Portrayals of Females for the Young

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Written by Yumitra Kannan

 

A month dedicated to publishing content that celebrates womanhood while also highlighting some serious aspects of it… It took me a while to carve my endless thoughts on the topic down to one article in particular but here I am and I’m going to start with a story.

“In a land far far away, there lived a beautiful princess, locked in a tower…”

Wait, wait, I have to stop myself right there. Let’s face it, you know where this story goes and so do I. We’ve heard it a thousand times before. Damsels in distress and knights in shining armor are some of the first few fictional characters we meet. Locked away in a tower, tortured by her lover’s mother, made to question her beauty and told she was a freak for reading. In hindsight, I’m really surprised that people in authority (parents, teachers, etc) allowed us to watch and read such things under the name of entertainment for kids… under the name of fairy tales.

An individual’s childhood is the most important phase of their life as it shapes the way they see the world, see themselves, think, act, talk and dream. It instills in them a list of right(s) and wrong(s) and this in return becomes the code by which they grow up. The stories that are specifically written for kids should not advocate such ridiculous ideas and stereotypes for when it embeds deeply into the child, he/she starts to believe that they have to play the role of their character the same way their fictional counterpart did.

Girls think their dreams shouldn’t cross limits.

Boys believe that they have to always be ‘brave’ and ‘strong’.

Emotions are for the weak and hence for girls.

If anyone can fight monsters, it has to be the guy.

This is how it starts, constant feeding of false notions from the pages of unrealistic literature to the heads of growing children (who are the future). Where it ends is in the mindset and perception of adult females who worry about being labeled ‘loose’ and adult males who can’t see past a woman’s physical appearance to value her.

Now we know that there’s a major issue in the type of content being fed to children. It is the 21st century and I think more than two generation of women being subconsciously programmed with limitations can come to a stop now. Yes, I grew up watching and reading about some brilliant women. I had Kim Possible to remind me to keep fighting evil, Hermione Granger to prove that being knowledgeable isn’t a crime, Nancy Drew to establish the fact that curiosity is a trait girls can have as well, Radio Rebel who showed us that we women can have different characters but that should never be a reason to hate on each other.

But let’s face it, there weren’t enough female heroes. My call is for the current line of media to take this issue more seriously and produce a reliable flow of content that captures both genders more aptly. Now that will be a true celebration of womanhood and life itself. A world where the first few things a girl learns is to look beyond appearance, dream without glass ceilings, fight for herself and go on adventures with the same free spirit as her brothers do.

A walk through an outlet of the MPH Bookstore last Sunday showed me the effort some authorities are taking to highlight stories by female authors as well as stories with strong female leads. These books had discounted prices and they were strategically placed at the front lines. But this shouldn’t be just a Woman’s Day trend. Empowering the future generation of girls and boys should be done all day, everyday.

Seeing the new wave and rise in stories for children that is breaking gender stereotypes and empowering girls was indeed a pleasant sight. But as much as we demand for female empowering content, we must also do our part in the flow of things. This week, I urge you to head to the nearest bookstore, pick up a book that actually presents the female gender in a realistic way and read it. Then, pass it on and get another one. I assure you you’ll enjoy it and it will be a pleasant surprise. Let’s start with us, let’s start with you!

Books to Look Out For

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‘Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2’ is a collection that has redefined fairy tales for children by highlighting real stories of extraordinary women from all around the world.

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There’s also a spark in the market which is focusing on giving voices to girls and women from different cultures, realities, races and though it is yet to turn into a full grown fire, the dawn has broken with stories like “The Hate U Give”.

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Caption: Real women, real stories, written for children to showcase the heroines we’ve had over the years. Displayed in the highlights section of MPH Bookstore, NU Sentral.

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Discounts on books celebrating the women who significantly influenced the world for these are the stories our children deserve to read.

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