Perhaps the most devastating oppressive strategy used against people subject to maltreatment is uprooting camaraderie within them. As women, straightforward connections with each other have been complicated by the patriarchy, weaving a toxicity into the formulaic thought patterns of which we extend human compassion. As a generation, we must welcome and encourage female companionship and protect the homosocial relationships that lay a foundation for achieving gender equality.
Historically, relationships and marriage were a way for women to attain power and security. Nowadays, while women’s rights have changed drastically for the better, this outdated image of “needing a man” has unfortunately prevailed through media. Movies, books, and television that display romantic relationships dominating over all else have crept into the subconscious thoughts of everyday interaction.
A pressure to attain what’s so heavily propagated as the gateway to happiness is hard to ignore. We must teach young people that romance cannot stand above platonic companionship. That fulfillment comes from a plethora of healthy relationships, romantic and otherwise, and that all types of connection hold equal value.
Another aspect of media that leads to strain in female companionship is female characters portrayed through the male gaze. Female characters frequently extort personas that focus more on oversexualization and association to men over individuality and intelligence. Young girls attempt to emulate this image as they grow older, leading them down a path of shallow discontent. Only in recent years have these characters in movies and television taken on new and nontraditional roles, focused more on discovering themselves versus romance. We must continue to push the needle forward by encouraging these types of characters to define the female condition in media, and to demonstrate to young girls the traits they should seek and admire in themselves and other women.
Entertainment news platforms are also a key component of the mistreatment of women in media, often relying on redundant stereotypes of being “catty”, or unable to get along with each other. These perpetuations make women seem incapable of functioning on their own without men to keep regulation. As young people become immersed in popular culture and are constantly exposed to this type of content, it becomes easy to get wrapped up in a warped gauge of reality. It’s important
to emphasize that this content strategically feeds into false narratives designed to damage female relationships and keep the oppressed reliant on the oppressor.
Seeking male validation not only deteriorates the value of women’s opinions, but prioritizes men unnecessarily. Girls might understandably feel compelled to change their actions and behavior in order to receive the social acceptance they’ve been conditioned to desire. However, we cannot afford to sacrifice the value of ourselves and people like us for the sake of this kind of toxic approval. Women must ensure the worth of fellow women’s thoughts and feelings by caring less about male validation and more about those who care about them.
As women at BHS, we must consider the context of which our environment was created, and learn to recognize the sources from which our behavioral urges stem. If we develop the skills to effectively diagnose the patriarchal aspects of our everyday lives, we’ll be able to better understand ourselves and our intentions when it comes to socialization. This will lead to more time and effort spent nurturing companionship with other women that has previously been neglected as a result of patriarchal media influence.
Women appreciating the bonds and friendships that they hold with other women is one of the most powerful methods of resistance, as it is what will begin to rebuild the unity we need in order to combat sexism. Only together will we be able to persevere in the fight for gender equality among all.
– Ellora Mookherjee-Amodt, opinion editor