The most common way people (women, in particular) give up their power is by thinking that they do not have any. Women of the 21st Century are currently facing a complex and seemingly insurmountable endemic, caused primarily by media images: we are being told that we are not powerful, and that the little power we do have is derived solely from our appearances: whether we’re skinny enough, demure enough, and pretty enough.
It is clear that we have come a long way since our society was entirely centred on the notion of patriarchy, however the patriarchy’s tenacious grasp has managed to hold on to us, controlling almost every aspect of our lives. ‘Successful’ women are not considered ‘successful’ unless their bodies are sculpted to perfection (or, rather, the extremely unhealthy and unobtainable image of perfection the media habitually churns out), and intelligent women are perceived as ‘intimidating’, and, as a consequence, ‘undesirable’. The message emitted to young girls is that we must serve the desires and needs of men, and we must never to anything to overstep our boundaries and (god forbid) harm a man’s ego in any way.
We are expected to take up as little space as possible- to contain our limitless existences within Size 4 dresses. Our most significant muscles- our brains- are considered subsidiary, in comparison with some of our other muscles. While some people may believe that the self-loathing tendencies that many women and girls inflict upon themselves stems from themselves, the reality is that the media has a considerable, and inescapable, effect on how we think, and our ideas of femininity.
The average person consumes approximately 15.5 hours of media content every day
The fact of the matter is that men in the media- in books, movies, TV programs, and the press- are portrayed as heroes. Fierce, strong, admirable- the protagonists in their own stories. Meanwhile, women are seen as supporting characters, with perfect bodies, perfect hair, perfect makeup, and perfect personalities. Female characters are hopeless romantics, characterised by desperation. They need a man to complete them.
The general truth is that you cannot be what you cannot see, and so, when girls and boys of all ages are incessantly bombarded by images of thin, tall, fair women, they begin to picture this stereotype as the ‘ideal’ woman- the most desirable, and the most successful, kind. This leads to unnecessary pressure and stress, as well as low self-esteem, and limited future prospects. Women are known to (both literally and figuratively) reduce themselves, for male comfort.
Sadly, these ideas that are conveyed through the media also translate into reality: girls as young as five are now developing eating disorders. Meanwhile, young boys believe they must be smarter, stronger, and better than women in order to keep women ‘in check’. The success of incredible women from a range of career paths (politicians, scientists, authors, etc) are undermined- their achievements are not seen as wholly authentic, unless they are physically attractive, and, of course, romantically involved with a man.
The time has come for us women to reject the status quo: to emerge from the flames of destruction that the media has caused within us- to be real, powerful, and unapologetic- and to elevate our sisters, too.
We will rise from our ashes, and we will fly with clipped wings.