After 18 years of hiding my shame and lying to everyone, I am finally able to say, proudly, that my favorite color is pink! Yes, I like the color pink and makeup and sparkly nails. My love for all things feminine began with my obsession with Barbie. Like many other little girls my age, I was captivated by her. Besides the unattainable body proportions and initial rollout of only white dolls, Barbie was a relatable, aspirational influence on children. Known for her love for fashion and pink, Barbie served as proof that ultra-feminine women can be smart, accomplished, and multi-faceted. Current media does not do the same.
Feminine can be defined as characteristics of or appropriate or unique to women. So, ultra-femininity would constitute the extreme of this. Hollywood has effectively changed the connotation of ultra-femininity. In movies that display ultra-feminine women, they can often be categorized into 4 stereotypes: the demoness hell-bent on ruining the lives of men (Jennifer’s Body 2009), the Regina George mean girl, the airhead (Marilyn Monroe), and the background character used to emphasize the much more relatable and coveted tomboy figure (Twilight 2008). Someone between the rise of Barbie and now, ultra-feminine characters have lost their substance and we have misogyny to thank for that.
Let’s look back at second-wave feminism. This was a period in the 1960s when women sought to relinquish themselves from the gender binary. They challenged gender roles that placed them inferior to men and pink-collar jobs. To do this, they had to break from what society associated with womanhood, such as caring about your looks and appearance. As a result, femininity and feminism became separate entities. Now we see this in debates of whether or not you can be a “true feminist” if you shave your legs and wear makeup.
The media’s depiction of progressive or powerful women is often shown as tomboy characters who are well versed in being “one of the guys,” but unaware of how to perform femininity (Miss Congeniality 2000). To gain respect and be treated as equals women had to be “not like other girls. Femininity became evil with the creation of characters such as Regina George and Sharpay Evans. Being pretty, interested in your own appearance, or loving the color pink are now indicators of evilness. Tomboys have to be “one of the guys” instead of a woman who has different interests than their girly peers. Ultra-feminine girls need to be rude or dense or undergo a transformation to be worthy of the audience’s respect.
We must demand more from the media we consume. I want characters who are ultra-feminine and ultra-smart at the same time. Female characters aren’t seen as high maintenance because they put extra effort into their appearance. These characters should be able to be assertive and know what they want without being portrayed as divas. I want female characters who are multi-faceted in the media just as they are in real life. We need more Daphnes, Barbies, and Elle Woods no matter what Hollywood would lead you to believe.