The Amanda Knox trial took an unlikely turn last week as the media directed their attention away from the murder and onto the questionable sexuality of the single college student. It’s unlikely the revisiting of her sexual experiences indicate a deranged murderer, but rather a larger meter of media double standard against female sexuality.
The media’s ability to turn any sexual female into a social taboo proves detrimental at a time when women are still fighting strongly for equality.
Frank Bruni correctly attacks the media’s pleasure in typecasting women by highlighting the massive differences between the stories told of females and males who act on their sexuality. He argues that had it been “Wilhelmina Clinton and Newtina Gingrich” committing adultery in political office, we’d have a much different outcome than the aftermath felt by Bill and Newt.
His critique points to the long-held stereotype that defends male sexuality as a part of nature, while creating monsters out of female sexual beings. While females have supposed freedom to control their lives, including their sexuality, the public opinion still remains unbelievably uncomfortable with any knowledge to their sexuality. The damnation that follows any evidence of female sexuality, creates a double standard so damaging, we lose progression toward true gender equality.
Against all logic, the media presents female sexuality as a novel idea just discovered yesterday. The adjectives they use to describe females who step outside socially acceptable norms of femininity, show the extreme inconsistency in feelings toward men and women who they engage in the same activity. Take another mainstream murder suspect, Oscar Pistorius, accused of killing his model girlfriend on Valentine’s Day 2013. No attacks have been made against sexual history as did Amanda Knox; rather his athleticism is a source of defense whereas Knox’s competency was quickly dissolved by media following her "promiscuity."
Too often the male receives a sigh of misfortune, while the female is subjected to criticism straight to her core in the form of public shaming. We’ve seen the shaming take place in monumental cases like Monica Lewinsky. President Clinton rebounded from the sexual debacle that put hurt his presidency, but at the cost of the young female intern’s reputation. The shaming also takes place in the threads of everyday life. Young mothers are shamed as if they were the only person present at the conception of their baby. Women who have been raped are turned from victims to seducers of their male rapist who couldn’t control his “natural,” sexual desires. This double standard is embedded so deeply in media misrepresentation, that any deviation from female passivity in sexuality is certainly caused by a flawed female.
The double standard has created a public climate so toxic for women, it’s no wonder women aren’t lining up to enter it. The misrepresentation of women in the media is often absorbed by the female psyche despite all efforts to rise above it. It would be masochistic to ask women to enter an arena that stacks the odds against her gender; subsequently creating an environment that few women have expressed the desire to enter.
Continuing progression toward gender equality means fighting the double standards that trounce female reputations and creating a culture that focuses on female character rather than sexual history.