By Rachel Giffin
Not long ago I was with a group of my friends. It isn’t often that we have some free time, so I thought, hey, wouldn’t it be nice to do something fun? Maybe we could go see a movie or something. So I asked them, “Hey, guys, we should go see this movie,” and they began laughing at the one I picked out.
Honestly, I was confused. What was wrong with it? It looked good, the reviews were high, and I thought it would be a nice way to spend our free afternoon. They laughed at me and then began to mock me, because the movie I had assumed was fine was, in fact, a “chick flick” and I was apparently determined to fit into the “stereotype that gave women problems to begin with.”
Beyond feeling foolish in front of my friends, I was confused. What on earth was wrong with that? What’s wrong with wanting to see and do things marketed to girls my age with my personality? I’m not feeling pressured by a stereotype, something that they alleged from my desire to see this film, to be a certain thing or act a certain way. I just saw something I thought looked cool. Clearly, there is something wrong here.
Stereotypes have given men and women problems for hundreds of years. Only recently have we started trying to break them, starting in 1920 when women were given the right to vote. Since then, through activists and rallies and political parties and philosophies being spread all over our country, the way that the world has been viewing men and women has drastically changed and is continually changing to this day. There are hundreds of things to celebrate in this new era of gender equality, but with every victory, we lose a little bit of the truth.
The problem with this generation is feminism. Not the feminist movement, certainly; but feminism itself: the actual act of being feminine.
It’s now commonplace that girls are taught that they can be anything. They are encouraged to go into any and every field, and are especially celebrated when they conquer male-dominated fields like financing and tech fields. But, for most women, it comes at a price. Anne Theriault, in her article entitled “We Need To Stop Devaluing Femininity,” writes that though girls are encouraged to go out there into a male-dominated world and start doing masculine things, “what they aren’t taught is that people who dress, think or act in a traditionally feminine manner can be anything.” In this world, the message we get is that in order to succeed, women have to adopt masculine traits, thus losing their uniqueness as a female. Theriault goes on to say that in our society “you can be a girl and write code, but you can’t write code while wearing a dress…You can repair a bicycle, but not while wearing lipstick. Everyone knows that lipstick prevents people from being competent.”
With girls being told that they can do everything, they are also prodded into doing things that kick stereotypes to the curb. Large companies and schools are picking up on this and want to help. In places like Ohio State University, where women make up 24.9% of the campus faculty, they are trying their best to recruit women to teach and work at their school. Hundreds of articles, promotions, pamphlets and newsletters reach women every day in order to encourage them to pursue goals that once seemed off-limits for women, like fields in science and engineering. But this prompts an even bigger question: beyond whether or not a woman should go into these fields, what if she doesn’t want to?
With women, there may always be a stereotype in the way of what they want, and they may always have to struggle a little to get over it. But some girls don’t mind “traditional” roles. They want to be free to make their own choices, to work and to think freely, but for the most part, they want to simply be.
The unspoken truth of the matter is that women fear going back to the dark ages of women’s rights, and any form of relapse is almost offensive for those who have fought so hard to maintain those rights. But women who wanted to vote didn’t want to give up their identity as women in order to succeed–although, they would, if needs be. They only wanted to be seen as equal in the eyes of the government and in the eyes of men. They still walked around in pretty dresses and did their hair and did feminine things such as cooking and sewing. Traditional roles never came into question in the initial leap of women’s rights. Now, they are being questioned everywhere.
Should women be forced to stay at home? No. But if they want to, should they be ostracized? Definitely not. But that’s the problem here. In a world pushing masculine females left and right, some girls, the ones that wanted to be princesses when they grew up, feel left behind. There isn’t really a place for them where they can do their part and be part of the feminist movement while still being true to themselves (especially if that means they want to assume a traditional role as a parent or other female position), is there?
My goal isn’t to debate feminism or women’s rights. It’s merely to ask the question, what’s wrong with girls who just want to be…girls? There are still girls out there who want to be princesses and wear pretty dresses and who like flowers and parties and frilly lace and the color pink. What’s wrong with the color pink, anyways? Isn’t that what the feminist movement protects: our right to choose? If we want to be traditional, we should be able to.
With regard to my friends and my stereotypical movies, I have absolutely no problem with the movie I wanted to see. Perhaps I am stereotypical in that I want to see it, but so what? This is a world where girls can be anything, including a “typical” girl. I’ll wear my lipstick and my pink dress and my high heels. I have no problem going to the movie theater and watching my chick flick alone.