‘I do not wish [women] to have power over men; but over themselves’

~Mary Wollstonecraft

Chapter 1: “Boys will be boys”

Now, haven’t we heard this infamous line numerous times? Far too many times, to the extent it has begun to sound like a broken recorder. Eight out of ten, no, nine out of ten girls would have heard this line being uttered to them — be it from a family member, a relative, a teacher, or even a random stranger. 

It is more normal for a boy to be wild and brash compared to a girl who is adventurous. It is normal for boys to fool around and be more physically aggressive, while a girl is more focused on puzzles, art materials, or dolls. But, why has it been such? Why are girls calmer than boys? Or to put it correctly, why are boys allowed to be more adventurous than girls even at such a young age? 

Truth be told, it’s not a complicated question; the role or behaviour of men and women, boys and girls, gents and ladies, have been determined and set in stone for more than a few centuries. Yes, society has come a long way from the patriarchal-dictated society it has been, however, the remnants or principles and traditions rooted years ago still remain. Ideals and practices that have been entrenched into people is something hard to let go or shake off. Gender discrimination is still highly prevalent among family, school, work, and public in general.

And most of all, it begins from one’s childhood. When your grandmother says that it’s wrong for girls to raise their voices. When your elder aunt or uncle says that you can’t join your male cousins to play football and instead tells you to go help out in the kitchen. When your class teacher says it’s better to elect a boy as the classroom monitor.

From young, women are told to be careful, to not speak in that manner, to not dress that way, to not act as such, and the list goes on as we age. What’s sad is that these restrictions and ‘thoughts’ are not only caused due to a male dominated society, but are also enforced by the older generations of women — who are quick to criticise the moment a line is crossed. No one judges a woman more than a woman herself.

Chapter 2: A Man vs A Gentleman

While society is quick to tell women to be careful, they never think about educating boys to grow into gentlemen. It has never been thought to educate men but instead to shield women and fault them for incidents that they should not be held accountable for. Victim blaming concerning rape cases are particularly common, where you’ll find despicable statements such as these:

‘What was she wearing then?’

‘She asked for it!’

‘Why didn’t she fight back?’

Some men even proceed to make sexually explicit jokes, with appalling statements describing that men have ‘needs’ and are more ‘dominant’ and ‘aggressive’ in nature. According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Violence Against Women Report in 2022 — 91% of sexual assault victims are female, while the remaining are male and, unsurprisingly nearly 99% of perpetrators are male.

Men were said to be put into the world to protect women. From what? Or whom? From their own biological needs or animal-like behaviour? Not a single day goes by where a woman is not worried about her safety. Where she cannot walk in peace. Where she subtly checks her surroundings. When entering a public transport her eyes search for the safest seat immediately. 

Yet, even when steps are taken to ensure her peace of mind, such as the women-only MRT coaches introduced last year, there are still voices against it and men who refuse to follow a simple rule. Then again, if a woman were to raise her voice against all these wrongdoings, she’d be shut down, asked to keep her head down if she would like to live a quiet life. But for how long do we choose to remain silent? To let their sister, daughter, and granddaughter experience all these atrocities again and again.

Chapter 3: Stereotypes

It will remain a cycle unless we choose to break it. When we choose to not be ignorant and keep on saying, ‘that’s how men are’. Why hasn’t the decision to raise better men never been made? Why do women ignore another woman’s plight and say to their daughters who do question this absurd manner in which they simply choose to accept it, they say, ‘you’ll understand when you get older’. 

What is there to be understood? That for the sake of avoiding arguments and complications that would probably last a few hours, we say no to the mutual respect and understanding we could get in the future. Admittedly, over the course of the decades gender roles in society where men are viewed as protectors, breadwinners and leaders while women are seen as caregivers, nurturers and homemakers has led to this. 

In this age and time, men and women alike shouldn’t be defined by these societal norms. Once again, it is how people react towards similar situations but with different reactions when it comes to a man, and a woman.

If a woman is a leader, ambitious and direct, she is considered to be bossy, hard-headed and domineering, when she should be more gentle. If a man is a leader, he is considered to be fearless, inspiring and is doing his duty.

If a woman were to care for the house and for her children, it is considered as her duty and is expected of her. If a man were to cook, clean and care for the children, he’s praised for being an amazing father and husband.

If a man and woman were to divorce, the woman is more likely to face more difficulties and harsh judgements compared to the man. And is more likely criticised for choosing to remarry by society itself.

Both men and women are not allowed to be emotional. If a man were to cry or get upset, he’s considered to be weak and vulnerable. If a woman were to get angry, it means that she’s overreacting, too emotional, or either on ‘that time of the month’.

A person should be given the right to choose who they want to be, not crumble under society’s expectations. A woman can choose not to marry even at the age of 30 if she wishes so. A woman can choose not to have children, as it is her own body and she can decide for herself. A woman can also choose to be a stay-at-home mom. At the same time, a woman can also choose and  expect to be treated as equal as her male peers.

Chapter 4: Imperfection

Do you know that one female character in an action film, where she wears the world’s most skintight suit, and no matter how many stunts she does, her beautiful locks of hair will just land on her perfectly, and the hero is completely bedazzled by her alluring looks. (Mission Impossible, James Bond) Or that one female character in a romcom, that despite how stunning she looks, hasn’t had her first kiss yet and can only think about finding a boyfriend. (Clueless). These are how women are notoriously depicted in the media.

There’s no doubt that any working industry is a male dominated industry and it goes without saying for the film industry as well. Naturally, most movies or series are written, directed, and produced by men. For a long time, women have been perceived as one dimensional characters and have been depicted as such by the media.

The media’s influence among the general public is something great, and people tend to absorb whatever they are exposed to and believe it as well. Girls grow up believing that speaking, dressing, and looking like those movie stars are what make them special. Guys start looking for women who look like their celebrity crushes. At one point, reality and fiction becomes convoluted, and people fail to draw the line and comprehend what is really true.

Girls or ladies can be complicated characters. They are capable of being or representing more than one thing. A strong female character isn’t defined by being fierce and mean. In fact, being strong means being able to express their emotions. We are human beings. We feel too much, think too much and it is alright to do that. We are complex creatures. We choose to contradict whatever we say, we cry for no reason, we are impulsive, but most of all we are perfectly imperfect.

In truth, there has been a fair share of messy main characters introduced into cinema — Never Have I Ever’s Devi is seen to be one of the most chaotic and contradicting female protagonists to have existed. Additionally, there are also the roles played by Saoirse Ronan, such as Christine ‘Ladybird’ McPherson from Ladybird, who had a varying range of emotions, with the audience being unable to keep up with her thought process, and Jo March from Little Women who was just simply true to herself and a completely wild character.

Here’s the thing, we don’t need cinema to depict flawless characters or characters with a one-track personality. Even Barbie faced much backlash for being too dramatic and overly emotional. Life is messy and no one is perfect. The question is, can the audience in general handle heavy characters such as these? 


What is feminism? Do people who fight for it understand what it truly means? Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. Look it up. It’s exactly as quoted. It isn’t about putting women on a higher pedestal. It isn’t about hating men. (Quoting Emma Watson) It is about questioning the system that has been decided by men and women who choose to accept it.

We ask for our own rights. Our own rights to choose what we would like to pursue. Our own rights to live the life we would like. Our rights to receive the same recognition that those of the opposite sex with the same credentials do. To treat us with mutual respect and to listen to what we have to say.

A reminder to yourself:

It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.

You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people.

You have to answer for men’s bad behaviour, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood.

But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful.

You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.

I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.

~The Barbie Monologue by America Ferrera~

Written By: Poorani

Edited By: Ruby

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