We live in a culture dominated by male icons, images, memorials, and statues. This subtle but continuous flood of male images both inflates male entitlement and diminishes the confidence of women. When girls and women don’t see themselves on our currency or our stamps, or memorialized in our statuary, the message is clear: You are invisible. You don’t matter.
Eighty percent of communication is non-verbal, and the lack of visual images of women leaders has a significant negative impact on girls and women. Parents may tell their daughters they can be anything they want, but our nation’s symbols tell a different story. The visual overrides the verbal. Girls don’t hear yes you can when all they see is no you can’t.
Most things children learn are not learned in school. Children absorb intellectual and emotional lessons from their parents, their environment, and the symbols and icons that surround them. Unfortunately, our country’s culture and icons do not foster the self-esteem of both genders equally.
Although women make up 51% of the population, and have contributed significantly to the development of this country, our contributions are all but ignored. Consider these facts:
- There isn’t a single national holiday named after a woman.
- Not a single woman graces our paper currency.
- Only nine of the 100 statues in National Statuary Hall are of women.
- Less than 25% of the postage stamps issued by our government to commemorate individuals are of women.
- The overwhelming majority of streets are named after men.
- In New York City there are 150 statues of people: 145 are men and 5 are of women.
- The overwhelming majority of schools are named after men.
In the private sector things are no better:
- Only four women have been selected as TIME magazine’s “Man of the Year” since 1927, and only one of those four was an American woman. TIME changed the title from “Man of the Year” to “Person of the Year” in 1999, but hasn’t selected a woman since the politically correct title change.
- Male guests on the Sunday morning political talk shows outnumber female guests four to one.
- Network news programs feature women as expert commentators in their fields only 13% of the time; male experts are featured 87% of the time.
- In movies aimed at families and children, boys are a majority of the main characters and narrators.
- According to the Screen Actors Guild, men have twice as many onscreen speaking roles as women.
- A 2001 study of video games showed that females account for only 16% of the characters, and protagonists are most often male.
- On average, less than 10% of TV sports coverage is devoted to female athletes.
- Since its inception in 1924, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has featured 108 giant character balloons of historical figures and pop icons — only ten of them female. The first female character balloon wasn’t introduced until 1982.
Helping girls feel empowered is not just a moral duty; it is vital to our success as a nation. For our nation to move forward, the achievements of women must be recognized. Only when women are fully included in our nation’s history can they fully contribute to our nation’s future.
The lack of positive imagery of women also makes it harder for women to become elected. There is resistance from the electorate to putting women in the highest levels of government. There has never been a female president or vice-president of the United States, and there are only five female governors. In fact, the United States ranks 70th in the world in terms of number of women in elected office.
Women have to be a visible in our past before they can be part of our future. By creating equal visibility for women, EVE will help create opportunities for girls and women to flourish.