Why does the media continue to depict ambitious and successful women as threats?
The media's representation of the childless/unmarried woman is a distorted and tired narrative.
Lack of representation in the mainstream media is nothing new. Women are put into a very small box to represent a certain aspirational image –– the thin, beautiful, 20-something woman who is awaiting her white knight to save her from her jejune life. As I settled in and accepted my life as a child-free woman, my eyes opened wider to the misrepresented image reflected of me and what I should be aspiring to is a far stretch from the person I'm actually becoming.
The childless woman specifically is represented one of two ways. The first way is the the evil, cold-hearted, selfish lush who needs someone (often a man) to come along and knock her down a few pegs. She has given up everything in her life to get to the high powered place she is and really just needs a man to show her what she's missing.
This woman could never achieved what she did if she were married, a mother or a decent human being for that matter. We see examples of this woman in movies like 'The Proposal' or 'The Devil Wears Prada' and in TV Shows, like Sex and the City and Will and Grace.
These depictions all represent the negative qualities of a powerful woman.
The other illustration is of the unfulfilled woman who doesn't know it yet. Once the right man comes along she will change her mind and realize she does want to give up her dreams and have a baby instead. At first, this woman seems strong, independent and confident but ultimately meets the "right guy" and changes her mind.
This is perfectly represented in Clare Underwood from House of Cards –– more than vocal about her dislike for children, ambitious to get into the White House and come season 6... she is "blessed" with a pregnancy. Robin, from How I Met Your Mother, spends the entire series talking about traveling and dreams of being a news anchor. On several occasions she is clear on how she does not want children, but eventually gives all that up to be with Ted.
Yet another depiction of women sacrificing her ambitions for a man.
Add to that list Penny from The Big Bang Theory, who finishes the series with a pregnancy announcement, and Kate from the movie Four Christmases, who starts off as a happy ,childfree couple, only to end the movie with giving birth.
"The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians"
- Pat Robertson (in response to the feminist movement of the 60s/70s)
An independent woman is viewed as unhappy, unfulfilled and searching for something more because an independent woman is still viewed as a threat. Men are told they are the ones with the power, and if we don't need them, the balance of power is shifted. Ambition isn't admired or desired in women, but frowned upon and treated as a negative quality to have.
We saw this happen immediately after World War 2. Between 1940 and 1945, the amount of women in the workforce increased by 10% and by 1945 one out of every four women worked outside the home. When the war finally ended 80% of the employed women expressed interest in keeping their jobs.
A mere 2 days after the men returned home, almost all of those women were fired. The mainstream media then shifted focus back to advertising to women. Appliance companies sponsoring TV shows, like Leave it to Beaver, put women back in their place: in the home.
As men continue being fed the dreams of power, clout, respect and luxury, women contrarily are told we should be focused on our looks, our desirability to men and our ability to nurture and raise children.
"America's decline as a world power is a direct result of the feminists movement for reproductive freedom and equal rights" - The Christian Voice
From a young age, the media is where we receive most of our information and begins to shape how we interpret the world around us. Starting with classic Disney movies portraying the damsel in distress, to the magazine covers informing us that those last 10lbs are easy to lose, to the lack of female faces in congress and toxic treatment of women on the news.
If these are the images girls are growing up with, if these are the messages sent to young men, it's no wonder women only make up 24.5% of national level parliament, or that only 15% of women are CEO's, and only 13% of directors working on the top 250 films were women. The inequality is still prevalent and the media is partly to blame.
We need to rid our screens of the cold-hearted boss woman and the damsel in distress to create characters based on the strong, empowered role models. We see Wonder Woman and think "wow, what a great role model" but Wonder Woman is still wearing a bikini as armor, so how far have we really come?
We need to recognize women like Gloria Steinem, Rosa Parks, Kathrine Switzer and Jane Goodall. Create characters that can be empowered without having to also dress sexy. Characters who aren't viewed as cold for being ambitious and characters who don't have to sacrifice relationships or family to also be successful.
We need to start seeing real women on our screens and in our magazines or we will never be viewed as real women in our lives.
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