I love to read, and I do so extensively. Up until a few years ago, I never understood the depth of which I was influenced by the books I so whole-heartedly devoured. A person is everything they see, their actions, their beliefs – everyone is. This is common knowledge and its understood to be true and accepted. I guess I just never realized the extent. I am a product. Everyone is a product. Feelings and actions are created not only because of the things a person is taught, or the things they inherit, but they are the result of the TV shows watched, the music listened to, and all the books they consume.
This month in lecture we began to analyze. Instead of discussing issues, Professor Tolmie showed us real evidence. She presented us ads, discussed TV shows, scrutinized movies and dissected books. Having read both series she discussed a few weeks back, she had my attention. It was so weird for me to see books I had read picked apart; and in doing so, I was able to pick up on things I had never noticed before. I guess it is important for me to mention I read fast. I read so fast that I don’t really take the time to reflect on what I’m consuming, or its effect on me. I never associate the roles of the characters I read as being problematic unless they are evidently flawed. Sure, some are written as stupid, or afraid, or waiting for their prince charming, and those are normal attributes that can be associated to anyone – regardless of their age, sex or nationality. But I honestly never associated these ideals as being offensive, derogatory or undermining. I never realized that these ideals are so consumed and socially constructed that we don’t even recognize them anymore unless we take the time to critically analyze. And let’s get real, who makes the time to do that with everything else they have to do? Not many of us.
But that’s the problem. We let these things stay prevalent in society because, hey, they aren’t that detrimental. It may be a popular series, but it is not that noticeable. No one really picks up on how Bella Swan or Anastasia Steele depend on a man, no one notices how much they request their approval before they act, no one picks up on their inability to self sustain. No one except a Gender Studies prof, or maybe a feminist. But that simply isn’t true. The signs are all there, and we ignore them. We let them slide by because were reading these books, or watching this show for pleasure, not to scrutinize. So what, you may ask? (I asked it too – don’t worry). Then I stumbled across this:
It’s an article on the unwarranted and unwanted compliments women receive from men in public (and it’s worth a read!). Most women disregard the comments as annoying and obnoxious, or we cross to the other side of the road, or we just ignore it. It’s the same as in the books. We’ve just accepted that this is our reality – it doesn’t matter whether we want the attention or not, or if were even deserving of it (a friend of mine once got cat-called walking her dog in her fathers sweatpants – “the perks of being tall and blonde” was her response to it), all us women just accept these situations to be truth. But in doing so, we are promoting rape culture.
These things are so embedded within our society it is almost impossible to think of a reality without them. What is good TV if the cute boy doesn’t fight two to three seasons for his dream girl? How can a book hook so many readers if one the character lacks an attribute that needs to be fixed? How can anything work without gaps for others to fill? But with that, our society continues to perpetuate women as victims, as naïve girls who need to be saved.
Maybe it’s appealing – I know I dreamed of my knight in shining armor for years because Disney showed me that he was coming – but it leads to so much more. People aren’t meant to be saved, and women don’t need someone else to complete their lives for them. Characters can still be ideal and relatable without the assumption that their independence is lacking, or without a strong male “counter-part”. Relationships can be people of equal attributes and a level playing field – as much as I enjoy the different realities to escape to, I don’t think I would ever want to live in one where my boyfriend told me what to eat. We as women complain often about the world we live in, and we do so because it isn’t fair, or fun, or equal most of the times. We complain because were scared and were aware, and we know reality. We’re entitled to that much at least. Yet, we let it slip by and remain as we consume it in different worlds through the characters we read and see. Maybe we have more to change than we thought.