In the beginning, Hollywood created women… as the fainting ingénue in the arms of a mustache twirling villain or the Mata Hari seductress using sexuality as a way to exploit men and gain power. Women were the love interest, the comic relief, the damsel in distress to make the hero look good.
Then came the Mrs. Cleaver/ Donna Reed phase of shiny coiffed women in pearls and heels bustling about their perfect homes, cooking dinner and hanging on every word pouring from their all-knowing husband’s lips. Supporting characters in their own lives.
Stronger women emerged as hemlines came up and necklines came down. Bionic Woman, Charlie’s Angels, Murphy Brown. Tough and sassy women riding the line of femininity and duking it out in a “man’s world”.
Movies and TV are for entertainment but sometimes the characters that are portrayed as the norm become the measuring stick by which many people determine their adequacy and at times even define themselves by. This goes for men too, but since I’m a woman I’m coming from that perspective.
Are the women who are held high for all to see a good representation of most women? Do women mostly relate to the characters portrayed during their own generation? And would that be different if stereotypes—a form of laziness—didn’t somehow become the rule much of the time? Obviously the media is not the only influence on the culture—but expectations and stories do shape the collective opinion.
My mom grew up in the 1950s. But she didn’t give a flying flapjack for domesticity. She’s an intellectual and a tomboy. However, she did raise eight children (six of whom are female) and did just fine. But I sometimes wonder if, because of the period she was raised in, she didn’t sometimes feel misunderstood or somehow a little bit out of step with the “norm”.
These days there are a mix of female character types portrayed. The single mom, the career woman, the tough chick, the party animal, high maintenance spoiled diva, the woman who can hold her own in the men’s locker room, etc. The “traditional homemaker” seems a bit lost in all of this diversity–which will make some women feel marginalized and others feel relieved.
It would be great if the pendulum didn’t always have to swing to extremes. It’s okay to be strong and independent as a woman. And it’s not pathetic to be a woman who thrives in a home and family environment. Truth is, most women are a combination of these things.
I admit, I love that feeling of a freshly scrubbed house, and the aroma of something yummy I’ve made in the kitchen. And being a mom is the coolest thing ever. But I also love my career and friends. I like to sometimes dress up and feel pretty and I also want to go without makeup and get sweaty kicking trash at the dojo. Maybe I don’t fit into a stereotype. Who really does?
So, if you aren’t like Alley McBeal (remember her?) and Wonder Woman or if you don’t have a Pinterest perfect home worthy of Martha Stewart just remember– as a woman you can be either or both—or something else and that’s okay. Be you—not a character fed to you by the media. Find your strengths, and live happy. No matter what the movies say there are millions like you and even more who are different than you. Variety is the spice of life—in or out of the kitchen, ladies.