I confess: I possessed Two Reasons for watching the Super Bowl. I don’t even like football–never really understood the appeal, particularly this year when two such generic, well-known teams with consistently champion-ish records are competing for a title I feel we’ve all seem them go at again, and again, and again. Give someone else a chance much?
So I sat it out and waited patiently for every commercial cut hoping to glimpse two teaser-trailers continuing the decade-strong film tradition of Revenge of the Nerds. It’s iconic stuff for us.
But I can’t help but look at this lineup and sigh…Girls Need Role Models Too. In my geek of geeks heart, sooner or later someone (as in someone with some kind of magical Hollywood influence) really needs to make something that bleaches Twilight from our minds. I understand that the shadowy men in charge are kinda aged, kinda old-school, and kinda have this idea of exactly what women want in a movie (which might or might not be off), but every once in a while please give the female species something that passes The Bechdel Test.
Before we all dive to conclusions, I don’t consider myself a feminist. The feminists I’ve encountered in my time like to spout “men oppressed us this,” and “men ignore us that,” and “men don’t take us seriously,” and I believe that way back in the 20th century that kind of outcry possessed a greater validity. But growing up at the turn of the century, I haven’t seen that as much. I see it used as propaganda, but other than the tweens on Xbox Live the guys I know my age don’t really care what women do with their lives, so long as they get laid on occasion.
No, I’ve had problems with other women–girls, specifically.
I ended my errand run in the toy section again the other day, which is usually what happens when I go shopping at Target. Now this sounds strange coming from a girl–unless the girl collects Barbie dolls or something–but I wasn’t in the Barbie aisle (And I don’t have kids). No, I was looking at DC Universe
I ultimately found a figurine of Black Canary so it wasn’t all bad. There’s a point to this. I tend to be formulaic about the toys I ogle: DC Universe, LEGOs, and Nerf in varying order. And I’ve never strayed over to aisles decorated in that bright shade of bubblegum pink, the land of Barbie, and My Little Pony, and other things, except once when I showed a friend the point I’m about to elaborate on.
I see it in commercials, especially around the holiday season. I see it when I am errand-running in Target, or at a mall. I see it in the coupons crammed into my mailbox with all the deals and potential savings on things I don’t need. But I wonder…have you ever noticed how the girls’ side of the toy aisle often resembles the parents-to-be aisle? There are toys that burp, and cry, and need someone to feed them! Even potty-training toy dolls (creepiest thing I’ve ever seen). There are miniature baby carriages, and small houses with kitchen sets.
Looking at this from the perspective of an adult, is this really supply of toys aimed at young girls? The tie to parenthood and/or domestic life, fashion and makeup, etc, appears to be a (very, very, very, very, very scary) common trend. Do all girls want nothing more in life than to be well-dressed mothers? Growing up, I sure didn’t, but according to commercials, and looking at the actual toy aisles…yes. And if the toy aisle isn’t enough, there’s always the ever-looming head of Disney.
Meanwhile, toys for young boys feature Star Wars, or Hot Wheels, electronics, LEGOs, GI Joe, Batman, Halo, Iron Man, Tron and more. I read somewhere, “You don’t see boys’ toys featuring suits and powerpoint slides.” Boys can build things, drive cool cars/spaceships, fight alien races, become superheroes–you know: law enforcement, astronaut, architect, and so on.
(If you follow the commentary of this article…) Some have already commented that girls outgrow their childhood toys after a certain age. But what about the amount of pressure on a girl to encourage, if not force, this process. For example, not long after my eleventh birthday I remember being told by my parents to give up everything Pokémon—toys, games, TV show, etc—because I was “too old,” end of story.
Enter middle school and girls suddenly experiment with makeup and become picky about appearances. The differentiation over the next few years is quick, brutal, and based on an unwritten set of standards for female appearances and behavior. This unwritten code is then enforced—not so much by men as one may initially think—but by other women: on TV, in the movies, friends at school, older girls seen around school, characters in books. Everywhere. Reinforcement bombards across these different mediums.
From personal experience, by high school anything Girls + Anything Geek has been slapped with the Big NO. First, because of the association with masculinity. Second? The above-mentioned list. So is that it then? Are girls only allowed to obsess over men? Hormonally, socially, and culturally, life to a girl—according to this standard—is supposed to be about attracting men, loving men, and keeping a single man?
So…Do not enjoy male things. Do not associate with other men beyond the realm of acquaintance.
In my case, resistance made the few girls I knew work to change me. To make me, “Better.” “We’re just going to…edit…the things that aren’t right,” I was told.
I am not right, and I need to be made better.
Once, on a student trip between my junior and senior year, these same friends lectured me for wearing the Star Wars t-shirt I loved on my birthday as a personal celebration. Later on the same trip I received a sterner reprimand for out-competing the other guys while a group of us goofed off on a playground. I was pulled aside and everything, the words burned into memory “Boys don’t like it when girls perform better than them…it’s inappropriate to act so unladylike if you ever want to attract a man.” All this coming from a girl a year older than me, and her tone suggested I committed the eighth deadly sin.
Though the unasked lessons never stuck, the constant admonishment left me convinced I was forever unattractive to men, an image I still struggle with.
Add one to the list: And do not—ever—compete with men at their level.
Is this where the Taylor Swifts and Twilight Sagas come into play. As far as that material is concerned, your only focus (as a girl) and purpose in life is to remain the pure virgin until some man comes along. No additional work required, if you’re beautiful enough, or angst from afar long enough, he’ll waltz over and sweep you away.
This year, we get The Green Hornet, Thor, Green Lantern, Captain America, and on the horizon are The Avengers, another Batman, Superman, and more. Yeah, I know people aren’t entirely rejoicing over the new X-Men, or Spiderman, but if every superhero movie churned out pure diamond-studded gold, then there’d be no more jocks and cheerleaders terrorizing your high-school aged gender of choice.
But Girls Need Role Models Too. They’re a little overdue.
It’s why I write.