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How women are portrayed affects how they are treated

WEAK and inferior – this is how women are often portrayed not only in texts, but in commercials and movies as well.

Even in textbooks, researchers found that more empowered roles are assigned to men, and they are portrayed as achievers and leaders, while women are portrayed as a chatterbox, pre-occupied with making themselves look beautiful, and are assigned stereotypical roles like rearing children and cooking meals.

Why the fuss on how women are represented? Scholars, language researchers, and advocates of women’s rights explain that this image of women reinforces and helps perpetuate abuses against them. The society is conditioned to accept a biased picture, that women are weak and inferior to men – as a general truth. As a result, discriminatory actions and abuses against them become rampant. Another problem with being exposed to “weak” women in printed and online materials, in commercials, and in movies, is the resulting lack of models – women achievers who are empowered, and making a difference in the society.

Discriminatory or gender-biased language like the use of “bitch” and “whore” further aggravates this problem. Does the English language have equivalents to refer to the opposite gender? How about language that depicts women as a piece of property or as sex objects?

In a society where discriminatory language is not challenged, abuses against women can never be prevented and adequately addressed. As the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis says, “Language shapes world view”.

To all women and girls: Know your worth. You are not a property or an object. Never refer to yourself as “just a woman” or “just a girl”. Strive to become independent. You were given abilities that you can enhance to develop your full potential. You deserve to be respected. If you know your worth, you will never tolerate the slightest attempt to abuse you in any manner.

To parents, guardians and educators: Your role in empowering women and girls is critical. How are they treated at home and in school, the first institutions expected to provide the conditions that will enable both genders to flourish and to access opportunities?

Marilyn Arayata: arayatamarilyn.wordpress.com. E-mail inspire.equip@gmail.com. Like the Hope Boosters Facebook Page for nuggets of hope and inspiration. (Marilyn C. Arayata)