By: Paula Barbaresso
“All men are created equal,” Thomas Jefferson once said. This phrase was used as the first step to creating the country of freedom we live in today. Philosophers, such as Aristotle, further recognize the importance of human dignity and allowing all people to live in a community with others a fully human life in accordance with reason. Living with Jesus’ teachings as a model of human equality, the United States itself has grown to become an iconic figure throughout our world’s history. Having been raised in a variety of different cultures throughout my life, I have come to the conclusion that this country is not much like any other; with the never-ending opportunities and liberties that are said to be available to all citizens, the founding fathers built an idea of the perfect human life. All Americans are said to be given a multitude of rights such as: the right to private property, the right to make their own decisions, the right to choose what religion to worship, the right to marry, the right to raise a family, the right to live a happy life, and mostly the right to equality. But are these freedoms truly granted to everyone?
Our community and Christian teachings tell us that all humans are to be treated equally, but as we look further into today’s society, is this the case for women across our nation? If equal opportunities and freedoms are granted to all American citizens, then why is it that women only earn 77% of what men earn every year? Women are consistently being treated as inferior to men, even in a country that claims to look past differences and treat everyone as equals. They are expected to focus on their looks, aim to be physically perfect, raise a family, and care for their husbands in everything they do. This mind-set not only creates an almost impossible obstacle for women to overcome but it gives them a major disadvantage in society; with this in mind, it is no surprise that a “glass ceiling” is present in our national workforce that women have not been able to rise above. The media constantly tells women that they are not perfect enough and their hair needs to be trimmed or their skin needs to be bronzed; striving for the materialistic and physical perfection our society expects from them, women are gradually becoming depressed and unhappy with themselves. This manipulation of our society’s views of women through the media has especially molded the United States where women are meant to be perfect inanimate objects, ready to wait on men, hand and foot. If women spent at least 10% of the time they used worrying about their weight and appearance to exceed in their education and career, think of how far they would go in the race to become equals with the superior male gender. It is our government’s duty to justly grant women the right to earn as much as men do, to be treated as equals within our workforce and community, and to finally grant them the natural right of equal opportunity.
In Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics he considers happiness to be the final end for all human beings. He also believes that the key to happiness is to be able to live a fully human life in a community with others in accordance with the ability to reason. With the monstrously high expectations of women in the United States today, no wonder teenage girls have been suffering through a life of unhappiness. The suicide rate for young, teenage girls in the United States has tremendously spiked up to a disturbing 32% over the past couple of years. The constant struggle to be as skinny as a Victoria’s Secret model, to be as beautiful as the airbrushed celebrities in OK magazine, and to be as tan as the famous Kardashian sisters has driven regular American girls into deep states of depression. Evidently, young women are not happy, nor are they encouraged to choose a life of academic success and independence from a sole, male provider. Susceptible to the manipulation of the media and the high expectations of men, American women are stuck suffering the consequences of their country’s medieval standpoint. The idea that women are not meant to be intelligent or have the ability to reason, but to be an “ideal woman,” objects of desire that solely strive to please the men. However, this view of a woman’s role in society has been active for centuries, why is there a sudden need to change this mentality?
By nature, humans are considered “political animals,” for we cannot function without proper leadership. Our necessity for guidance can either be seen as something positive or negative. On one hand, a figure a group of people can identify with can lead them in a direction that they want them to go, providing a structure for a functional community. Moreover, the government can easily manipulate people into making them think whatever they please; leaving room for corruption. In the Unites States, we are constantly found praising our country for the freedom and liberty it gives to all people. We pride ourselves on being one of the few countries that is “free.” However, women are still being discriminated against and not nearly receiving the same public respect that men do. This misconception of a completely “free country” is very common; in order for this country to be truly “free,” the government has to impose a law that directly states the equality between men and women. In Aristotle’s Politics that a “state exists for the sake of a good life, and not for the sake of life only: if life only were the object, slaves and brute animals might form a state… for they have a share in happiness or in a life of free choice.” According to Aristotle, the government’s purpose is to make sure all of its people live a fully human and happy life. If this is the case, then it is the government’s job to advocate the equality of all human beings so that all of its citizens live with happiness and liberty. As Aristotle states, “the governments which have a regard to the common interest are constituted in accordance with strict principles of justice, and are therefore true forms; but those which regard only the interest of the rulers are all defective and perverted forms, for they are despotic, whereas a state is a community of freedom.” The American government, composed with an overall majority of men, is digging its own hole of lies when it preaches that “all men are created equal,” yet consider women as inferior house-makers. While women are left out of major government leadership positions, 51% of our nation’s population is unheard and misrepresented. Here is an example of what Aristotle calls a government that “[regards] only the interest of the rulers.” By not granting everyone the opportunity for an equally good life, the government might as well be running a government for soulless animals. Because dignity is distributed to all human beings, it is the government’s responsibility that no human feels discriminated or treated as an inanimate object.
The United States government has done an acceptable job granting equal rights to people of all religions, races, and mental state. So why has the government ignored the importance of equality between gender? Has the prejudice against women not been prevalent enough? Considering our government is composed of mostly men, unsurprisingly, nothing has been done to stop the discrimination against women in both the workforce and in the media in our modern society. Although, when colored people rose up and successfully won their equal rights, no colored people were in high positions in the government. Could it be that the reason why equal rights for women are not recognized in our constitution is because a large portion of women today have become comfortable with this demeaning role? After all, the misrepresentation of women as sex objects and housewives in the media has not only been accepted, but slowly evolving into a social norm. The United States has masked this issue by advocating equal rights, yet manipulating women through the media into thinking their self worth lies in their appearance rather than academic success. This never-ending battle that women fight, striving to become this “ideal woman,” holds them back from living a fully human life and as a consequence, does not allow them to reach their final end: happiness.
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