In the past, a woman’s contribution to society were limited and controlled by men. However, the status of women around the world have been developing and changing progressively throughout the course of history. It has become common to hold an opinion that the rights and position of women have been gradually improving and that nowadays the role of a woman in the society is quite equal to men. Nowadays, women are now able to uphold a career as well as doing housework and childcare. This could be influenced by several women who have shown their quality and strengthens through media. There are many female stereotypes that are commonly found throughout media that can be used as powerful influence over how society view women and how women view themselves. By examining how a women’s role is represented in media, it is evident that pop culture serves as an influential source for women to feel more accepted, spread awareness of women rights, and take advantage of opportunities given compared to the past.
Throughout history, men have been deemed as superior while women have been regarded as inferior. Society has this ideology that women are the sole laborers of a household; they were not granted the same privileges as men. Women were given limited opportunities in the workforce. They were merely seen as people who were only capable of handling things that revolved around their motherly instincts. Women were allowed to uphold jobs that consist of nursing the sick, or wet nursing/child rearing by caring and breastfeeding for another woman’s child. If a woman wanted to pursue a career in the professional field it was negatively looked upon since it seem a women did not have the ability of taking care of her family, while maintaining a career. For example, in the reading, “Shakespeare’s Sister,” Woolf mentions that women ” had no chance of learning grammar and logic.” (Woolf, 226) This revealed that women were only thought upon being stowed away in homes to bear children, tend to the men, and work as housewives with no education or experience in literature. She also states that because these women are oppressed by male domination, hence the work that they produce is seen to be unimpressive compared to a male’s performance. Overall, it was better for women to reply and depend on a male to provide for the household, while they continue to cater for the family and house.
Media is a powerful agent that influences and teaches the youth of society the suitable and appropriate gender roles that they inevitably try to make sense of. The power of media is very influential especially in the minds of the youth. Disney movies target the youth and plant certain ideas and concepts about social culture into the vulnerable minds of children. In which, often there are some films that illustrates a woman’s characteristics, both, successfully and poorly into one movie. For instance, in the Disney movie, Mulan, it depicts gender-stereotyped roles and socialization of gender roles. Both males and females have a specific role in the Chinese society that one must follow. In the past, the Chinese society expected all females to be obedient toward men and only speak when asked. Women were not supposed to step out of place and take on the role of a man. For example, when Mulan’s father was being selected to fight for China, Mulan shouted, in front of all the people in her town that she did not want her father to go. The man, handing out the letters summoning the men, told Mulan’s father that he needed to teach his daughter not to speak in a man’s presence. Similarly, in the reading “The Subject of Women”, John Stuart Mill mentions that, “the prevalent male view was that women were innately unequal to men and therefore, did not deserve to be given the rights and privileges of men” (Mill 670). This shows that a woman’s freedom was limited as they were constantly seen and treated as a submissive role. They were not able to freely speak against men without it being considered as defiance, but only to obey and respect a man’s words. In addition, the Chinese society in Mulan also exemplifies the typical gender roles of males and females by showing what the society expected in males and females in characteristics and attitudes. For example, Wollstonecraft mentions, “The rank in life which dispenses with their fulfilling this duty necessarily degrades them by making them mere dolls” (Wollstonecraft 661). Women grew up believing that in order to accomplish and guarantee a successful life, one must please men to prove that they are going to be a good mother and wife. In the movie, Mulan is being prepared to be chosen as a bride for a potential suitor; this in itself is an example of women’s roles in feudal society. To bring honor to your family as a girl, the best you could do is become a wife who was expects to be delicate, obedient, graceful, and polite, none of which Mulan displayed. The roles of men and women are explicitly different. For instance, the movie mentions that “We all must serve our Emperor, who guards us from the Huns. A man by bearing arms, a girl by bearing sons.” (Mulan 1998) This showed how Mulan acknowledges that she can’t live up to society’s expectations for a girl, if she wants to be herself. This is shortly before she takes on her father’s armor and leaves to join the army. Mulan breaks a “rule” by deciding not to be a “perfect woman” then moves straight to breaking another “rule” by pretending to be a man. This became a monumental change for women, where Mulan was the first to fight for equal rights as well as being recognized as the same company as men. Although she does disguise herself as a man, she still was able to show her bravery and prove that her ability is equal to the men that she trains before fighting in the war. In other words, Mulan’s actions illustrate that women are also capable of playing a major role in many important areas of the society, even if they had to disguise themselves as a man. Nevertheless, media uses gender to its advantage by sending a visual message of how much a woman is capable of through Disney productions.
In the past, men were known as the superior gender with unlimited opportunities given by society, while women were considered as a material piece or accessory. Women were not taken seriously if they wanted to pursue a career that was predominantly known for men (Woolf, 699). As a woman in the past society, they did not have much control or say to how they wanted to live their lives. Their dreams of becoming someone more than just a housewife stayed as just a dream, which kept them from knowing what they are truly capable of being. However, in Wollstonecraft’s reading, she explains that women do not have to fall in between the status quo and limit themselves to only becoming the perfect housewife. Wollstonecraft encouraged women to recognize their undiscovered powers that lies within them. For example, she mentions, “Married or single; we shall continually see some worthy women, whose sensibility has been rendered painfully acute by underserved contempt” (Wollstonecraft 665). In other words, she wanted women to realize that they are capable of so much more, such as, prove that they could make changes to society, while maintain a motherly figure.
In today’s pop culture industry, the roles of women have changed in a well progressive manner in comparison to the women of the past. Media has helped promote the transformation of a woman. People are now beginning to recognize how women are becoming more independent, obtaining their equal gender rights and being superior to a man in some respects. Nowadays, music has become a source of inspiration for women as they are becoming more prevalent in music industry. Music has also given many female artists the opportunity to create songs that allows them to share a message of how strong female empowerment can influence a woman. These are songs that goes against female stereotypes by establishing the capability of a woman through their music. For example, some female artists such as Alicia Keys empowers and connects with women to help open up their inner confidence through her inspiring music. In her song “Girl on Fire”, it illustrates a message about women who are able to find their own inner strength. In the song, she mentions a phrase “on fire”, which translates to the meaning of the freedom of control a woman has over their life. Not only has the music industry evolved, but women as whole now play a larger role in society than they did in the past. This proves that over time women are capable of overcoming gender stereotypes. In other words, there are more female artists today simply because in the past there were restrictions on how much a woman could accomplish. Similarly, women are making an effort to fight for gender equality in the working field. They are demanding for equal pay, advancement to the company, and promotion opportunities. Before this, the act of fighting for gender rights was unheard of; however, women are now empowered and working together for gender equality by proving they are capable of playing a major role in many parts of society. This allows many women to shed light on the importance of striving for equality, independence, and freedom. Alicia Keys singing “Girl on Fire” symbolizes a united front as it has now become a woman’s time to make a difference, they are no longer allowing society to subject them to gender inequality. Thus, throughout history women has gain many accomplishments through the significant changes of social life.
Society has once said that men are the superior beings with unlimited opportunities, while all females are expected to stay home and take care of their family. However, today this has changed to where females have more equal rights with men. In today’s society, the entertainment industry has given women the opportunity to create their own platform as a way of breaking free from assimilating to the traditional standards of being a proper woman in society. Overall, media has become a reliable resource that represents women as a visionary influence by sharing a message of women empowerment.