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Why We Need To Tell Our Girls Stories Of Powerful Female Role Models

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Bravery and confidence are often not the words girls associate themselves with. This lack of self-belief often stems from the portrayal of women as the weaker and more dependent sex, both in reality and fiction. Hence, if we want our girls to believe in themselves, then we need to tell them stories with powerful female role models.

A study titled Superpowering Girls by Women’s Media Center and BBC has found that girls may be more likely to envision themselves in leadership roles and gain more confidence when they see themselves reflected in superhero movies and television shows. It makes them identify with terms like confident, brave and strong.

The popularity of the superhero film Wonder Woman and the massive opening which the latest edition of Doctor Who (the first ever to feature a female “Doctor”) has received, is a proof of how hungry we are for characters our girls can look up to.

Showcasing female characters who achieve breakthroughs will empower young girls

This study also says that compared to boys, girls aged between 15 and 19 are somewhat less likely to describe themselves as “confident” and “brave”. Also, 57 percent of them think that they are “not listened to,” compared to only 38 percent of boys. This lack of self-confidence is not just from years of repression, but also, from a gendered void in role models they can look up to. Be it in fiction or real life, not many platforms are willing to tell stories of women achieving breakthroughs.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • The outdated portrayal of women has created a misconception among girls that they are incapable and unworthy.
  • The portrayal of women in pop culture and otherwise still, by and large, succumbs to showing women as weak, dependent and too fickle minded to lead others.
  • This gendered portrayal has over the time hammered it into the heads of young girls that they are incapable and unworthy.
  • Just look at what Wonder Woman, Elsa and Doctor Who have achieved in terms of empowering young girls.

The portrayal of women in pop culture and otherwise is still as weak and dependent beings, who are too fickle minded to lead others. This  portrayal has over the time hammered it into the heads of young girls that they are incapable and unworthy. How else can one describe the lack of self-confidence which sits in our stomachs like a knot, generations after generations? What else can justify the meekness with which girls comply, when boys order them to play the damsel in distress.

This portrayal has also led to an assumption among boys that girls are in constant need of rescuing. That it is their duty as the “stronger” gender to lead, and hence girls must always follow their lead.

Which is why we need to start giving stronger and more powerful role models to our girls. Just look at what one Wonder Woman, one Elsa and one Doctor Who have achieved in terms of empowering young girls. Look at how watching Hidden Figures have challenged the way girls approach science and mathematics and subjects. Now imagine the effect we can achieve when we manage to normalise the existence of strong, independent and gutsy female role models.

For long the focus has firmly been on how society perceives women to be. But now it is time to shift it to what women are capable of doing. And how the society should perceive them instead. Stronger role models will not only smash stigmas we have been breeding for generations, but it will also challenge perception of qualities like physical strength, integrity, confidence and determination when they are seen in relation to gender. It will lead to acceptance among both girls and boys, that the former can be anything they want to be.

So all platforms capable of telling stories, fictional or real, need to commit more to bring forth tales of feminine valour. Stories where women break stereotypes and shattered glass ceilings. Incidences where women reclaimed their space in the society, even if it meant fighting tooth and nail for it. These are the stories our girls should hear, because these are the role models they truly deserve.

Photo Credit: Radio Times

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own