Is The Office Guilty of Portraying Gender Inequality

Gender equality is a very sensitive and delicate topic in society today, whether it be in the workplace, school, or just the basic roles of living life. Gender inequality happens when men and women are not treated and/or thought of equivalently in any situation. Although there are many laws to control this issue, there is the influence and domination some genders can have over another that can affect gender equality greatly.

In The Office, you will see lots of gender inequality from both the male and female points of view. This show relates to a lot of examples of gender discrimination in a real-life office image. From sex jokes to disrespecting the other gender, The Office is a great representation of this topic. In The Office there is lots of gender inequality but, the consequences of this behavior is nothing compared to what the consequences would be in real life. The Office uses “that’s what she said” and many other inappropriate jokes to “be funny”, we don’t realize how this show and many others are effecting a long-time struggle of gender equality in the workplace.

In season 5 of The Office, there is an episode named “Business Ethics” This episode is a great representation of my argument in this essay. Meredith Palmer is one of the main focus’ of this episode. The episodes start out with the human resources representative, Holly Flax, holding a meeting for the office about business ethics and how you should act in the workplace. The meeting goes on about stealing time from the company, and what the right choices are in certain situations. The meeting ends with Holly trying to make conversation with the whole group about any times they may have been faced with an ethical issue. Michael is promoting this by saying everyone will have “immunity”, which this is completely wrong because they do not have privacy with anything that is said. Michael starts the group off by saying he didn’t do any work for five days when he first found out what YouTube was. Oscar, Kelly, and Angela continue on saying minor ethical things they have done wrong. Then the big bomb drops when Meredith tells the whole office that she has been sleeping with a paper rep for 6 years to get cheaper prices on supplies and free steak dinners. Everyone but Holly kind of blows this off since Meredith is kind of known for this. Holly wants Michael to discipline Meredith in some way but Michael just continues on with his day and does not pay much attention to it. Holly tries to talk to Michael and get him on her side about this major problem going on in their office. Michael continues on not caring, so Holly calls corporate. Michael later in the episode gets a call from his boss about this issue. Corporate pretty much says they want her to keep sleeping with the paper rep because they could use the cheaper supplies. The main point of this episode that I am pointing out is that Dunder Mifflin is using Meredith as per se a ‘prostitute’ to get cheaper supplies for their company.

This episode shows a good example of gender inequality and the wrongful use of a female body in the workplace. Meredith has been ethically trashing Dunder Mifflin with her deal with the paper rep and nobody, not even corporate cares. They are not standing up for her rightfully and telling her that this is wrong because it is saving them money.

The episode I used for an example above has some characters that have a huge effect on the show and gives a lot to my argument. Michael Scott, the boss of the Dunder Mifflin office in Scranton, PA, is one of the main characters. Michael has always been known for his sexist jokes such as “that’s what she said”. Holly Flax also plays a big role in the episode. She plays a very professional woman who is making her coworker, Meredith, do the right thing in the situation she is in. Meredith is challenging all ethics in this episode as she sleeps with their company supplier for cheaper supplies and free food. Meredith doesn’t seem to know what’s right and what’s wrong in the situation she is in. Meredith isn’t even punished for sleeping with the supplier by corporate. Holly tells them the whole situation and they tell her to keep sleeping with him. What is this portraying to the audience?

The very obvious assumptions on men and women in this show do not portray the good sides of each gender. They suggest women get verbally abused by the men and that women use their sexuality to get things easier or cheaper as portrayed in the episode I used as an example. They are not making our society look good because of the way the genders are portrayed. They do this because this is the culture of the show. This is how they want the show to come off to the audience. This makes the show very humorous but no one benefits from this representation. The way the genders are suggested agree with all stereotypes within our society and there could be consequences with the show being such a “role model” for younger audiences.

The Office is a very comedic show that has lots of representation throughout the humor of the show. The humor is a way of hiding the awkwardness and weirdness of all the cruel jokes throughout the show. The audience watching this show does not realize the actual consequences you would have in real life for this type of behavior. There are laws that protect each gender against discrimination and disrespect towards them as an individual in the workplace. In The Office, it is not very likely that you will see the characters being punished for this kind of behavior.

The author of Mad Men, Mad Women, Joy Parks, has put a lot of thought into what television has done to the view of women and what the male characters have done to add to the issue of gender discrimination. Her example of a television show that really exemplifies gender inequality and may have even been to blame for creating it was, Mad Men, a hit television series on AMC. Mad Men won lots of awards for being a great drama show and has inspired lots of trends throughout society. This television show has also become the center of many topics and debates because of the very obvious sexism shown in the workplace during the show. “While there are plenty of complex female characters on the show, the men dominate with their infidelity, overt double standards and unchecked sexual harassment” (211). Both Mad Men and The Office have the characteristics of men being overpowering and having discriminatory views of the women they are working beside. The men in both of these shows paint an image of not respecting women in a way that is supposed to be “funny” to the audience. The viewers of these shows are not shown what the actual consequences of this behavior would be. They are shown to laugh it off and none of the characters ever get backlash for their words or actions. This is an example of gender discrimination in television that is not showing the viewers the truth or reality of the actual situation.

In Reading Bodies by Susan Bordo, she talks about the normalization of the male body throughout society, such as television and advertisements. She relates this idea of the male body to how we see the female body. They are very different ideas and perspectives. “In countless movies, we’ve grown used to seeing women take off their clothes for sex, or to display themselves erotically, or to be unsuspectingly spied on” (111). Women are known for this kind of behavior of being sexy and playing the character that gets taken advantage of because of her sexuality. Where on the other hand men are held to a completely different standard. “Men, until very recently, would only be shown undressing with some “utilitarian” fiction written into the scene-changing from business suits into sweats, putting on athletic uniforms, and so on” (111). Bordo’s point of view of this is very correct. Most of all the movies that have come out recently show this example in some part of it. Women are so used to this type of treatment, disrespect to the female body and men are so used to treating women like this. The male point of view does not think about how they would feel if they were treated like this. In the episode summarized above The Office, this issue comes up for a great example of this topic. Meredith is used for her body and her sexuality to get cheaper supplies for Dunder Mifflin. While corporate, which is mostly made of male characters, is totally fine with this situation and does not think about what this view is doing to their reputation or how the show is coming off to the viewers. Bordo’s analyzation of the male and female sexuality within television and movies relates back to The Office and what the show portrays to viewers, gender inequality and sexuality of both the genders.

Mark Crispin Miller analyzes an ad for soap and how the advertiser’s of this advertisement plays off the cynicism of the audience watching. The ad is about a husband that is feminized by his wife, Gail. Miller goes on to talk about how at the beginning of the ad there is a bucket of flowers covering the husband’s genitals and the wife is holding clippers portraying that she is outside doing “manly” work. This is suggesting the gender discrimination in the ad. Neither the ad nor The Office thinks about the repercussions this could have on the audience and society. Just like an ad for soap, The Office is playing off the audience’s insecurities of not being treated equally against the other gender and the awkwardness of this topic. Using biased jokes and images that put down genders should not be a way to get people’s attention, but it is. It is the kind of banter that society in America wants to hear today. The way this soap ad and The Office portray men and women shouldn’t be okay because gender inequality is a huge issue in the world today. Gender inequality is shameful and repulsive because this is not how America is supposed to be. America is the land of the free, which also includes everyone is equal no matter their gender, race, or any other differences we may have as human beings. This is why it is so wrong that The Office and so many other television shows and this particular advertisement, portray the complete opposite thought process of everyone being equal in society. Gender discrimination is something that is working to be solved at, day by day and if we keep putting this into television, the problem will never be resolved.

Throughout the many examples above and the episode of The Office analyzed throughout the essay, it would be correct to say that gender discrimination is an immense issue that is going on in the world today. When people see this every day on television it becomes a norm in everyday life, in the way they talk, act, and treat each other. From discriminatory jokes to sexism, all in the workplace, we do not realize the real consequences that will come from certain situations being portrayed in television shows such as, The Office. The audience’s of these shows and advertisements forget what is right and what we fight for every day, gender equality. With that said, the on-going struggle of gender inequality in the workplace will have to be resolved with many contradicting surroundings in the world.