Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Images of women and work

The above image is the front cover of the July 12th 1982 edition of time magazine. It relates to the article inside the magazine titled “How long to equality?” which discusses the fight women have to be equal to men in many areas including the workplace, and was interestingly published a week after the ERA failed to be passed. The image is striking as it shows a woman figure at the bottom of a long flight of stairs, portraying the long struggle ahead for equality. Also in the background is a drawing of a woman, half black, the other white, possibly comparing the struggle for woman to be equal to men, to that of the civil rights movement campaigning for black people to be treated as equals with white people. The background could have also been done like this to draw attention to the fact that feminism was viewed as an issue brought up by white middle class women which is discussed within the article. The article highlights cases such as “seventy percent of all classroom teachers are women, yet for the same job, they make an average of $3,000 a year less than their male colleagues, to show the struggle women have until total equality with men. Although the situation has improved since the 1980s, examples being, in the article it said that there were only 19 women members of the House of Representatives whereas now, as a result of the 2008 elections there are now 75, it is still a problem present day. This is shown in Nickel and Dimed in which the author Barbara Ehrenreich refers to an incident where a woman was fired shortly after she confronted her employers that her male co-workers were earning more than her, meaning that the same pay disputes which took place in the 1980s are still around today. Finally, despite some slight improvements, the fact that the Equal Rights Amendment failed to be passed in 1982, and still hasn’t been passed in 2011, shows that the attitude towards equality for men and women in America has not changed that much despite there being a thirty year gap.

The other photograph was taken from the Walmart website under “Associates, Private Fleet Drivers”. It shows seven people standing in front of a Walmart truck, with one being a woman. This is interesting as it shows us an example of a woman doing a job, in this case a truck driver, which is usually stereotyped as a job which a man would usually do. Therefore, it shows a change in the attitude to women working, as in the past they would have been prevented from doing a “manly” job. This could then be used as an example to show that now women are given the opportunity to do any job and have the same opportunity of getting it than men. However, there is another way of looking at this photo. In relation to Nickel and Dimed, in which Walmart is one of the companies Barbara Ehrenreich worked at, she tells us that a lot of women were doing the entry level jobs such as tiding up the shop etc, and that all the members of management she met were men. This is certainly true judging by the other pictures in the Walmart gallery as although the photos in the “associates” gallery were of both men and women, the people in the pictures under “President and CEO”, were men. This could then be argued that although there is a picture of a woman supposedly doing a job which is not usually seen as being performed by a woman (even though she is wearing the uniform and standing in front of the truck there is no guarantee that the people in the photo are defiantly truck drivers for walmart) A truck driver is still a low job in the hierarchy of walmart, and that there seems to be no women in itss top level management which means that in fact nothing has really changed as a result of the recent feminism movement and that women are still not given equal opportunities to men in the workplace.This view is reinforced by one of the articles discussed in this weeks lecture, by Ginia Bellafante in which she says that “at FORTUNE 500 companies there are only two female CEO’s and just 10% of corporate officers are women Another aspect of this photo is that it is obviously staged, as there are, as well as the 4 white men, a black man, an Asian man and a white woman. This them means that it is most likely not an accurate cross-section of Walmart’s truck drivers, and that even though in the picture there is one woman out of seven truck drivers, she may well be the only woman in the whole fleet of drivers. Therefore the picture was obviously taken to try and show that Wal-Mart treats everyone the same regardless of race and gender, which is ironic as judging by Nickel and Dimed and the gender of its management, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In conclusion although, there has been progress in the way woman are viewed in the workplace, as they are now allowed to do jobs which in the past were viewed as “men only” jobs, one of the main argument by feminists that there is a glass ceiling preventing women from being hired into the top, high paid jobs seems to be still valid, certainly in the case of walmart.

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