Martha Jones and Donna Noble all questioned some of the Doctor’s requests and moral decisions. While Amy Pond, Clara Oswald, and especially River Song all decided not to go against the Doctor’s authority.
In April, a study of sexism and Doctor Who was conducted by students at BYU. The study used the Bechdel Test (which measures how much two woman discuss something other than a man), and compared speaking times to compare the effectiveness the female role had on the show. Moffet failed the Bechdel Test and had had the lowest speaking time for Amy Pond.
Many other fans of the show also took to the internet to express their frustration with Moffet.
We’re in different times. Television shows, ads and other media continue to degrade women. Most media forms glorify women as nothing more than a sex symbol. Men especially should not objectify or be misogynistic. We all should be thinking of women as some of the brightest people in the world – like Marilyn Vos Savant author and Parade columnist, who holds a higher IQ than Paul Allen and Stephen Hawking – as some of the most talented people in the world, like Kerri Strug who won the gold for the U.S. in gymnastics at the 1996 Olympic games on an injured ankle. And it all starts with the portrayal of women in media.