Marilyn Monroe, a Hollywood icon who succumbed to a barbiturate overdose would now be 95 years.

However, for the 36 years she lived, she had a profound impact on the American entertainment industry and society at large and her legacy still stands. Through her stylish onscreen persona, Marilyn Monroe’s legacy took a center role to denounce sexual exploitation and to empower women. She significantly influenced women to speak their mind and follow their dreams. In the 1950s, women did not have enough courage to dictate their terms in a society that was significantly dominated by men.

Hollywood provided a great avenue for Monroe to pass send her message to fellow women, but to some extent they curtailed here freedom. Her actions and activism against objectification of women onscreen played a critical role to educate women regarding their rightful place within society. However, to some extent, her progressive views where somehow overshadowed by her stylish TV persona.

Source: Pixabay

Sex Appeal versus feminism

The audience was more focused on her beauty and glamorous style more than her progressive views on equality and women empowerment and this had a profound impact on her legacy as an advocate for gender equality. In most articles about Monroe, the phrase “sex symbol” is always in the first sentence. Her beauty and body always came first, and not her personality, ambition or talent. Her legacy and influence on society was much realized after her death.

Despite the fact that Monroe died prior the birth of the contemporary women’s movement, it does not imply that she could not join it posthumously. Feminism activists cite her life as an example of how chauvinism objectifies women. Monroe serves as an example of how bad things were during her times, when job options for women were only two; housewife and sex kitten. Objectification of women was popular in the 1950s and Monroe was a victim of the same. People paid little attention to her talent and intelligence as a women.

Monroe was exploited for her beauty and only a few individuals admired her witty acting. Not many people gave Monroe an applause for who she was because of her sexual attraction. Her beauty, style and fashion was what feminists would not want men to view women. They thought Monroe was so appealing to men and would be turned into a sex object. However, after her death, people began to see the impact her life had on advocating for gender equality. Her style portrayed her freedom that she was not dictated by anyone to behave or dress in a certain way. She fought for what she believed regardless of the widespread stereotype and objectification of women. To some extent, Monroe was a sex symbol, however, she used it to empower and influence women. People began to recognize her legacy of empowering women after her death.

How Monroe used her sex appeal to empower women.

Source: Wikipedia

Monroe was far much ahead of her time and she knew her rightful space as a women in the workplace. She once told Richard Meryman, Life magazine writer that “An actress isn’t a machine,” but male script directors treated female actors as machines. She was fed up with being used just because she was a women and she claimed a space demanding for a higher pay and a say in play scripts in a deal she signed with Fox, which was an unusual win for a female actor in 1950s.

Her action to bargain for more pay was an eye opener to other female actors who were being exploited by male directors. That notwithstanding, Monroe opened her own productions company in 1955. This was a bold move and inspiration to women that they were capable of achieving their dreams. Monroe rose above all odds to become one of the best female actor and female figures of her time. Her activism through acting profoundly influenced the modern feminism.

Monroe was woke and supported fellow women. She had a keen mind on social injustices towards women.  She used her position as a celebrity to support jazz star Ella Fitzgerald to be allowed to perform in Mocambo Club that had initially denied her the chance to perform. In return, Monroe promised to attend every show hosted by the club. Her presence would attract more people because of her celebrity status. Fitzgerald described Monroe as being ahead of her times because of the bold moves she made as woman in a male dominated society. It can be argued that Monroe had a profound influence towards gender equality through her acting profession. As an advocate for talent and gender equality, Monroe challenged the autocratic structure of the entertainment industry. Hollywood studios dictated what films their actors should make and what characters they should feature.

Monroe serves as an example of how biased business cultures sabotage women of ambition

Marilyn Monroe star

Monroe’s professional dilemma portrays the struggles and challenges contemporary women face in the workplace. If given equal treatment as their male counterparts, they shine and achieve their dreams. However, discrimination against women, objectification and cultural obstacles remain that limit exposure to opportunities. Monroe’s life puts a face on the challenges that women have to face every day in a male dominated society such as sexual exploitation, abusive marriages, discrimination and sexual objectification. In their efforts to achieve those opportunities, many women find themselves conforming to imposed perceptions and attitudes to what appears most acceptable in workplace environment.

Marilyn Monroe flicker
Source: Flickr

The challenges Monroe faced in her times because of her gender are still the same challenges being faced by many women in workplace. The perception that women are inferior as compared to many permeates many organizations. Large number of women hold the lowest positions in society. The dominance by men is still prevalent in the contemporary society. Women should emulate Monroe and claim their rightful space in society and workplace. Modern feminism should cite Monroe’s life as an example when fighting for gender equality.

However, Monroe’s sex symbol identity overshadowed other critical aspects of her legacy. Her identify somehow erased other qualities that made her extraordinary, talented actor. This is still present in the modern society. Women are often seen only for their sexual appeal, just like Monroe, and their talent is overlooked. Were it not for the sexual appeal by Monroe’s legacy, her influenced on society could have been immense. That notwithstanding, society needs to recognize people for who they are, and to understand the implications of the entertainment industry in either reducing or capitalizing women based on their sexuality.