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Friday, July 21, 2017

Columns

Pop culture is giving more women credit


Women have been recognized for their achievements in a myriad of fields, but only sparingly. Pop culture has done a good job in attempting to close the gap.

On Twitter, the magazine GQ was promoting their Style Bible cover, which featured tennis player Roger Federer. GQ referred to him as “the greatest tennis player of all time.” Then, pop culture magazine Fader replied to the tweet, saying, “We caught up with the greatest tennis player of all time,” referring to Serena Williams when she graced their cover.

Even people who don’t watch tennis know Williams and how she has dominated the game for at least the last decade. This isn’t about tennis or the argument that Williams is the true greatest of all time in her field, but rather how women are never perceived in that light.

Pop culture has a way of putting astonishing women in a visible space, whether on a magazine cover, in a written piece or in an interview. These instances create “aha” moments in the public, but normally, they’re not in a context of appreciation. They are usually in a tone of disbelief that a woman could have the undeniable skill set to accomplish what she did.

A popular film last year was “Hidden Figures,” the untold story of a team of black women who had leading roles and responsibilities in the moon landing.

To see a story of this concept was not something foreign. Growing up, I saw my mother, grandmother, sisters and friends in the same situations. They were coming up with amazing ideas, steering company projects and creating movements, all without getting credit or recognition. They also felt they were not in the best place to speak for the work they did for the sake of the team’s end goal.

Oprah Winfrey is a media mogul and the first black women to become a billionaire.

Sally Ride was a physicist and and the first American woman that went into space.

Rupi Kaur wrote a New York Times best-selling poetry book, representing women in ways that are truly authentic and personal while also portraying all individuals equally.

These women, among others, are masters in their fields, but only through the lens of pop culture do they get the credit they deserve. If you were to ask people to name a poet, an astronaut or even a media mogul, these women would not be named first, even with their contributions to their fields and their stamp on popular culture.

It makes me think: What does it take for women to break their glass ceilings?

Women that are not in the public have it even worse. Without the gaze of the the public eye, the chances for a bystander to speak up for them would be very slim. Women are rarely recognized outside of their seemingly-designated spaces like K-12 teaching, nursing or cleaning services.

Even then, it’s watered down as ordinary because it’s expected that they take up these roles. Once a woman enters a male-dominated field, like STEM or politics, any of her outstanding work or achievements are subverted as hand-outs.

I think the main requirement for changing how women are perceived is to allow them the physical, mental or social space they deserve in society.

The idea of taking up space is something taken for granted by people who don’t have to consciously think about it. Taking up space works in the same way socially and mentally as it does physically; you have no choice but to see it, acknowledge it and accommodate the way you operate because of its presence. When its presence is felt and acknowledged, people maneuver differently, whether they realize it or not. 

There has to be a sense that women’s unique offerings are vital, whatever the situation.

Opinion columnist Dana Jones is a print journalism junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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  • CJ

    “Women are rarely recognized outside of their seemingly-designated spaces like K-12 teaching, nursing or cleaning services”…this is false. This whole women are never recognized thing is just a made up problem so that the NYT and magazines (and you) can write stories about it. Unlike you, most people only actually care about character and skill and real traits, not all these gender labels and trying to lump people together.
    Trying to spin that Serena narrative is wrong because I doubt theres a single person who follows sports who doesn’t respect her skill and power. Watching her play is exciting and it has nothing to do with her being a woman…she’s just f***in good, probably the best ever. Look at a “male dominated” sport like MMA fighting. I’d bet you almost anyone could tell you who Ronda Rousey is. She brought that sport into the mainstream, but it wasn’t because some huff post social justice warrior begged everyone to pay attention. Nope, she did it by shocking the sport and being really good. Stop trying to push guilt on people because they can’t name Rupi Kaur or Sally Ride off the top of their heads…

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