When I went to pharmacy school in the late 1940s, I was one of only four women in my graduating class. Today, women dominate the industry. Yes, I call it an “industry” — it used to be a profession that required extensive knowledge about the purpose and preparation of natural substances — roots, berries, leaves, etc. — to help deal with health issues. That was before Big Pharma co-opted the profession. What used to be a noble, respected profession has become little more than a distribution system for Big Pharma drugs. Unfortunately, Big Pharma has also hijacked the medical profession, making many, if not most doctors unwitting participants in Big Pharma’s distribution chain.
I’ve digressed a bit but what I am getting at is that “back in the day” women with spunk and determination did what they wanted to do and accomplished what they set out to do and they didn’t need to be liberated or “empowered” to achieve their goals. So what if only four women in my class wanted to become pharmacists? Opportunity was open to everyone. Yes, as a woman, maybe you had to work a little harder to earn your props, but that’s okay. It was challenging. It toughened you up for the real world.
We weren’t aware we were trailblazers — ambitious women studying to be in a profession dominated by men. We wanted to be more than secretaries or sales clerks in a department store. I intended to work with my father in his drug store as did an older sister before me. Why the other women were there, I don’t recall, except we all wanted to be married at the end of the journey. Two of us achieved that goal. I married a teaching assistant (who didn’t think I was the sharpest knife in the drawer and needed a lot of help) who would go on to get his doctorate in organic chemistry and become a college professor. I wasn’t so dumb after all.
Fast forward to the status of women today. A contemporary model for a woman is a “kickass woman” (yes, that crude moniker has become acceptable). Basically, a kickass woman is as strong and invincible as Superman. She doesn’t need a man for anything — including romance. How do I know that? I recently read an article, “On TV Everywhere, Kickass Women Rule” and it’s an eye-opener.
Citing countless TV shows in which “kickass women rule”, the author of the article explains, “Virtually all of these strong women, however, have relationships with men, report to men, or are otherwise dependent on men to some degree. I was hoping Supergirl was strong enough to be an exception, but they had to eventually give her a love interest as well. I wonder if this has more to do with the conservativeness of broadcast executives, writers thinking they need to be more traditional for a broadcast network . . .” The author also writes, “Virtually all of these women have overcome, defeated, pushed aside, or killed domineering men who threatened or abused them.”
God forbid that Supergirl should have a love interest! That would feminize (weaken?) her too much, I suppose. And absolutely, too many men are abusive and domineering. Clearly, such cowards do not value women. Has our culture figured out why it’s happening? A laundry list of causes could be recited but the bottom line is, I don’t think our culture really wants to look at or fix root causes.
This new image of what a woman is supposed to be is troubling for several reasons. For one thing, it overshadows or ignores heroic traditional women who are mentally and physically strong and capable yet have the capacity to love and be tender, lovable and caring. It turns off young women who want a traditional relationship with a traditional man. I recently sat next to a 30-ish woman who was reading a romance novel and she had 3 more romance novels in her lap. (Romance writers are prolific — they churn out romance with lightening speed on a regular basis because fans need a constant supply of “new” experiences.) I tried to engage the woman in conversation to discover why she was reading what she was reading, but she wasn’t having any conversation. She was totally “into” her love story.
The proliferation of TV shows and movies that portray women as cold, masculinized “kickass women” — what effect does it have on teens and young women and men who are still developing a sense of who they are and what a “real woman” is supposed to be, how she should be treated, and what constitutes a healthy relationship?
I am currently reading Sex Scandal with the subtitle, “The Drive to Abolish Male and Female” by Ashley McGuire. In light of my awareness that mannish, gender-warped “kickass women” are a role model for today’s woman, I can’t help but wonder where it’s all going. And then I remember the current drive to make restrooms gender free, the promotion and acceptance of transgenderism, and I do have to wonder if the model of the traditional woman who is strong, capable and competent yet lovable and loving, is destined to be phased out, a relic of the past.