The picture of a successful man or woman varies between individuals, cultures, ethnicities, races and income level. I’d say that as a collective group, we have a very colorful idea of what success means and rightfully so. We all have our different paths and we must all play our role in society. Yet, I believe our media-forged society has a somewhat limited view of success. Firstly, it must revolve around money. Achieving your goals is something to be left for the college entrance essay; while the pursuit of dollars is the true path to success. Secondly, a man’s success is more viable than a woman’s. Our great media outlets depict an array of male success, while a woman must either be tied to a man or subjected to criticism by the male standard of success.
Successful men are lawyers, doctors, bankers, politicians, sportsmen, broadcaster and entrepreneurs. There’s no limit to what a successful man can be. There’s no limit to what he can look like. The media has made sure of that. Any young boy can turn on the television and see a promising image of success for his future. He can certainly find a role model among 500+ television channels. He can listen to the radio and hear inspiring stories of men who did it all and stand successful with no barriers pushing against them. But what then of the young girls?
Can a young girl flip through those same 500 channels and find an image of an unbridled, successful woman. Will she be able to find women who defy the stereotypes of television and have broken free from sexualized criticism. Can she hear stories of women who’ve reached success and are granted congratulations without side whispers of her love-handles or underwhelming cup size? I don’t think so.
On television, the successful woman wears shoes with red lacquer bottoms. She’s envisioned as the wife of a successful man. Her success derives from her monetary freedom borne out of her husband’s salary. She doesn’t worry about the little things: the bills, daycare and the like. She’s been given a staff to take care of all her needs. This is her success: enjoying the money of a well to do boyfriend, husband or ex husband. On the other hand, there’s the independent woman who’s forged her own way. She may be a talk show host or a news anchor. She may be depicted as hard and disagreeable or as a woman with no chance of a family (the goal in life for women). More so than not her accolades are stripped from discussions and replaced with lengthy misogynistic talk of her legs and lack-of-cleavage. Furthermore, there’s the female news anchor or sports caster who’s forced to display an over-sexualized image to lend merit to her position and her knowledge. All this leaves us with the female image of success as either a barren, belligerent and overly educated woman, a newscaster with more boobs and legs to show than airtime or the conspicuously, consumptive significant other of a wealthy man.
Undoubtedly, the media is a stronghold in our lives and exacts enormous influence on the younger generations. Television shows, movies, books, videos and songs all depict women in some way. Are these characters lending self-assurance or self-disdain? As women, how do we go against the grain and forge ideas of successful women not who are not subjected to the shapely ideals of the men wielding the corporate checkbooks and finance gavels?
I posted this before but it’s worth another mention.