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Real Girl Power in Pop Culture

Real Girl Power in Pop Culture

Last night, my fiancÚ and I had a conversation about the relative lack of female superheroes. Yes, we have Wonder Woman and Bat Girl, but they are just cheap knock-offs of Superman and Batman. There are many intriguing female action heroes – like Storm from X-Men, Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, and Max from Dark Angel. But, while these characters are portrayed as smart and capable, they are also portrayed as sex bombs. And not in a way that affirms the power and significance of female sexuality. No, these characters are scantily clad to appeal to men.

There have been some positive female role models on television and in the movies: for example, Dana Scully from The X-Files, as well as Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, when it comes to animated movies, Princess Fiona from Shrek. But these characters are vastly outnumbered by the Storms and the Lara Crofts of the pop culture world.

What we should take away from this observation is that what seems like “girl power” on the surface might just be a marketing ploy that is actually disempowering for women. And it’s not just true in the case of movies and television. Remember the Spice Girls? They sang about girl power while dressed up as sexist stereotypes. And more recently, girls and women have had perhaps even fewer role models than we have in the past. Real girl power is about believing in oneself and loving and appreciating everything it is to be a woman.

 

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Sarah Cooke

Sarah Cooke is a writer living in California. She is interested in organic food and green living. Sarah holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University, an M.A. in Humanities from NYU, and a B.A. in Political Science from Loyola Marymount University. She has written for a number of publications, and she studied Pastry Arts at the Institute for Culinary Education. Her interests include running, yoga, baking, and poetry. Read more on her blog.

25 comments

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11:18AM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

Thank you. I'm glad other people think critically about the messages sent to us via mainstream fiction. Almost all the counter-examples given in the comments are from fiction that, while widely consumed, is either sort of on the fringe, or decidedly NOT gender-neutral in its marketing (Katniss being a notable exception obvs).

9:36AM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

We, women, are the only ones who are disempowering ourselves not tv or men.

3:52AM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

Great article, thanks

12:28AM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

Thanks for the article.

12:08AM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

I did like Dark Angel But because Max? rode a powerful motorbike & showed great abilities, admittedly she was attractive, but she was succesful in spite of this not because of it.!

8:56PM PDT on Jun 18, 2012

There are strong female role models galore in current youth/teen lit. In addition to Katniss in the "Hunger Games" series, check out Maximum Ride in the series by James Patterson, Tris in "Divergent" by Veronica Roth. They are strong girls - Max is the leader of her group, and Tris is not considered "pretty" but she's a force to contend with! Plus, these girls' moms ROCK. Other examples aplenty in the currently popular dystopian genre of fiction. "The City of Ember", "Incarceron", "Matched", and others. We just have to decide to read instead of paying homage to the boob tube. The kids are making these books popular!

7:52PM PDT on Jun 18, 2012

The character options available for females are much narrower than the options for male characters. True for MMORP Game characters as well.

7:14PM PDT on Jun 18, 2012

thanks for the info

7:14PM PDT on Jun 18, 2012

thanks

3:37PM PDT on Jun 18, 2012

Women have to believe in themselves and that they are not just valuable because they are pretty or sexy. Remember beauty fades and dumb is forever. Get educated, investigate what you're interested in, live on your own for a while after school and always believe in yourself.

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