“Who do you want to be when you grow up?”
We’ve been asked this question millions of times and it has transformed slowly during the time.
As you grow up you are faced with concrete choices such as school, university or a potential job and this question takes on a totally different weight, losing a little bit the aura of magic that accompanied those big eyes full of imagination that we had as children. Unfortunately, even today "who you want to be" often contrasts with the reality of "who you must or can be". This gap can be fuelled by several factors, including one's gender.
Since childhood, society gives us two prototypes of life based on different priorities: a girl's game will be recognized by the fact that it will probably concern the care of the house or the figure of the future mother who will take care of the children; a boy's game, however, will emphasize how strong and brave he must become once he becomes a man, just like a superhero. As a result, two distinct figures will be delineated in the minds of future women and men, so much so that they will be recognized as specific parameters to be included: sensitivity and dedication to the care of the family and fascination to please one's man as far as the female figure is concerned; intelligence and superiority as far as the male figure is concerned. If these characteristics are not respected, further clichés may arise, as a domino effect: a strong and independent woman will probably be seen as hateful and insensitive and often her ability to play certain roles or the very fact that she can play them thanks to her sole determination and willingness will be questioned; judgments that we would never attribute to a man. On the other hand, if a man shows vulnerability and emotions he will be judged as a looser or a “girl”: just to emphasize in a derogatory way how male and female must necessarily have different and well-defined peculiarities.
Of course, many changes have occurred, especially thanks to a strong feminist movement which for a long time has been fighting for equal rights for men and women. The world is changing all the time, and even compared to only twenty years ago many approaches have been changed. Nowadays, social networks have an extremely important value: with a simple "share" it is possible to give voice to one's thoughts and a face to one's image, even at a distance of kilometres. As in every sector, there are negative figures who appear to be slaves to their resources, not realizing the immense power they possess. An example is given by some so-called "influencers" who, aspiring to beauty standards that do not conform to health parameters, encourage young girls to emulate unhealthy lifestyles. While there are other extremely positive figures, who use the means at their disposal to create connections between people, uniting them and proposing real models to follow, such as the very young Greta Thunberg who is inspiring the new generations - and not only - towards a sense of eco-sustainable everyday life for the protection and respect of our planet. Models such as Greta, allow even the youngest to feel part of a great project that sees, among other things, a young teenager get confronted with the world's greatest leaders on issues of fundamental importance, thus becoming a source of inspiration even for those girls who grow up in a society that still often promulgates profoundly sexist ideas.
The positive impulses that develop from the idea of an increasingly "equal" future are largely supported by many characters and directors from the film and cartoon world. We can therefore appreciate protagonists such as the heroine "Captain Marvel", the young and stubborn Princess Merida in "Rebel - The Brave" or an independent Elsa in "Frozen". These female figures have in common the desire to save their people or their families, taking all the risks that such a choice involves and showing strength, courage, loyalty, cunning, intelligence and power: characteristics that past generations have been able to admire almost exclusively in male heroes, while in very few cases they were recognizable in characters thought to be female. If most of the references little girls have, during their early years, are about princesses locked in a tower waiting to be saved by a beautiful prince charming, then they will probably sediment in their imagination a perspective that puts them in subordination to someone else. A future woman will probably feel totally at ease in the midst of a group of men when she feels that she is exactly like them. This is why proposing reference models from childhood that are useful for the achievement of equity will have the effect of an increasingly rapid evolution of society itself.
Translated by Francesca Cioffi
Original version by Francesca Oggiano