With the fourth wave of feminism roaming around for over a decade now, it is interesting to see the changes and whether things have genuinely improved or not. With more women voicing and expressing their experiences of sexual violence, abuse, harassment and objectification, it is apparent that some progress has been achieved due to campaigns and movements, such as #metoo movement. However, there is a greater problem that is yet to be resolved. The shaming that women are met with whilst trying to be expressive and comfortable in their own skin and with their own sexuality. It is a hidden issue that has not been recognised/acknowledged properly. Evidently, we see an uproar of people standing against the typical behaviour of women being degraded. However, there are numerous incidences where this is done within the household, in private, and within small groups. This is something that is far more damaging as it continues to be repeated and is taught to be normal when in reality, it is far from what the norm should be. But the blame cannot be placed on one particular gender. Unfortunately, it is the case that anyone can be guilty of doing this, consciously or unconsciously. Therefore, it is very dangerous and is something we need to societally change. From the normalisation of sexualising women in the media to the calling of women of all sorts of names to degrade their character and shame them for their own choices, these are all areas this article aims to cover. This article goes to show that there is a need for more attention to be placed on these issues through the next wave of feminism as we approach the fifth wave soon.
Popular Culture and Women
The media has normalised the objectification of womanhood through popular cultures, such as; music videos, magazines, TV shows, and movies. These elements have sexualised women and their bodies, causing them to feel discomfort and insecurity with themselves as evidence proves that 20% to 40% of women are dissatisfied with their bodies. Ultimately, influencers are responsible for this due to the constant changes in beauty trends that compel women to transform their bodies in order to fit in the 'right' mould.
The Kardashians, for example, have continued to shape-shift and change the expectations of women’s bodies. From curvy being sexy to the super slim and shrinking body ‘trend’ that they have been promoting recently. This is a direct example of how women's bodies are seen as easily transformable to be accepted and to meet societal expectations. This is problematic! The Kardashians have undergone many surgeries and changed their appearances, setting unrealistic expectations for women. The most recent extremely disordered eating was promoted by Kim Kardashian when she was getting ready for the Met Gala and was trying to fit into the Monroe dress presenting to young women, mostly, that they can meet these unrealistic expectations by placing pressure on themselves and continuing to damage their own health. However, influencers such as Jameela Jamil and Ashley Graham have been advocating body positivity in order to reverse the extreme practices.
However, influencers like Jameela Jamil and Ashley Graham have stayed strong and have been advocating body positivity in order to reverse the extreme practices. Jameela Jamil’s posts on Instagram call out magazines like the New York Magazine for promoting the use of Ozempic, which has gained a lot of concerns in regards to triggering eating disorders due to the diabetes drug being labelled off as something that can be used for weight loss. Therefore, Jamil has been, for a long time with her @i_weigh account, promoting mental health, including body positivity to build a positive community with the goal of diminishing irrational expectations, presented by influencers like the Kardashians, of what or how women should be or look like.
The normalisation of derogatory terms ascribed to women, for example, 'slut' and 'whore' is obscene.
I mean, for what reasons are we being called such demeaning names? We are constantly negatively addressed for being 'too expressive' whilst fighting against these societal pressures. Why is the definition of womanhood questioned? The fact that ‘shame’ is brought on women for having the audacity to ask and claim the right to herself and her being able to be expressive, it seems to be unliked by society. Why? Do we need to be waiting for the fifth wave of feminism for this to be something we ‘permit’ women to have freedom to do what they want in their private life?
As we are living in the midst, or rather the end, of the fourth wave of feminism, cultural norms also need to be assessed. Women are frowned upon for voicing their rights or expressing their freedom. This is with varied cultures also having an influence on different topics. But one that strikes up the most is the fact that women have to be seen as innocent fitting society's image of being perfect and this idea of females being infantilised, leaving them no space to make any of their own decisions, but left to live in the eyes of society. Isn’t the fourth wave of feminism a time to question the cultural norms that we have grown up with and allow females full freedom rather than oppressing them?
Whilst it might be hard to believe that this still continues to be an issue, it truly is. As Taylor explains, shaming has many layers. It is dependent on affluence in general as well as viewing women only as victims fails to hold women accountable for the roles that they play in reproducing these issues. Unfortunately, women judging women for their own expression is very common and, whilst it may seem like a small inconvenience to be called names, it has a massive impact on the victim. Not only does it legitimise the views of society, but these internalised views that we have been taught repeatedly start to become something that affects the individuals self-esteem and their confidence when they are actively deconstructing these views internally. According to the journal Social Psychology Quarterly, slut-shaming is in fact a form of bullying and has actually played a role in the suicide of girls and young women. Thus, the physical and psychological effect slut shaming has on a woman is unforgettable, not ignorable as it has a serious impact on the person shamed for advocating their freedom and rights.
In general, whilst we are over a decade into the fourth wave of feminism, and are ready for the fifth wave, I would argue that we still have many of the fundamentals to cover, with societal opinions to change, to begin with in order to move forward as the same interferences will be found again at every point if we do not move forward together and should be at the top of the priority list. With the media continuing to reproduce unhealthy standards for women, to women name called for any of their behaviour, there is no way a woman can move forward or have equal opportunities when they have these battles to fight on a daily basis. Being careful with the way that they interact or behave to the way that they present themselves, there is always a level of caution that they have to keep in mind, which goes totally against the idea of liberating women from these burdens. Ultimately, I would argue that there is a need for solidarity between women. To reiterate the point made earlier, slut-shaming is a form of bullying and causes more damage to the victim and the continual villainising of freedom of choice is significantly damaging, which must be stopped.