Every girl grows up dreaming of a Prince Charming to come into her life and sweep her off of her feet. To provide her with a blanket of security and save her from the world.
I was the same and as I grew up, I questioned where I got the idea that I needed a man to come and save me? How would a girl automatically get the notion that she even needed to be saved? And I realised the simple and complicated answer is; society.
It is no secret that the society we live in is patriarchal. As soon as I was born, the cards were stacked against me. I was categorised as a minority group just on the basis of the fact that my gender is female. This also begs the question, how come women are considered a ‘minority’ group when we form the other half of the population?
We live in a world where every man is told that it is his duty to be the provider and protect his family whilst women are told that they are the nurturers and need to be rescued. Automatically, gifting us with the stereotypes that both genders suffer from to this day, men are ‘strong’ and women are ‘weak’.
This seed is planted in a girl’s head as a young child, case in point, one of the first stories a girl is told is of Cinderella. A simplistic view of this could be that this is just a fictional story, however, we can’t disregard the moral that this story imparts on a girl; her life does not start until she falls in love, with marriage being her ultimate reward.
She can’t save herself until a prince comes and rescues her, moreover the portrayal of other women in these stories is usually evil which projects the idea that women are incapable of supporting other women. The lesson such fairy tales convey in itself is problematic.
This starts the cycle of expectation that a woman’s entire identity is that of a caretaker. Her existence is primarily defined by the roles she plays in other people’s lives; of a mother, a daughter or a sister. Meanwhile, a man’s identity belongs to him. He is allowed to stand on his own feet and is much more than who he is in his relationships.
For instance, females grow older feeling more pressure to find someone, get married and start a family compared to a man. Whilst a man is okay to be single and unmarried in his 30s but for a woman of the same age, this is considered to be a failure. Whilst he still ‘has time’ she doesn’t get the same luxury and is wasting her ‘primary childbearing years’.
A woman might be perfectly content being single but if she admits that out loud she gets the unnecessary reassurance that she will definitely meet someone, as if her singledom is a cause for concern, conveying the message that her life is somehow incomplete without a man.
I realise that such positions assigned to women are not just men’s fault, but society as a whole. Women and men are equally responsible for pushing these clichés forward.
This is by no means a man-bashing article, instead, just a piece that is meant to be thought-provoking and encourage the reader to think about how both the genders can work together to change these expectations.
Where a man is allowed to be vulnerable and show weakness and a woman can be her own saviour and represent strength. Anyone, no matter the chromosome they carry, can be strong and weak, nurturer and provider or protector and rescued at the same time.
We need men to be our allies too, to restore balance and shed the burden of the reluctant roles thrust upon us both since birth.
Maybe the first place to start should be from the ground up, maybe the first story that a girl should be told is of real, strong and independent women who are role models such as Rosa Parks, Madam Curie and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And if we insist this first story needs to be a fairy tale, then narrate the story of Mulan instead of Cinderella.
This writer is by no means against a woman settling down and having a family, but is hoping that the world can accept that a woman can be more than just the ‘Love Interest’. She can be the ‘Hero’ too. She can be her own ‘Prince Charming’.
Photo by Henrique Malaguti