Recently, through a personal blog that I manage, on which I update various things such as my opinions and the books that I have recently read and enjoyed, I made a post concerning my opinions on the portrayal of women in common media, mostly literature, in recent years. The content of this blog post, was as follows:
“Stereotypes have been established since first great works of literature were devised. They are exaggerated and simplified models of only the imperative characteristics of a certain being. According to Walter Lippmann, “the existence of stereotypes can be defined by the society’s firm belief that stereotypes are a mechanism of self-protection while also being economically feasible.” Throughout history, women have always been considered the “weaker vessel”. Initially, this characteristic was assigned to women because men tend to be physically stronger than their female counterparts. This, in turn, meant that men were the ones who had to do labor-intensive work that was not very suitable for those of the society that were relatively weaker. This is what most historians suggest caused an imbalance in the societal importance placed on the two genders. Yet, mankind is now on the threshold of discovering fresh ideas and innovative feats, and this process is still continuing. This phenomenon that mankind had gone through has definitely heightened the status quo for the majority of the human population. An improvement in the quality of life should lead to drastic changes in the human characteristics and attitudes itself. Nonetheless, until this day, women are still considered the “weaker vessel”. Consequently, I feel as though it is of great significance that we look into this misconception more closely.
Firstly, let us take a look into the characteristics given to women in what we now call classic literature. In Hamlet, two of the female protagonists, Gertrude and Ophelia, demonstrate qualities of classical, powerless women that are easily controlled by the more powerful male figures. Habitually, Ophelia is a character whose best friend is helplessness. Yet, even through her misery, Ophelia maintains perfect control over her life, unlike our male protagonist, Hamlet. While Hamlet drowns in his indecisiveness at sea, Ophelia (before her death) reveals her riled emotions towards her society by giving flowers to Claudius, Gertrude, and Laertes. By doing this, she expresses fury towards the society in which faithlessness is the quality of the men and obedience is the quality of women. Ophelia further demonstrates that she has the power to change her life and make choices that control her life unlike Hamlet. She chooses by herself, “not to be” with her death. At this point, one may argue that this representation of a woman is not one that seems weaker than a representation of a man. In fact, it seems almost to the contrary. Yet, while Hamlet is awarded a chance to fight for his chance “to be”, Ophelia isn’t. She isn’t able to fully express herself vocally and finally meets her demise at the face of oppression. So, let us say that we have now progressed into a society where women are able to express themselves with words (and not flowers). Does this mean that women are demonstrated differently these days? I personally do not think so.
The book Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell has been placed in the spotlight very often recently alongside John Green’s The Fault in our Stars when it comes to popular YA romance novels. In this book, Eleanor is a girl who is described with adjectives that seem to emphasise her unattractiveness. Park, on the other hand, is the kind of “cool kid” who does not engage in social activity just because he feels that it is unnecessary. I don’t remember what I expected when I picked this book up to read, but I remember being highly disappointed at the end by another potentially wonderful female protagonist being ruined by the seeming fragility that all female characters must have. All female characters seem to have to have a loose end which the male protagonists must be able to mend either through their unconditional love or through their act of driving them away from harm on their truck. Women are still portrayed in our media as those who need to be rescued and saved by some heroic male character, and I strongly disagree with the validity of this concept. Terms such as the “Trinity Syndrome” have been developed just to explain this phenomenon in which female characters, who are initially presented as strong and independent beings, are broken apart by the plot of the movie and ultimately necessitates rescue and love from male protagonists. This, I believe, is not only generalising women as those who can never be as strong (both physically and mentally) as men, but is also developing a societal mold which shows that women who are stronger in their opinions and are able to get themselves out of trouble themselves are considered less attractive than those who cower in the shadow of men. Hence, it is within bounds to say that because society is condemning women’s independence in solving problems and their belief of their flawlessness, women have a harder time reaching higher positions hierarchically than men.
I wish people really knew and understood that women can be perfectly beautiful and normal while thinking that they are flawless and do not need help of that of a man to solve their problems. Although many now claim that they understand the true nature behind the lack of empowerment of women in our society, it is true that nothing is being done about this oppression, and women are still considered “weaker vessels”, as the Bible kindly put it. The cognitive manipulation given to us by various stereotypes of weak women in our media further influences us to actually believe that women are weaker, when this is definitely not the case. A closer look into the performance reports that the two genders receive in society reveal that women are more susceptible to negative feedback than constructive in comparison to their male counterparts. They were harshly described with words such as “abrasive” and “judgemental” just because they exemplified confidence in their own actions in society. This alarming result could be explained through the “Double Bind Phenomenon” which showed that if women spoke and acted at a workplace exemplifying stereotypically feminine qualities, she was not taken seriously, yet, when she spoke and acted with assertion, she was considered “abrasive”, “too strong” or “rude”. This, I feel as though, is a result of weakness being shown as a virtue of a woman in our media, and is definitely a concept that must be abolished through the development of stronger and beautiful female characters who can proudly admit that she is flawless. This matters to me most directly because I believe women have the potential to be as successful as men in working places and should not be generalised as those who need protection by men, and instead be considered as equal human beings who are not condemned for being impeccable.”
As a self-identified egalitarian individual who enjoys reviewing the books that they read on this particular blog, I believed putting this information into the medium in which I share my passion for reading was something that would help me define my online persona with my personal interests and passions. On this blog, currently have a regular following of individuals who have read my blog posts concerning the novel reviews as well as other details concerning my opinions. For this particular post, although I have not received public feedback concerning other individual’s opinions concerning the matter, I have had a rather in depth conversation concerning it in person with an individual who had read my blog post. Their opinions were quite similar to mine in that there was definitely a trend in common teen novels where female characters are portrayed and rendered helpless as shown through the means of the “Trinity Syndrome” in literature. I believe through writing this post, which was based off of other primary sources such as other blogs that discussed this particular area of interest, as well as discussing its details with someone who had read my post, was something that was quite insightful for me, as I was able to gain an enhanced level of understanding concerning this subject area as well as gain a more comprehensive scope of what others may think of something I personally have a passion in.