by Maria Danna
In contemporary American society, postfeminist ideology has us believing that women have finally achieved equality and are on equal footing with our American male counterparts. In fact, there is no need for any more social progress because we have succeeded, the glass ceiling has been shattered (Gill)! Not only is this a myth, but postfeminist discourse about our supposed equality is being both reinforced and opposed in the mainstream media; there is no debate more current and prominent in our society than the battle over women’s healthcare.
Through memes, blogs, and various other social media and news outlets, many are poking holes in the postfeminist rhetoric of female equality. With a nod to the fact that there is a significant gap between representation and reality, there is a contemporary backlash of feminists who say that we cannot be equal until we are granted the right to do what we want with our bodies (Douglas). Yes, women have access to healthcare, but whether or not that is affordable or within reach is highly debated. But some are still asking: what is everyone complaining about it? And how is media influencing our response to these policies being put into place?
How we express solidarity is by rebelling against the enlightened sexism that runs rampant both in the government and the political sector as a whole (Douglas). Conservative white men who hold high government positions are threatened by the rise of female representation, and are resurrecting sexist and dangerous ideas about what women should and should not do with their bodies (Douglas). Luckily, there are now women in positions of power – Wendy Davis, a Texas state senator, just recently made waves for filibustering an abortion bill for 11 hours without sitting, drinking, eating, or using the restroom while thousands of supporters cheered her on. But there are just as many people supporting the agenda of enlightened sexism, who argue that healthcare SHOULD be more expensive because our internal sex organs, breasts, and reproductive capabilities require more medical care.
Of course, “affordable” is a relative term when it comes to healthcare – especially when not every American woman has health insurance, and even when they do the premiums are the highest among women who are in prime child-bearing years. Healthcare options greatly vary from state to state, not to mention that conservative legislators are trying their very hardest to eliminate options of birth control, while simultaneously restricting abortion policies. In fact, the Republican GOP is SO concerned about reproductive rights that the government shut down due to their protests. Jezebel’s article about the Who is Really to Blame for the Looming Government Shutdown? Sluts. satirically delves into the irony of a male-dominated government trying to dictate what women can do with their bodies. Clearly, the white, male dominated hegemonic government feels uncomfortable with losing any kind of power or dominance over the women and people of color – they are focused on maintaining her power by policing what women can do with their bodies (Lull).
There is such a huge debate about whether or not birth control should be covered with no copay through insurance. As a pharmacy technician, I find conservative’s fear of funding birth control incredibly ironic considering that insurance typically has no issues or covering Androgel (a testosterone supplement), or Viagra. Both medications cost astronomically more than a generic birth control pill, and with an influx of men who are opting to have more sex and therefore increasing their virility, it’s very ironic that they won’t fund the birth control to counteract their increase in sexual activity.
Not only does postfeminism assert that structural inequalities are a thing of the past, it neglects to mention that many of the strides made by women, were only made by white women. The disparities between women of color and white women in reference to absence of proper healthcare is absolutely staggering. Women of color lack representation in politics, and they are also disadvantaged in terms of income and education in order to make better informed choices. There can’t be safer and healthier choices without actual options, and dissension and disapproval of these lack of options are made known in the compilation of statistics comparing and contrasting the rates of abortion, unplanned birth, and unintended pregnancy rates between white, black, and hispanic women.
If equality is achieved, where are the women leaders who are speaking up for the other half of the American population? It is mostly old, conservative, white men who represent a country that is comprised of so many different racial and ethnic groups. How is it that in this era of postfeminist equality, white men are STILL policing women’s bodies while slut-shaming us in the process? Women, especially women of color, should have equal representation in policy making in order to defend our rights. Those women who have infiltrated the male-dominated government are subjected to criticism that is outside of the norm, instead of criticizing policies or their agenda, the criticism relies on their bodies. Central to postfeminist media culture, it is all about the ideas of femininity as a bodily property and the natural sexual difference between men and women (Gill). Female politicians are cut down and degraded if they do not embody these norms of femininity.
Mainstream media outlets are allowing us to examine these gendered inequalities in a way that is unprecedented. The backlash via blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and the like whenever a fiery political statement is made regarding women and their reproductive rights is a powerful and significant movement. Whenever a belligerent, radicalized statement escapes a politician’s mouth, there is a meme that goes viral in mere minutes. We are beginning to call into question these sanctions on the bodies of women, and media outlets are fueling and encouraging us to ask ourselves the big questions about who holds the power, and how we aren’t as equal as we thought we were after all.
CNN. “Wendy Davis attempted filibuster in Texas”. YouTube. 23 June 2013. Web. 18 October 2013
Douglas, Susan J. Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism’s Work is Done. New York: Times Books, 2010. Print.
Gill, Rosalind. “Postfeminist Media Culture: Elements of a Sensibility.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 10.2 (2007): 147-66. Print.
Guttmacher. “Infographics: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Reproductive Health Outcomes.” Guttmacher. Web. 18 October 2013.
Hartmann, Margaret. “John Boehner’s Woman Problem Makes for Delightful Meme.” Jezebel. 2 March 2011. Web. 18 October 2013.
Lull James. “Hegemony.” Media, Communication, Culture: A Global Approach.” New York and Chichester, UK: Columbia University Press, 1995. Print.
Ryan, Erin G. “Who’s Really to Blame for the Looming Government Shutdown? Sluts.” Jezebel. 30 September 2013. Web. 18 October 2013.