Modern-day feminist movement

Modern-age feminism should emphasize the right for girls and women to choose their lifestyles and future. (photo courtesy of Davina Applewhite)

Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

From the moment they’re born, children are constantly receiving information about the world around them; what is acceptable, what is “right” or “wrong,” the roles of others and their own role in society as a result. This growing period is a critical time in their lives for this exact reason.

That being said, young girls, specifically, are often more exposed to the pressures of conforming to a certain mold, set forth by the personalities they see from women on television, in movies and in their own homes.

These personality traits then become associated with how women, in general, act and should act.

For example, Disney princess movies of the past have portrayed women to be dainty, soft-spoken and, more controversially, helpless unless they have a prince to rescue them.

The problem that people have with these classic movies is that they relay a message to young girls that a boy is constantly supposed to be strong, brave and the hero. They also implicitly create and perpetuate this idea that men are supposed to be the breadwinners, while women are the caretakers and housewives.

Unfortunately, these stereotypes aren’t just illustrated on-screen.

Taking a look at children’s toys, there is a vast difference in the toys made and marketed toward boys versus those that are marketed toward girls. These gender-specific toys are another indirect way that children are informed about their roles in society, considering no child is born knowing the meaning behind a toy.

The toys advertised towards young boys usually include cars, sports or superheroes, while those geared towards young girls typically include makeup, cooking and cleaning. Perhaps, even more unsettling, is the fact that young girls are presented baby dolls, which insist upon the idea that every girl should grow up to become a mother and a housewife.

Of course, not every growing girl will enjoy playing with these toys, take an interest in these hobbies or fit this agenda. However, many girls will take this knowledge that a woman and a mother are analogous, with them through adolescence and into adulthood.

In turn, this creates the growing fear of the dreaded biological clock, in which many women feel the need to bear a child before they reach a certain age. This, in some ways, can interfere with the new-age feminist movements, which call for women to be the breadwinners and the heroes, by going to college, getting a job and creating a “boss babe” lifestyle.

It’s not impossible to achieve both. There are, however, stigmas surrounding the two decisions and problems arise in the form of a timeline that insists upon finishing school, having a stable career and becoming a mother, all before reaching a particular age.

Not only that, but it is often expected for a woman to have a stable career and then consequently leave that behind in order to raise a family.

This is vastly different from what boys are taught in regards to their future, in which marriage and family aren’t nearly as emphasized.

This creates an unparalleled timeline between men and women, despite both being the same age.

Furthermore, it creates expectations which not every woman should have to adhere; meaning not every woman may want to bear children or not every woman may want to get married or even be interested in the opposite sex--and they shouldn’t be ostracized or patronized for that.

Slowly, societal standards of what a woman is and what a girl should become are being changed through modern-day feminism, but what’s especially important to know is that feminism, and women themselves, are complex.

Overall, there is nothing wrong with being a girl who enjoys makeup or clothes or cooking or being a woman who wants to be a mother and a housewife. There’s also nothing wrong with being a girl who doesn’t enjoy any of those things or see motherhood as a part of her future.

The real problem lies within the societal rules of being one or the other and minimizing the depth of women; whittling them down to what society wants them to be.

And while today’s feminist movement pushes to break these barriers and bring about change it isn’t entirely perfect, either.

In order for girls to truly reap the benefits of feminism, today’s feminist movement should not only focus on fighting for equity, but it should also emphasize the right to choose: choose our interests, choose our lifestyles and choose our futures.

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