How are Women Portrayed in The Merchant of Venice

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Today we will be discussing the sexist and objectifying issue in women in surfing under the influence of the media. Objectification of women as a means of selling products is nothing new, but sexualizing women in surfing to sell surfing equipment and apparel is in fact a shock to the media. When you think of female surfers, I’m sure what comes to mind is a tall, blonde, skinny, and tan girl and that is because the media has continuously portrayed them for their body image and not for their surfing abilities.  

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Multiple big-name companies have been exposed to acts of inequality by the media. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you will recognize the names Billabong and Roxy who have been only recently called out. Many may think that gender inequality in the media is improving but there is still a massive lack of inequality toward female surfers.

3 to 5 percent of the surfing community was stated to be females in 1990, and an estimated 10 to 15 percent a decade later. With a world surfing population believed to be approximately 5 to 27 million, a number of female competitors are being overlooked. If you were to focus your perception on who surfs on what you see in the media, you’d assume that surfing was restrained for men with a six-pack and a pair of loose-fitting board shorts. You may even think that it includes a variety of thong-wearing girls who like to sit with their boards and wait for their boyfriends on the beach. I’m here to tell you that what the media is conveying is false.

One of the many examples in which female surfers are sexualized is shown in an Instagram post posted May 2017 by Billabong. They posted three photos of surfers. One being a male riding a wave *Insert photo*. The second of a blonde female surfer on her board who just came out of a duck dive and is looking outwards, letting the water majestically drip off her face. And lastly, a photo of a male surfer riding a wave while two girls, with their butts in focus, watch him surf. Now, in what world does this signify gender equality. Cause to be honest with you I just don’t see it. Based on the images shown, they represent Billabong as a company that believes that males are the dominant gender and females are only surfers for their looks.

In addition to this, in June 2013 Roxy released an official teaser of a popular surfer, Stephanie Gilmore getting herself ready to surf. In the first few scenes, the camera angle is set on the girls bedside table. The body is blurred out enough to see her body, but not enough to show any nudity. Overall, it is mostly a video of revealing shots focussing on her butt suggesting sex appeal. In the next shots, the girl is naked only wearing her underwear and showing off her tanned and fit body in slow motion. Not to mention that there is no actual footage of the girl surfing. Throughout the video, her identity is never revealed. Her face is never shown, only her fit body, building a representation of women surfers not being valued. As it is a surfing commercial you would expect for the girl to surf. But the entire commercial video is set around her looks.

As you all know, Billabong is a surfing company and a clothing retailer. But something you might not know is that Billabong repeatedly degrades women. If you have visited the billabong website, this image is what you would have been greeted with. The men’s image is a photo of a man surfing, while the women’s image is a photo of a girl at the beach showing off her body. Practically, Billabong as a company is emphasising that they make products for men, who go to the beach and catch waves, whilst the products for women are for females who sit around comfortably waiting to be looked at and desired. Men, as subjects, shredding waves. Women as objects, back arched and head dropped back for a titillating effect on the viewer. This isn’t an image of a girl having fun at the beach but, on the contrary, a woman enjoying her beautiful body in the perfect Billabong swimsuit.

I call that women in the media should no longer be sexualized in the media and that they should be represented for their surfing ability and not their looks. Evidently, these examples build a representation of women surfers that do not truly present them for talented surfers they are. It enforces the stereotype that female surfers are blonde, skinny, and tanned and that being a woman who surfs is solely for the purpose of body image and not surfing capabilities.

29 April 2022

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