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Growing Up a Woman: Through the Eyes of Cinema

In my life, I have had a few various movies that have defined what it would look like to grow up as a girl. When I was a kid, my favorite movie was always "Beauty and the Beast". It is a film that I would watch at least once a week and was obsessed to the point where I dressed up as Belle for Halloween three times. I instantly saw her as a role model and someone to look up to because of her intelligence. She always had her nose in a book, rather than the world around her, and I grew up the same. Admiring Belle has made me like the guys I have while growing up. I never wanted the Gaston that everyone loved whose ego was larger than the sky, but I did want a Beast. A man, that in some way, I felt like I could fix and make better.


In my teenage years, the new film I had fixated on was "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days". I loved how Andie, the main female character, was also playing the man, and not just a one-way situation. I have always thought it was so cool how she was trying to be her most unlikeable self, yet still was able to find her person. Showing that you don't have to be a perfect version of yourself to deserve love and that there are so many more layers to humans than what first meets the eye.


Now, my favorite film to watch is "Little Women", for the way that I instantly related to Jo in a million ways. I first watched the film when it came out in theaters in 2019, and I now watch it at least once a month. It is a film that not only highlights romance but also what it looks like to be a woman. There is not just one way that femininity is portrayed, and that helps bring relatability to everyone who decides to watch the film. This movie has completely changed the way I look at writing and love in my life. As well as how the feelings we allow ourselves to have can be understood by others in the world too.


"Women are usually found sleeping through the action" (Renegade Cut, 2016, 3:15). This was said in the video explaining Disney's gender roles, and it immediately stuck out to me. I have never noticed, when watching older Disney films, the main character is not a part of the action. We see this in Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, and it explains a lot of how they view masculinity and femininity. As if the climatic part of the film was not made for women, and only for men. This points to the truth of societal standards, which feel every single woman needs a man to save them, and there is no possible way we could figure out how to get through a climatic situation on our own. "Classic male protagonists…prince charming, stock characters…everyone loves him and wants to marry him" (Renegade Cut, 2016, 1:45). This quote adds to the idea that Disney made gender roles very specific. A man has guidelines he has to follow, and so does a woman, and both will be incredibly stereotypical. Leading to my final point, that Disney has felt the constant need to feel safe behind the gender roles they have prescribed to the world around them, rather than stepping out into change.


I think about the constant cleaning ADs that I have seen throughout my life. They always were meant for women, and never geared toward men. The societal expectation is that a woman's sole job is to take care of the kids, house, and husband, whereas the man is expected to be gone constantly working to support the lifestyle. We even see it in the advertisements we watched this week when we saw them say things like, "You don't wait for your wife to clean up…she needs time to do whatever she does" (QOTC, 2018, 1:50). This brings forward the idea that women do nothing other than provide for everyone else in their household/life, and things are to remain as stereotypes forever.


Seeing these advertisements, films, and shows growing up, gave me the expectation that this was the way you were supposed to live. Having these guidelines set forward only sets you up to see yourself as a stereotype, and nothing more. It is something that we all should un/relearn, so we can become more comfortable with being more than what society expects of us. This is the human condition that so many of us face: the idea of trying to relearn who we are, in a society that is constantly telling us exactly who we need to be. This is what it means to grow up as a woman in a world that is constantly telling you the person you should be.

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