It’s all about being more than you expect.
More than a name, a symbol, or a role. It is I AM woman… Hear me roar! Hehe!
What good timing that I would write about the adventures (and misadventures) of being a women in the 21st century when the media is heavily focused on the recent comments of Sen. Arkin concerning women’s bodies.
In context of this media frenzy surrounding women, I recently watched a movie that looked at the identity of women in society. It is an unusual movie full of symbolism and more artistic than a boy meets girl story. There was a young woman character that really intrigued me because she was trying to cope with adolescence and her journey of becoming a woman.
She looks to the other women in the movie for guidance but they are so stuck in their own identity crises that she is over-looked. The women characters symbolize different roles of women in society: the successful professional, the intellectual scientist, the hopeful romantic, and the provocative stripper… almost like my favorite show Sex and the City!
Fortunately, there are many more roles for women that are not portrayed in the movie. There is also much more flexibility to shift and out of these roles to have an identity matrix. Thinking about the women in my life, they have dynamic and fluid identities to be a… DaughterSisterStudentLoverWifePartnerMotherWorkerColleagueAdvocateProfessionalMember and the list goes on and on. Often I have seen these roles as representation of the relationships that we have with family, friends, romance, school, work, church, recreation, and others.
Feminist and black liberation scholar bell hooks states that, “[Women] have resisted continued devaluation by countering the dominant stereotypes about us that prevail in white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy by decolonizing our minds. Here decolonization refers to breaking with the ways our reality is defined and shaped by the dominant culture and asserting our understanding of that reality, of our own experience (pg. 2).” In other words, women have utilized mass media such as this film and pop culture to offer different images of womanhood.
Yet, like this movie and other pop culture, women are typecast in rigid and static definitions of femininity. There’s Ellen DeGeneres, Toni Morrison, Missy Franklin, Jennifer Lopez, Audra McDonald, Meryl Streep, Snookie, Toni Cade Bambara, Angela Merkel, Gabby Douglas, Debbie Allen, Soledad O’Brien, the Teen moms, Whitney Houston, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kimora Lee Simmons, Queen Elizabeth, Margaret Cho, Paula Abdul, Beyonce, Sarah Palin, Anika Noni Rose, Diane Ravitch, Lady Gaga, Rachel Roy, Oprah, Taylor Swift, Suze Orman, the Girls Next Door, Maya Angelou, Gwyneth Paltrow, RuPaul, Adele, Jean Phinney, Tina Fey, Sandra Cisneros, Judge Judy, Nicki Minaj, Anna Freud, Alanis Morrisett, Sofia Vergara, Barbara Streisand, Connie Chung, Sally Fields, M.I.A, Paula Deen, Phylicia Rashad, Mia Michaels, Alice Walker, Karrine Steffans, Esperanza Spalding, Susan Lucci, Penelope Cruz, Jane Austen, Madea, Lisa Leslie, Housewives of Orange County, Michelle Obama, Kim Kardashian, Kristen Stewart, Alice Davis, Miley Cyrus, Diane Ravitch, Emma Stone, Shakira, Rachel Ray, Condoleeza Rice, Betsey Johnson, Nikki Giovanni, Mary Ainsworth, Laila Ali, Drew Gilpin Faust, Lindsay Lohan, Cathie Black, Michelle Rhee, Pamela Anderson, Yoko Ono, Ellen DeGeneres, The View, Billy Jean King, Hilary Clinton, Tyra Banks, Britney Spears, Sara Lawrence Lightfoot, Kathy Lee Gifford, Serena and Venus Williams, Barbara Walters, Marlee Maitlin, Madonna, Heidi Klum, Candis Cayne, Margaret Meade, Halle Berry, Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, J.K. Rowling, Whoopi Goldberg, Angelina Jolie, Sonia Sotomayor, Scarlett Johansson, Rachel Maddow, Brittney Griner, bell hooks, etc. Most of these women are known for one talent or accomplishment. The public most often does not see that these and other women have diversified their images (esp. fame and fortune) in other areas to fulfill their work and dreams.
I don’t blame pop culture for using gender roles in marketing or exaggerating roles for entertainment purposes. However, we do need to offer some alternatives for young girls trying to become women, like the character Edina in the movie. I still remember my mother’s words to me, “Congratulations on becoming a woman!” I looked at her as if she had two heads because I had no idea what she was talking about. Yet, she and other women in my life were the best role models. Also, I remember my Dad telling me that I can do anything that I wanted to do. Again, I looked at my parents as if they had four heads. I thought to myself, “Of course, I could do anything!” I had their love and support to help me. This is how we can be more than a name, a symbol, or a role. We can become more than woman.
bell hooks (1993) states, “The white-dominated mass media have changed little in the way in which they represent black women. We have changed. In the last twenty years black women have collectively challenged both the racism and sexism that not only shape how we are seen but determine how everyone interacts with us (pg. 1).”
I love pop music like the next chick, yet it is really disheartening when I hear music lyrics that stereotype women as consolation prizes, employees, sex objects, or wardrobe accessories. As most women I’m not defined by a color, body part, music lyric, advertisement, poem, clothing, or painting. I’m influenced by my gender but I define my roles as a woman. For most of us we don’t dress and act to simply please ourselves but to gain approval from the other women in our lives. They have such strong influence to help us figure out who we are as women.
The movie ends with the professional talking to the young woman about her choices in life that lead to success. Then she embraces the young woman to comfort and reassure her that everything will be alright. As women we have to deal with our own identities as well as help others realize their potential.
Bell hooks (1993) states that, “… [Women] have had the joy of ecstatic sustained bonding with one another. We have witnessed the power of sisterhood. We have experienced self-recovery. We have known, and continue to know, the rewards of struggling together to change society so that we can live in a world that affirms the dignity and presence of black womanhood (pg. 6).” Yes I am a “bad chick” but I am so much more than a name. We must be ever vigilant because the struggle continues. We are more than women.
P.S. Celebrate how YOU are more than a name, a symbol, or a role in your life and the lives of others.