Finalist 2017: Jena MacDonald, WA

Home»Finalist 2017: Jena MacDonald, WA

Name: Jena MacDonald

Community, State: Manjimup, WA 

School: Manjimup Senior High School

Age: Year 11

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From primary school to Prime Minister, how can we create strong pathways to power for women?

Creating leadership opportunities for women is an imperative priority to any society as it is the experience that comes from these opportunities that enable Australian women and girls to participate actively in decision making in all spheres of society. Sadly, many girls and young women are settling for mediocrity simply because popular culture represents them in reductive ways. Limiting women and their roles in society through sexualisation and objectification undermines the efforts and achievements of feminists, civil rights activists and everyday women both throughout history and in contemporary society. The stereotypes and sexist ideologies that pervade our society need to be constantly challenged so that we can create a safe and respectful world for women where they can more readily access and thrive in fields such as politics, law and corporate business.

We must first target the film and publishing industries which hold a great deal of influence over the younger generation. Young people are increasingly being exposed to gender stereotypes embedded in film and the media at large. Alfred Hitchcock’s famous 1960 film “Psycho” established and reinforced the stereotype of women as sexualised victims. It is suggested that our female protagonist has only herself to blame for being murdered as her reasons for thieving forty thousand dollars were sexually motivated. These dominant ways of portraying women continue to be perpetuated in current films and magazines and the emphasis placed on representing women as objectified, inadequate and untrustworthy need to be addressed within the film and media industries.

Let’s start with a ‘recalibration’ of the representations young people, both girls and boys are exposed to. By making radical changes in this area, we can enable girls and young women to see themselves and their futures in a different light.  A review of women and girls being represented as hyper-sexualised aggressive warriors, feminised victims or something in between needs to occur as these versions of womanhood lead girls to believe that their worth lies in their capacity to be either aggressive and/or sexual to have an impact in the world. Is this all we have to look forward to? Why not offer a version of womanhood that is about celebrating aspects of one’s inner self such as self-belief, pride, intelligence and humour? All young people need to see women as whole beings who have great potential to lead. The key is to lobby the media to unlock its conscience.