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Letting Women Be Women in Entertainment

Are women held to harsher standards than their male counterparts?
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Sam Garcia
(Design by Sam Garcia | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

The arts haven’t always been equal. Gender roles that began with familial standards of men working and women raising children kept women from performing onstage until the 18th century. The standards created so long ago, which gradually fractured in the 1900s, still linger, impacting how a woman can have a career in the arts industry.

The Harsh Double Standard

So, are women held to harsher standards than their male counterparts? There are successful women who are pretty much unchallenged in their positions — people like Anna Wintour, Joan Didion and Malala Yousafzai.

What do these women have in common? While Wintour is the editor of Vogue, Didion was a pioneering essayist and Yousafzai is a Nobel prizewinning advocate for equal access to education, none of these women are known for, or often shown to be, smiling. All of these women are successful, but they have achieved their status by not appealing to typical female roles.

These women don’t wear tons of makeup, walk many red carpets or become beautiful images for men to ogle at. If anything, they are tough, harsh and reserved, which are traits we see in men holding positions of power. In the entertainment industry, it appears that as long as a woman embraces a feminine persona and appeals to more feminine interests, regardless of her intelligence or awesome qualities, there will always be criticism and acts to knock her down — something that doesn’t happen often to men in entertainment.

Hollywood Doesn’t Want a Smart Girl

One of my favorite celebrities of all time is Brooke Shields. Shields was the most famous face of the ’80s and was often sexualized as a youth. Shields’ first role was a child prostitute in “Pretty Baby.” She was consistently known as a child sex symbol, uttering the iconic line “nothing comes between me and my Calvins” in a Calvin Klein ad at just 15. After going to Princeton University in 1983, she was suddenly unable to get roles. Turns out, Hollywood didn’t want a smart girl.

In entertainment, we see pretty women gaining love and attention for their looks all the time. However, if they leave the scene, speak their mind, have a kid, get an education or grow old, the spot they once held disappears. This isn’t true for men — and that is the problem.

Women are the leads in almost every single ballet and hold top spots in the music charts. Women are supermodels and lead award-winning films. Still, it is hard to find women in these fields in positions of power who do not receive criticism to a greater extent than their male counterparts.

Opportunity Regardless of Gender

At the end of the day, men make the decisions about women’s careers, even when women dominate the spaces in question. It is not to say these men aren’t qualified. The problem is that many decisions regarding women are made using the standards to which men hold women, not the way women actually see and want to represent themselves.

These standards can become unrealistic for women, limiting their success if they don’t look or act a certain way, even if they are doing nothing wrong. There shouldn’t be some type of affirmative action to compensate, where women get jobs left and right to make up for the lack of women leadership. Instead, decisions for leadership should be made considering both men and women. Positions should be given to who will do best in that position and get the best work done.

Let Women be Women

While women have been suppressed in the arts for hundreds of years, there are no restrictions now. There should be no enforced criticisms on women. Women should be able to be movie stars for as long as their acting talent qualifies them. They should model on a runway and sing regardless of their gray hairs and wrinkles on their skin or how appealing they may seem to men.

Art is about creativity. Creativity should not be left to those deemed “in” one day and “out” the next. If a woman is kind when needed, assertive in direction and bold in thought, there is nothing that should restrain her.

This may sound unattainable, but look around. We see this every day, whether those wonderful women are given a spotlight or a mic.

 

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@haleyfreee

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About the Contributors
Haley Freeman, Arts Writer
Haley Freeman is a sophomore mechanical engineering major at the University of Utah. She was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, and now is based out of South Carolina, when not traveling or at the U. She enjoys all things ballet, film, photography, and literature. When not writing for the paper, you can catch Haley working sage tech at the Marriott Center for Dance, spending time with her Alpha Chi Omegas, or frolicking in the snow.
Sam Garcia, Designer
(she/her) Sam Garcia is a junior studying Graphic Design and minoring in Computer Science. She has a bubbly and energetic personality. Loves drawing, painting, taking care of her plants, and getting shredded at the gym.

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