Witness Post: Girl Power
Have you noticed that there are more and more stories, TV shows and movies with girls and women in the leading roles? I’m not talking about girls playing male roles, as in She’s the Man, I am talking about legitimate leading characters in title protagonist roles. The examples include The Help, Frozen, The Hunger Games, and The Good Wife.
These and other stories, which have been growing over the last decade, are hitting a crescendo as Pussy Riot and Orange is the New Black are being released from jail.
As the proud papa of three strong women, and the spouse to a smart and formidable wife, I see the shift in power as inevitable. It is about time that the gender with the greatest percentage of the population and the primary influence on child rearing gets its due. But more than evening of some metaphorical scales of justice, it is a sign of acceptance of women that is long overdue.
We are finally at what Malcolm Gladwell might classify as a “tipping point”: the scales of Themis are tilted in the favor of the fairer sex.
At the turn of the Twentieth Century, the novel The Awakening by Kate Chopin has the sad coda of Edna Pontellier floating out from the sea shore and drowning herself rather than succumbing to the stultifying and suffocating male dominated family culture. The books by Jane Austin (Pride & Prejudice), the Bronte sisters (Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre), Margaret Mitchell (Gone With the Wind), and Louisa May Alcott (Little Women) profoundly spoke of the families, the traditions, and the plight of women in Great Britain and the US, but they were a few among the thousands of male writers who focused on male characterization as the primal focus. Books like Anne Frank’s, Diary of a Young Girl, like Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter from the previous century, seemed lonesome tales of Jewish persecution and Puritanism that were loud echoes of horror perpetrated by men against other faiths, and traditions. The symbolic stars of David and bright letters of crime were public declarations of exile which shamed all, but most especially when they exposed the “weaker sex.”
It took a quarter century for Nancy Drew or Lois Lane to come on the scene. And they were brief ripples from Rosy the Riveter and the rise of women power. Women have been contributing to the workforce for generations, but they have not been paid the same, nor received the recognition they deserve.
As Bob Dylan wrote, “Times they are a changing.” Today women have choices and the can push back, or Lean In, or get real with the best of the men. I say, “Go girl!”
Betty Friedan with NOW
My personal heroines are many: Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, Margaret Mead and Jane Goodall, Amelia Earhart and Babe Didrikson Jaharias, Margaret Thatcher and Maggie Kuhn, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Mikulski, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Muriel Siebert and Oprah Winfrey, Sally Ride and Mia Lin, Maya Angelou and Hillary Rodham Clinton…which is a fair list to start from. Adding my own nuclear and extended families of women seems self-gratifying, but I feel they are the leaders of the future and I love them in their quests.
Look at the offerings of subjects of major works by women, about women, and appealing to all genders FMTQ (female/male/transsexual/questioning) is daunting, so I will scratch the surface only.
The world of pugilistic sports, like boxing and mixed martial arts, were often seen as exclusively male dominated. Well not anymore. Just look at the ferocity and aggressiveness of Ronda Rousey, who is an undefeated champion and you will get the updated picture.
(Find or create your own more exhaustive list. The list below is very incomplete, but points to a profusion of titles, all of which are garnering readers, viewers, with wide audience appeal:
Prime Time (and Cable) Television:
- The Good Wife
- Nurse Jackie
- Orange is the New Black
- How to Get Away with Murder
- Ronda Rousey in a mixed martial art bout
- The Secret Life of Bees
- Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
- Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
- The Poisonwood Bible
- The Help
- Half the Sky
- The Red Tent
- The Color Purple
- The Hunger Games
- Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
- Salvage the Bones
- The Hunger Games