Lately I’ve been contemplating the portrayal of women in society and what it means to be a woman. Two days ago I went to cast my vote and I felt powerful. There I was: a working, educated, multiracial woman taking time in her day to go vote. Women have come a very long way. I felt proud and special, knowing that countless women before me ached to achieve what I have the privilege to easily do now, thanks to their important work.
But as far as women have come in the ranks of society, there are still some messages out there portraying women as lesser than, as damsels in distress who cannot do anything without the help of a man. Strange as it may sound, the place that aggravates this topic the most for me is the Hallmark Channel. You can turn on the Hallmark Channel at any given time and find a movie following the same old, recycled script.
The lead role is given to a female who finds herself in some sort of distress: her husband has passed away (Hallmark’s favorite trigger to use), or she is unlucky in love, or her employer has placed her in a compromising position, or all of the above! Always, something is wrong and out of place in this woman’s life. And always, there appears a rugged, outdoorsy “manly” man who is white, handsome, and with a scruffy beard. Always!
If the woman happens to have a boyfriend at the start of the movie, he is portrayed as a (white) corporate hotshot who only owns suites and can’t take a joke. She always leaves him for Outdoor Guy. And she will usually go as far as to quit her own corporate job to live a life of small town apple orchard management with Outdoor Guy.
This script is shallow, played out, and totally unrealistic. Why can’t the woman keep her corporate job, fighting and winning over any adverse situation? Why is chasing after a life of love and leisure portrayed as the ultimate form of success? In reality, such a lifestyle is not attainable, or even desired, for most women. Should a woman want a career and a family, there is no riding off into the sunset. Rather, life gets more complicated and special as her relationships becomes more intricate, and her real life’s work is actually just beginning.
In reality, women are much more successful than these movies would have you believe. Women work hard to provide for their families, either on their own or alongside their significant other (man or woman, and not always white!). In reality, women aren’t damsels in distress because women are too strong, too smart for that. In reality, women are more than the man they are with.
It’s high time that we question these flawed messages that are being fed to us so consistently. Let’s continue the work of our predecessors and demand more from the media. Women deserve to be represented as strong, independent, and successful people. As a progressive society, we do not need anymore portrayals of women as surface-level, weak, and in need of a man to help them cope with their lives.