I had this leaflet through my door – it’s a colour leaflet setting out the local health services in my Borough. The front cover shows some people walking down the street – presumably the type of people the leaflet is aimed at. Of the eight little cartoon people shown, five are women, one is a baby (being pushed in a pram by one of the woman), one is indeterminate and one is a man.
Is this deliberate? Aren’t we supposed to be getting men to use the health service more? Don’t we keep hearing about the need to encourage men to go to the Doctor more often? Intentionally or not I think this leaflet sends out a clear message that health is the responsibility of women.
Inside the leaflet, these are the representations of medical professionals:
So, they are male, then.
It’s a shame isn’t it?
It does make me wonder, though. When we feminists look at representations like this, publications and advertising, do we want them to represent the way things really are or the way they should be in an ideal equal world? There seems to be a tension to me.
On the one hand, if a there is a severe gender inbalance existing (e.g. in a profession, like teachers, nurses, mechanics, or the split in household chores and child-rearing along gender lines), I think it would help to change that situation if men and women were shown equally in those scenarios. So in these cases I want publications to try to show an “ideal world” rather than the actual truth of the situation as it happens to be now.
Yet when it comes to things like the representation of domestic violence and rape, I want publications to represent the pure facts: that men are responsible for the vast majority of these things, and not to try to pretend that gender doesn’t come into it or is irrelevant. So I don’t want them to represent a world where violence occured equally across the genders and women were not oppressed. I want them to represent what happens now.