During my freshman year, I remember having a discussion with my older brother, Erik, who came to visit me. It was two months into the semester and as we sat outside of Firehouse Deli, Erik asked me how many times our parents had called to check up on me that week. I remember saying at least four times. He looked at me and said, “Wow, mom and dad need to leave you alone. They never called me so much in college.”
My parents have always sheltered me. Erik has even told them in the past that they need to let me live my life a little less restricted. Whenever I talked to my parents about how they sheltered me more than Erik, they said, “Well, you’re a girl, it’s different.” For me, this is very frustrating. For a long time, I thought it was just my parents being overprotective of me. As I got older, I started to realize that because of my sex and the beliefs society associates with being a girl, I’ve had a different upbringing. Despite how outdated these beliefs may seem, girls today are still depicted as fragile and fearful, regardless of who they are as an individual.
My parents raised my brother and I with the same principles and values that we live by today. But, it’s as if because I am female, those values don’t register as much as they would if I were male. All my life, I’ve come to know the social differences between boys and girls. Despite how much social change the world has experienced, the stereotypes for children of different sexes has never changed. Boys are raised to be fearless and conquer any challenge. Girls are raised to be sweet and harmless. Terms like these that are associated with little girls stick with them throughout their lives.
In stories, media and in real life, phrases like “you play like a girl” exist which perpetuate stereotypes that female athletes are weak or unskilled. Even though sayings like this are sometimes used to tease individuals, the meaning behind them is often taken seriously. I remember playing baseball at recess in middle school, and I was never taken seriously by the boys in my grade whenever I was at bat. Even though I wore a knee-length skirt uniform and Mary Janes, I still would manage to hit the ball, sometimes even out of the park.
Other phrases like “Don’t be such a girl” also confused me: I will never understand why this is OK to say to anyone, male or female, when they admitting a fear. Terms like that live on today because these stereotypes are promoted by our culture. For a long time, people only associated girls with the color pink, Barbies and of course, Disney princesses. When I was growing up, there were very few female role models that I grew up watching on TV. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Disney growing up, but the life lessons the princesses taught me weren’t too useful. Instead of being leaders, many of the popular female role models that I innocently looked up to were often weak and timid.
Heroes are so easy for anyone to look up to. Whether they are fiction or real people, there is a sense of awe and wonder for anyone who demonstrates such bravery. In the media, superheroes are always fighting villains. Even though these are just TV shows, the villains and the heroes symbolize real good and evil in the world. For boys like my brother, I believe it helped them build a sense of fearlessness and determination. It makes me wonder if I would be any different if I saw more heroines. Very rarely do I see women leading action movies. In 2017, a movie about Wonder Woman is being released. Created in the 1940s, Wonder Woman was created to represent the strength and bravery of women and promote gender equality. Producers of this upcoming film call her the best fighter in the DC universe. If this is true, it baffles me as to why it took so long to make a movie about this well-known and incredibly powerful female character. She is a role model that young girls should idolize.
I think that when people imagine superheroes, they imagine physically strong men like Superman or Batman. It’s ridiculous to believe that strength and body mass makes someone a hero. I think the idea that females are fearful most likely stems from the fact that males are typically physically larger than females. But in this day and age, the size and gender of a person shouldn’t determine whether or not they are fearless. It seems unjust to brand girls at a young age as fearful and depict them as timid.
Just like boys, girls should be encouraged to be fearless without being too reckless. Women do not symbolize fear. If not for the success of brave and brilliant women like Marie Curie or Rosa Parks, the world would be different place. Since we live in such a technology-dependent world, we have a great advantage for spreading new ideas and new information. I think the way to change this view of women is through media. Whether or not the opinions of adults might change, the minds of children might. This world will soon become theirs and if new ideas are not influenced, society’s view of women will take longer to change. It’s sad that in 2016, we are living in a world where it’s OK to call someone a “girl” because they show fear. If we seriously acknowledge this stereotype, then perhaps one day the comparison of the emotional strength between genders will no longer exist.