The world news has been dominated in recent weeks with stories about the horrific gang rapes that have happened in India and the fallout from those incidents on victims, the assailants, and on Indian Society as well. Many of the recent stories that I have watched and read have sought to examine the depiction of women in Indian popular culture as a means of attempting to answer some of the questions about how and why something like this could happen, One report in particular focused on the depiction of women in popular Bollywood movies and how these depictions reduce them to superfluous fodder for the male protagonist’s conquest and subjugation. As I watched the report, I couldn’t help but think about how this is the same argument that I have heard in the United States for pretty much my whole life. Thinking of this and the media confluences of my entire life as they intersect with media as it is today, I wonder how have these depictions of women shaped not only my perception of women, but our collective consciousness of femininity and how they are in stark contrast to reality.
For whatever reason the topic of women’s depiction in the media is a conversation that I have been drawn into quite often over the course of my adult life. This conversation often leads to thanking the higher powers that I wasn’t born a female as I don’t know if I could deal with the constant bombardment of sexual images in all aspects of media that could possibly warp my own self perception of what beauty is, about what a woman is, and ultimately lead to life long issues with my body image. What I almost never really examine or question in that discussion is how those very representations distort and influence our (and my) perception of women as a whole.
This is not a psychological study on the impacts of sex and the media, yet this is about how your own perception has been influenced by the images that we have seen all of our lives. As a man who spent his preadolescent years growing up in the mid 80’s, sex was everywhere. Yet there was still a subtle nature to its presentation (that may just be my perception based on today). As I grew through the 90’s and came of age entering the new millennium, hyper sexualized images of women just seemed to explode around me at every turn. Maybe it was the internet that allowed porn to easily be at our finger tips or maybe it was the shattering a of sexual taboos that our society continues to breakdown. Maybe it was just the fact that every where I turned I was told that as a man bedding down as many women that I could was the highest measure of manhood.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that every beer commercial taught us that a large breasted blue eyed blond woman was the highest epitome of beauty. I know that the adult industry and other sexual depictions of women have taught us she is supposed to worship us sexually as a god and that all women should want to do the same. Music has taught us that women are to be used as one night stands for our own sexual pleasure, disposable like a paper towel. We have been taught to covet a women because she has a big behind or huge breasts. We have been taught that a stripper is the most desirable sexual partner that there is on the planet.
We have not been taught to respect her for her heart, her mind, her soul, or her dreams. Yet we understand that these are what we care about most in a woman and in a mate. Yet our teaching has and continues to teach us something different than what our minds tell us. I am not saying any of this to blame the media for all of the misconceptions, but ask that we examine what we see. We must ask ourselves, how does our perception influence and conflict with our interpersonal relationships with opposite sex? At the end of the day, we must look inside ourselves to discover if our reality is shaped by your perception or is our perception in constant conflict with our reality?