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Double Standards This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Cute. Quiet. Unassuming. Innocent. Naive.

We often associate these words with the female gender, particularly girls or young women. Many people still believe that girls should be reserved, sensible, and beautiful. They're supposed to be the sidekick or the love interest but not the protagonist, and if they are (shock, horror) the heroes of the story, they don't get to do anything particularly heroic, at least not without being subjected to ridicule. Girls can be smart, brave, selfless, and funny, but not as smart, brave, selfless, or funny as boys.

We hear these messages both in real life and in the media. How many popular TV shows or movies can you name with a strong female character who isn't a) evil, b) a fierce, protective mother, c) comic relief, d) heralded as strong but constantly having to be rescued by males, or e) portrayed as a tomboy?

I don't know about you, but I can't think of any. I wish girls were told more often that women can be both feminine and strong. For once, I'd like to see a scene where the men are getting their butts kicked and the female doesn't just stand (or fall to the floor) and scream, but takes action and redeems the situation without getting hurt for daring to show a bit of gumption. Because, let's be honest, don't we all find it irritating and start screaming at the TV for her to just do something?

In real life, this mindset is seen as well. Imagine this: a man is minding his own business when another man threatens him and proceeds to hit him. The first man defends himself, fights back, and wins. Fast forward to people congratulating him, indulging him with compliments and hero worship, while belittling the other man.

Now replace the men with two women and the outcome would likely be significantly different. Instead of being congratulated and called a legend, the woman who defended herself would probably be subject to slurs like “tramp” and “beast” for fighting, as would the woman who started the fight. People would say that they had no respect for themselves and that they shouldn't have behaved that way, that it wasn't ladylike. While I don't promote violent solutions to social problems, this story reveals the double standard that exists between men and women.

Sometimes I see girls who are ­outspoken, opinionated, and unapologetic when in female company suddenly morph into snickering, simpering sycophantic parodies of their former selves when in the presence of a boy. “Give me a bite of your burger!” turns into “I'm not hungry, thanks.” Raucous laughter becomes quiet giggling through smirking lips, and witticisms are dumbed down so guys feel superior.

I try to tell my female friends that being seen as anything less than an equal can't be good for a relationship, but my warnings fall on deaf ears. I have a question for these girls: when you act like a different person when you're around the boy you like, do you realize that he isn't falling in love with you but with a character you've created? Girls, do you really want to be with a boy who thinks you're not good for anything other than being pretty and vapid? Stand up for yourselves!

I can't make them listen. They say boys like girls they can protect, and who aren't too independent. Please never change who you are for a boy, or because of the roles you see modeled on TV. If you're bold and capable, that's cool, and if you're naturally quiet and reserved, that's cool too.

The media's role in solving the problem is simple. They should create room for more strong, proactive, flawed female leads – especially in material aimed at teenagers. Think about it this way: by incorporating strong heroines, you're helping make it acceptable for your daughters and sisters to walk to their own beat.

TV shows and movies for teenagers should (among many other things) include at least two strong women, whether it's aimed at girls or boys. Doing this will promote equality and inclusion, and help teenagers realize there's no shame in female assertiveness. Wouldn't you just love to be the creator of that fearless new material that makes mincemeat of gender roles? At the very least, it would be original.

Oh, and by the way, if anyone ever calls me any of those five adjectives I mentioned at the beginning of this essay, I'll have to restrain myself from shaking them vigorously. I'm not cute, quiet, unassuming, innocent, or naive, and I'm proud of that.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

rheame said...
Feb. 10 at 4:58 am
wow! wow! and wow! these are the three words i have for this article and i hope you dont mind me putting adjectives like bold, practicle and someone who has got a superb persnolity! the article just speaks truth nothing else
 
DanielleSK said...
Jul. 5, 2013 at 12:11 pm
I absolutely love this article. Everything about it is brilliant. You're right, no matter how much society claims to have evolved, there is still so much progress to be made. It's as if men forget that we too, are capable of being strong and intelligent. Our job is not to remain in the kitchen or to clean around the house. I'd really like to see a television show that does nothing but honour women and has them be the MAIN character, not a side character. Thank you for sharing this ve... (more »)
 
madtolive This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 7, 2013 at 9:39 pm
As you can tell from the article, I agree completely. Thank you so much for your comments, I'm really glad you like it. You're too kind!
 
Danielle said...
Jul. 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm
I can only descrive this article as BRILLIANT. We live in a world dominated by men and their ideals for what women should look and be like. Your article re-inforces that us women never have to be a minority again, that women don't only have to be vulnerable and weak, but we can also be strong and independent. It really sucks that young girls are being exposed to negative portrayals of females via the media. Thank you very much for sharing this well-written, well-researched and powerful artic... (more »)
 
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