• Penny Muller

Let Your Voice be Heard

"Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man."

I really love old movies. It started when I was pretty young. We didn’t have a TV until I was seventeen, but during school holidays we would hire movies to watch on the days when we stayed at Nanna’s house. We started with The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, musicals like My Fair Lady, and Disney movies like Pollyanna and Swiss Family Robinson. We found our own favourites and it went from there. In our family, we still love them all.

I’ve discovered lots of great old movies on YouTube during the last couple of years, and I’ve made some realizations.1930s movies are quite progressive, often comedies set in mansions the size of museums and overflowing with evening gowns and champagne. They are so over-the-top. You would think everyone was a millionaire. People enjoyed this escapism during the Great Depression.

1940s movies are also quite progressive. Women started wearing overalls and working for the war effort. They were usually influential in the home, making the decisions, strong, brave, and often the most powerful characters in the stories. Of course, to enjoy 1940s movies, you are often required to accept pro-war sentiments and propaganda, as this was the agenda of the time.

1950s movies are the ones I have issues with. The men in these movies are usually incapable of accepting a woman who has a point of view, or who wants to accomplish anything in any capacity outside of the home. The men snidely concur that this type of woman is deluded about what she really wants, which is solely to be a housewife and mother. In these stories, male figures such as doctors and psychologists imply that the woman must be mentally ill or afraid of having a sexual relationship with a man. She may be single, or possibly a lesbian. In either case, this means that she is probably mentally ill. These movies usually end with the woman happily accepting her place as a pretty and passive object in the household or a decorative trophy to be flaunted at the company cocktail party. Any other choice or addition to these roles would mean risking her husband's ego, and therefore, her marriage.

These storylines and characterisations reflected society’s priorities and the politics of each of these time periods. And, there were exceptions, as during every period there were filmmakers who questioned the norms or who wished to influence change.

The thing that is most disturbing though, is how threatened many men still seem to feel when women enter certain arenas, particularly politics. Women in public spheres are usually criticized if they behave like women. Any sign of emotion or use of emotive language means instability and lack of fitness for office. If women succeed, they are often criticized for being too masculine. Women who have children are seen as having divided loyalties and women who don’t are perceived as unfeeling and being unable to relate to the needs of the public. In my opinion, any woman who ventures into this hostile territory, regardless of her politics, is incredibly courageous and deserving of admiration.

Every person in society deserves to have his or her needs met and his or her voice represented. Without this, the world can't possibly function in a harmonious way. Imagine if rioting and protesting could be replaced with intelligent discussion. Imagine if people from all walks of life were representing our needs and desires (Okay, I can't help myself. John Lennon and I share the same personality type). This way, there wouldn't be as much frustration and unhappiness. We would have a much greater chance of being heard.

Women, we need to be more than pretty and passive. As men become more used to this, things will improve for all of us. They'll adjust. Maybe one day we'll forget that this was even an issue.

I hadn't heard of the woman in the video, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, until today. Now 30, she is the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress. Her speech is reminiscent of another famous 'misogyny' speech of recent years. And there is Jacinda Arden, one of our heroines at the moment, and deservedly so. Maybe there is hope for the world yet.

Speak up and stand proud. The world needs all of our perspectives to make it whole. It needs unity rather than division, and respect rather than competition. It needs our integrity and our courage, and it's wonderful to see that there are role models out there, showing us how it's done.

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