Political cartoons have always been an enigma to me.
I’m not exceptionally well-versed in politics, despite the best efforts of my high school history teachers. So when confronted with a political cartoon that I know instinctively must somehow be witty or scathing, I usually am forced to just shrug my shoulders.
If it doesn’t involve a depiction of George W. Bush as some type of simian creature, it’s probably over my head. But there was one I saw recently that really struck a chord with me.
This cartoon depicted an American woman in a bikini, pumps and sunglasses walking past a Muslim woman dressed in head-to-toe black garb.
The thought bubble ballooning from the American’s head said: “Everything covered but her eyes! What a cruel, male-dominated culture!” and the Muslim women’s read: “Nothing covered but her eyes! What a cruel, male-dominated culture!”
I really had to stop and think about that. I can’t lie and say that I’ve never developed any misconceptions or judgments about other cultures based on the way women are treated in certain spheres. But I’ve never made the connection to how woman are often viewed in our culture.
Yes, we pride ourselves on the level of equality women enjoy here, but this cartoon brought into sharp focus an issue that I don’t think women our age give enough consideration.
What is the difference between a woman from another culture dressing conservatively to please men and an American woman dressing provocatively to achieve the same end? Is one really worse than another?
The fact that the American woman in this particular example was pictured not only as being scantily-clad but also wearing sunglasses is telling of what this cartoonist is trying to say. Because her eyes are covered, it strips away her right to an identity. All that’s left is a body to be objectified and dehumanized.
I’m guilty of selecting outfits I’ve worn based on male influence, but why did I and why do women in our culture continue to do this? Ladies, when you’re constantly worrying about yanking your hemline down, or attempting to prevent a Janet-Jackson-Super Bowl XXXVIII-esque wardrobe malfunction, don’t you ever feel a bit ridiculous?
I’m not trying to say that women should not be proud of their femininity and should keep absolutely everything covered up. But I just think we, as a sex, need to be more conscious of WHY we make the wardrobe choices we do.
Are we wearing something flattering because it makes us feel pretty and good about ourselves? Or are we squeezing ourselves into the most uncomfortable get-up imaginable just to turn a few heads? While the former can definitely be empowering, the latter can be the exact opposite.
It’s possible to look good while leaving a few things to the imagination.