Comparison Essay- Draft 3

The images I shall be contrasting in this comparison essay are photographs that focus on feminism in society. Image number one was taken at a protest outside a Miss World pageant in 1970 by an anonymous photographer. The second image, taken by photojournalist Steve Rhodes at a San Franciscan gender equality march, was taken in 2012. Focusing on the topic of feminism, I shall explore and analyse the images in depth, and discuss the feminist movement and what they achieved, and what they aim to achieve.

Feminism ridicules the inequality of the social standing of women, in the economy, in the political world, and in civilisation as a whole. This includes trying to establish the same opportunities for women in schooling and in the workplace as men. It has developed in a range of ways and reacts to disputes such as the way sex and the different genders are perceived in society. Campaigning for equal rights has made people aware of protecting women from forms of domestic violence, including sexual harassment and assault. They have also advocated employment rights, including maternity leave, and against forms of discrimination against women in mixed gender workplaces. [1]

The feminist movement started in the late 19th century and continued into the early 20th century, it was given the name ‘first wave’ of the feminist movement, the women’s suffrage period  which included the protests for the right for women to vote and run for political office. The images I will be looking at are from both the ‘second wave’ and ‘third wave’ of the feminist movement and depict separate acts of protest against the inequality women face in culture, society, and politics. [6]

The first image is from a protest against the objectification of women in events such as Miss World. The photographer, unknown, captured the passionate views of the women who have had to deal with being objectified by the men, which unfortunately still happens today. Their vehemence is shown in the plaques and signs they are holding, and where they are holding them, which is outside the Royal Albert Hall where the Miss World pageants took place in the year of 1970. The group of feminist protestors were also known for throwing flour bombs during the rally.

As well as throwing flour bombs, the Women’s Liberation activists bought tickets to the event and threw stink bombs, threw pamphlets and threw smoke bombs at the organisers inside the building. The proceedings and actions carried out by the feminist supporters were also in defence of imperialism and racism against women as well as objectifying their bodies at such an event as Miss World. Women’s Liberation were opposing the panel of males at Miss World that judge women on their appearance only. [3]

Feminist movements and the Women’s Liberation in the 1970s were also shunned by females themselves, most notably Margaret Thatcher, who believed that women could be powerful without these types of organisations fighting for equality at that time; she believed that she was an example of this since she became successful before feminist groups came into fruition. Before these feminist parties became recognised in society as positive groups for women, the word sexism had no meaning and had to be created; before this, females simply labelled sexists as “male chauvinists”. Nowadays sexual objectification of women is not necessarily celebrated in the media, but is used as a tool in advertisement and marketing. [2]

However, although feminist organisations still protest to this, they are more focused on female empowerment and the objectification of women is used as a contributing factor for female control and authority in media, which then transfers into society today. As a result of this, female objectification has changed from something feminist groups, like in the 1970s, very much were opposed, now it has been turned on its head to be something relatively positive for the feminist communities. [1]

Although the photographer is unknown, the image has been shared on social networking sites such as Tumblr; the photograph portrays a greater meaning for feminists, showing the women in the photograph’s strengths to stand against the misogyny that was the norm in the period that the photograph was taken. A possible reason that the image is so meaningful for feminists is they can look back at the courageous women in the image and find inspiration and drive to fight for their equality and the equality of their peers. [4] [5]

Taken during the ‘second wave’ of feminism, it was a time when sexuality, reproductive rights and equal rights amongst men and women was demanded by those who wanted to be accepted socially in the same way men were. Compared to the second image I shall be analysing, which was taken during the ‘third wave’ of the feminist movement, the driving force of the movement has changed from being focused on sexuality and equal rights in that regard, to being more based upon breaking gender boundaries and stereotypes in both society and politics. [6]

The photograph of the 2012 women’s rights march by photographer Steve Rhodes depicts a man walking in an equality march for women. The fact that he is a man could make the message of the rally more prominent and could garner a greater reaction from the public because a man is showing support for his female peers. This view could also be contradicting, however. A man having to walk for gender equality could also imply that times have not changed all that much and men are still regarded more highly in society than women, and a man’s view is much more imperative than a female’s.

As the image shows a man is supporting women’s rights, the message is put across to the audience and spectators more powerfully because a male disagreeing with being considered the greater gender is something to talk about. It expresses the fact that men do believe that their female peers should be considered equal to them, and not the less significant gender.

The sign, “I refuse to have misogyny massaged into the corticalization of my brain,” shows the changing views of women by men, with this particular man against female discrimination, violence against women, and female objectification. Some individuals are more enlightened to gender equality in today’s society due to being brought up in a different type of environment, with television and Internet easily accessible, this could be a contributing factor to this male’s understanding of the way females should be treated in society.

Misogyny, defined as “the hatred of women” refers to the complete opposite of what the first 1970 rally was about, which was protesting the glorified sexuality of women for the pleasure of men. Although, being misogynistic can include dehumanising women to the point of men thinking that a woman is for their enjoyment only, and objectifying and crudely commenting about them; a two-dimensional perception of women is focussed on and men only concentrate on a woman’s body and physical appearance. [3]

The equality march in the second picture took place on Women’s Equality Day 2012 and the political Republican National Convention was beginning that same day in Tampa, Florida. Similar events to the march held in San Francisco also happened in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The many marches that took place on Women’s Equality Day could have been linked to the Republican Party in the United States as they are known to be against women being treated the same way as men in their society. It is also known that the Republican’s do not believe women should earn the same wage for doing the same job and having the same career as their male counterparts.

Steve Rhodes’, photographer of the 2012 march, collection of images where this specific photograph has been taken from, is a photojournalist from San Francisco and particularly focuses on shooting events in media, culture and politics. A collection entitled ‘Women’s rights march held in San Francisco’ was taken as a political convention was about to take place, the image then relates to culture and politics as a result. Walkers in the march are not only protesting against sexism in day to day life, but also against the Republican Party’s views that females should not be treated the same as males in the workplace and their healthcare should be decided for them.

In conclusion, the images reflect that the way people protest against sexism and gender inequality has not changed all that much in the last 40 years. Although the gender mix in the protestors has evolved from being solely women, to males and females, the meaning of the pictures is to display the fight and struggle those people had to go through to be recognised and help gain equal rights for women. The photographers of both images wanted to depict to an audience the passion for female equality and how people have come together to support something that they believe in.

Displaying the continued battle that feminists face in their mission towards national, and even global gender equality is the reason why the images are so powerful in what they depict. From the 1970 women against Miss World rally to the 2012 women’s equality march, the images show how the feminist groups have changed and expanded over time. The groups are growing and are gathering more attention from the media, especially in the United States because of the differing political stances on women’s healthcare and working wages.

In addition, both images equally relate to politics; the first image was taken in the midst of several equal rights for women laws were trying to be passed in the United Kingdom including the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Sex Discrimination Act. The protest featured in this image was also the first protest organised by the Women’s Liberation.

The second image was taken during the march for equal rights on the day of Women’s Equality Day, which also happened to fall on the same day as the National Republican Convention; this could relate to politics as a sign of rebellion against the Republican Party’s views on gender equality in the United States, thus also linking to politics.

Comparing the images against each other, it shows the meaning of the protests has transformed and expanded from being just against female objectification; the protests now also include societal inequalities such as workplace sexism, inequalities with male and female salaries, and discrimination against women in politics. Both images illustrate the difference in the stand points of the feminism waves, the first image focusing mostly on female sexuality and how that should not be the main feature of women in society. The second image, with the inclusion of the main man in the photograph, depicts the possible breakdown of gender boundaries in today’s society; this is also reflected in the fact men are seen walking in the women’s rights march as this is also a breakdown of male and female stereotypes.

Harvard Referencing

  1. Margaret Walters (2005). Feminism; A Very Short Introduction. London: Oxford University Press. 56-177.
  2. London Feminist Network. (2013). Women’s Liberation and Radical Feminism 1970-early 1980s. Available: Last accessed 07 Apr 2013.
  3. Susan Walsh. (2013). Feminism and Sexual Objectification. Available: Last accessed 07 Apr 2013.
  4. BBC Radio 4. (2010). Miss World 1970. Available: Last accessed 27th Apr 2013.
  5. The Guardian. (2011). Miss World Is Back. How Much Has Changed?. Available: Last accessed 27th Apr 2013.
  6. Martha Rampton. (2008). The Three Waves of Feminism. Available: Last accessed 27th Apr 2013.