Gender roles have been a pervasive force within society for centuries and include numerous facets about what each gender has been thought to represent. Gender roles have perpetuated the creation of stereotypes that are propagated by many outlets such as the media.
I have always been an avid reader, though in college it has undoubtedly been harder to read. The books I have often been drawn to, along with the many other people my age, featured women who somehow discover that, in a capacity, they are all-powerful. Of course, the idea of having powers itself does draw attention, but it is also the image of the mighty woman, the strong woman. It is an image that is painfully lacking from mainstream media. It is not that they do not exist. Strong women have been written into novels for generations, and even now, in reality, many women hold CEO positions. And yet their existence is not discussed. Instead, many media streams and curriculums perpetuate the stereotypical image of the ‘damsel in distress.’
The easiest and most prevalent example is the princesses of Disney. Though some have been shown as strong and capable, such as Mulan, in many fairy tales, a woman seems to simply wait for the attention and assistance of a man. This idea of the damsel in distress and its deeper root in the thinking that women are ‘weak’ perpetuate incredibly negative ideas that promote toxic masculinity, objectifying women and more. Indeed, these negative stereotypes do not remain contained in the images of women. The prejudices also affect men and how they determine self-worth; more specifically, these prejudices create unrealistic expectations that have negative consequences on the perceptions of men as well. These negative stereotypes exist in small places as well. The World Cup has been a constant theme for the past few days, keeping many people hooked and excited. But how many of those people will bring the same enthusiasm for women’s sports?
Luckily, powerful women have begun to appear more in literature and media alike, but their effect will prove naught if schools don’t begin to alter their curriculum. In junior year of high school, I read “Lord of Flies”, “Brave New World” and “Catcher in the Rye”; though they all held important themes that related to humanity, none truly featured a woman protagonist. In none of these books was I able to see a character that truly mirrored myself. Schools making a more active effort to include more modern characters of women would only better the cause of women’s empowerment. In many ways, society positions women as the ‘weaker’ sex and drains the individuals who identify as women of their innate power; a habit that must be reversed.
The stereotype of women being weak also exists within our language. The term ‘girl fight’ is often used to describe trite arguments that include women and often have a habit of belittling the argument at hand. And, of course, the infamous ‘pussy.’ Indeed, I find this phrase and the associated definition, a weak action or individual, incredibly impractical. How can an organ that facilitates birth, an excruciating process, ever be associated with being ‘weak’?
Yes, in some places, men will be more capable than women. But this does not mean that women are incapable, and this message should not be continuously perpetuated by the choices of society, especially within the portrayal of women in the media. These all seem like small things, but it is by ignoring things that may seem small that bigger problems and prejudicial mindsets are created. Women are just as strong, maybe even stronger than men. This fact, not the stereotypes of decades before, should be integrated into the media.