From Lady Gaga to Katniss Everdeen and The Avengers: Why it is better to be a girl in puberty now than 10 years ago

Sanne van Oosten

Sometimes I envy girls who are going through puberty now as opposed to me, who did so about a decade ago. Now there are so many more women to look up to in pop culture than there were back then. Here’s a brief comparison.

When I was a young girl of about 12 years old I saved all my pocket money to buy a cd of… Britney Spears. Yes, Britney, the girl who was teaching young girls all over the world how important it was to be sexy if you ever wanted to be accepted by a man. Of course she was also the victim of numerous scandals throughout the years as she was being torn up for not being what everyone (including herself) expected from her. She had to be a perfect woman:  both a trophy wife and a sex symbol, who could ever live up to those standards?

If I had been in puberty now, I would have definitely been a fan of Lady Gaga. Catchy pop music and amazing outfits, what else does a young girl want? But contrary to Britney her image is not filled with subtext of female subjugation, but of female empowerment. She is not afraid to be cast away as crazy, and that is making it so much harder for the press to make her ridiculous.

When I was in my preteens I was crazy about books in the Babysitter Club series. Endless amounts of books on girls who got together to form a club of babysitters, so parents would only have to call one number in order to find a babysitter. The girls featuring in the books were in to working and were even quite entrepreneurial and that is to be applauded. But it also taught me one again that women are predestined to work with children. Even if they don’t have children of their own, women are the ones who are molded into being caretakers of children. A pretty narrow message, if you ask me.

If I had been that age now, I would have read the books of the immensely popular Hunger Games series. Lead in these books is Katniss Everdeen, the girl who isn’t necessarily interested in child-rearing, but had mad skills with her bow and arrow and can fight like the best of them. This would have told me there are so many more options out there for women.

During my preteens, my father loved to read stories of Lord of the Rings to me. Then, a few years later, the movies started hitting the movie theaters. They were all box office bombs, and I also saw the films. Still, I didn’t have anyone to really relate to. At least the ten most important characters are men, with the occasional woman coming by and causing great shock with her femininity and nothing but her femininity. But still, they were men, men and a few more men.

This weekend the Avengers came out. A super hero movie with seven main characters, including one, yes ONE, female character. Ok, it’s a start. Better than the sheer amount of female characters in the Lord of the Rings. But she is the weakest of all and she might even only be in the film for her sex appeal. Even though we have Lady Gaga and Katniss Everdeen, women in pop culture still have a long, long, long way to go. But the baby steps are being taken and that’s something.

If I had had Lady Gaga, Katniss Everdeen and maybe even one female character in a superhero film to look up to, I might have had quite a different view about what women are supposed to be. But then again, I also might have had less reason to fight against stereotypes of women and I might not have ever written a blog like this in my twenties. Who knows, who knows…

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