My goals for this paper is to share how visual literature changed how I viewed myself. I’m most proud of the flow of my writing. I could improve in making my thoughts on literature more clear
Women and Visual Literature:
I was sitting on the bed in my mom’s room. She was folding and putting away laundry while the T.V. was on. The T.V. screen was playing some sort of crime show. In the show, there was a man and a woman standing in a gritty city. The man offered a bouquet of roses to the woman. The woman laughed and walked away from the man, refusing his proposal. The woman didn’t get too far before the man shot her to death despite her pleas for him to stop. The woman’s body was left in the streets while the man drove away from the crime scene with his unwanted bouquet of flowers.
That scene gave me a fear of rejecting people and saying no. I grew more cautious of how much authority people have over me and how quickly and drastically I would be punished if I didn’t do what was expected of me. An article by UNICEF states that, “... exposure to media among youth creates the potential for massive exposure to portrayals that sexualize women and girls and teach girls that women are objects.” Although the media I was exposed to was not sexual, the effect was the same. That scene gave me the idea that I should be afraid of men as well as the power that they had and I lacked. I had the expectation that when I would enter my teen and adult years I had to make the men around me pleased with my answers and behavior even if I would not be comfortable with the outcome. Without even knowing it at the time I was beginning to understand my role in society was to be objectified. Visual literature helped me realize how I was expected to behave and perceive myself. My perspective on what I could be as a woman narrowed down to one option; an object designed to please men.
When I was in elementary school I would spend my time during recess playing make believe on the playground. At times I was the only girl in a group of boys, making me have to take on the more feminine characters in our made up adventures. One recess we decided that we would play in the world of Star Wars. Despite the fact that I hadn’t seen any of the movies at the time, I would always get assigned the role of Princess Leia. The obvious reason was because I was the only girl that would play this game with them. However, my friends claimed it was because of the curly buns I had on the sides of my head. They would pretend to be Jedis and use “the force” to move things as well as have fierce fights with imaginary lightsabers. My job was to mostly sit and watch. On more eventful days I could pretend to be in danger until it was time for me to be saved by my friends.
Looking back on my times spent in the playground I realize that my roles have always been passive. The nature of the characters I would play did not matter. My male friends and I did not care if the women I pretended to be were strong leaders or highly intelligent. In our eyes, these characters were only girls and nothing more. Often times in the media, shows will have a singular female character in a group of men. In an article titled “Hers; The Smurfette Principle” Katha Pollitt defines the Smurfette principle as, “a group of male buddies will be accented by a lone female, stereotypically defined.” Pollitt also gives examples of female characters who only have one singular personality trait. Kanga from Winnie the Pooh is the mother of the group while Miss Piggy from The Muppets only exists as a “glamour queen”. Pollitt comes to an understanding and begins to see that, “Boys are the norm, girls the variation; boys are central, girls peripheral; boys are individuals, girls types. Boys define the group, its story and its code of values. Girls exist only in relation to boys.” Visual literature has shown me that women are seen as singular traited individuals that exist only to levitate the qualities of men. This representation of woman in visual literature has caused children, like me and my friends, to dismiss the idea of women having larger roles. Women are put in a position where they must prove that they are too complex to just be accessories to the characteristics of men.
Eventually, I realized that I am too multifaceted to be reduced to an object. Despite visual literature introducing harmful stereotypes in the past I believe it’s steadily improving. Every day I see better representations of gender and I hope children today are gaining higher perceptions of themselves.
“Not An Object: On Sexualization and Exploitation of Women and Girls.” UNICEF USA, 9 May 2016, www.unicefusa.org/stories/not-object-sexualization-and-exploitation-women-and-girls/30361.
Pollitt, Katha. “Hers; The Smurfette Principle.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 Apr. 1991, www.nytimes.com/1991/04/07/magazine/hers-the-smurfette-principle.html.