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George W. McMillian
Professor Mary Martin
English 110
22 October 2015

Don’t Be Such a Girl

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m sure you remember the echo of these
words from your early adolescence; I know I do. Reaccounting my kindergarten days, what I find
interesting is how my classmates and myself would respond when asked this question. I, like
many of the other boys, had my heart set on being a “tool-man,” an “army-man,” a “policeman,”
or a “fireman.” Notice the masculine nature (and suffix) of all these occupations? On the other
hand, most girls in my class wanted to be a “fairy-princess.” Some of the more ambitious girls
would shoot for something like a teacher or nurse. My point being, starting at young age, we are
conditioned to limit ourselves. Whether parents are aware of it or not, the things they say and do
in front of their children send subliminal messages of restriction, playing a powerful role in
whether or not we decide to follow our passions.
There is an overwhelming abundance of standards for boys and girls in the adult world as
it is. However, girls are evidently affected most drastically. Many would think that Hollywood
would be one of the few places where a woman might have the upper hand but recently, that’s
not the case. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is investigating several
Hollywood studios for discrimination including ageism, racism, “wageism”, and specifically
sexism. This conflict roots from the fact that studios refuse to hire women for directing positions.
After all, there have only been four women ever nominated for best director Academy Award. In


this year’s Academy Awards, the film Selma was nominated for best picture, however, the
director, Ava Duvernay, was not nominated for best director. This is the ninth occurrence of a
film being nominated for best picture while the female director was not nominated for best
director. Only one woman, Kathryn Bigelow, has won the award for the film, The Hurt Locker
(Vanity Fair, “Hollywood Gender Discrimination…”).
Even more surprising, there is a lack of women in front of the camera as well as behind it.
Actress, Geena Davis began to notice this unequal representation in her early acting-career in the
80’s. By the time she had her own child, she began to make efforts to change the absence of
women. When her daughter was 12, Geena sat down to watch kids’ programming with her and
and decided she must act. In 2006, she founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the
Media. She realized, not only are children subject to the way their parents raise them, but to the
entertainment industry and media which she was apart of. The institute has done extensive
research over the years, finding irrefutable evidence, opening the curtain to reveal the lack of
women’s roles in the entertainment industry. The institute concluded that in crowd or group
scenes in films, only 17 percent of the character were women. Davis is not alone in her research.
The University of Denver performed a study looking at the more important sectors of our society,
discovering that only 20 percent of authority positions are held by women (Vanity Fair, “Geena
Davis on Her Hollywood Campaign…”). With numbers like these being portrayed not only in
the real world, but in films, TV shows, and even the news, anyone who watches these forms of
media is being trained to accept this as reality.
Another world of talent faces many of the same issues: Athletes. In our society, the world
revolves around sports. Nearly every major US city has 2 or more professional sports teams, we
gather on Sunday’s for “Gameday,” and sports are implemented into our lives starting at a very


young age. Then what do we do when we’re told we can no longer participate in what we love
because of our gender? Dutee Chand, 18 year old track athlete from India, has experienced this
prejudice in a set of very unfortunate circumstances in July of 2014. Having already been the
national champion in the 100 and 200 meter dash, Chand was on track to compete in the 2016
Olympics. To her surprise, she was withdrawn from competition before she had a chance to
compete. After some tests, she was deemed ineligible to compete. Oddly enough, the tests had
nothing to do with health or even drug use. Abnormally high levels of testosterone were found in
her body and soon enough, the media was questioning her gender. In order to get back on the
track and to prevent future prejudice in women’s sports, Chand didn’t give up. She will not be
able to race for a year because of her refusal to partake in “corrective” treatment, including
testosterone suppressing therapy, but in the process, she has become a valuable piece of evidence
in the scientific debate on testosterone levels in female athletes (BBC Sports, “Sport & gender: A
history of bad science…”). Saddly, it’s taken these types of sacrifices, of people’s dreams, in
order to make progress in the world of gender prejudice. Even with these sacrifices, there are still
many issues underlying gender and it’s role in following our passions.
Typically, we observe that gender is becoming less and less of a factor in following our
passions. Fifty years ago, it was almost customary that the women of a household stay home to
take care of household duties and tend to the family. As the years have passed, this custom has
grown more and more historic… in most cases. Yet again, there is another rather surprising trend
in gender and it’s effect on following our passions.
It is widely accepted that women are the “experts” in fashion. There are even children’s
television series such as Spongebob Squarepants and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody where
female characters instruct the male characters in how to dress or act in order to improve their


style. Even with these social inventions, statistically, women are not even close to the leaders of
the fashion industry. Despite only 7 percent of students at Parsons School of Design in New York
City being male and 85 percent of students at the Fashion Institute of Technology (the other
leading fashion school in New York City) being female, the numbers simply don’t translate into
jobs. The fashion industry is dominated by men; more specifically, gay men. This is what’s so
strange about this particular career. The opposite has occurred here as opposed to what has
occurred in most other fields (The New York Times, “In Fashion, Who Really Gets Ahead?”). In
the earlier 20th century, women were almost the only leaders in the fashion industry. After World
War II, things seemed to take a turn with the rise of fashion names such as Bill Blass or Pierre
Cardin. Between then and now, men have taken over. Today, the fashion industry is split 60-40,
men boasting the bigger chunk. Additionally, The Council of Fashion Designers of America, a
fashion trade group, is composed of 156 men and 121 women (“Members” CFDA). There is no
question as to which gender has more influence on the fashion industry. It’s a very unfortunate
phenomenon. Due to the current success of men leading the industry, fashion companies often
look exclusively for men.
It’s difficult not to notice the trend in most of these careers that are menaced by gender.
They’re passions that are monumental in expression: athletics, theatre, fashion, and more. It’s
deeply saddening to know that some of the most invaluable, therapeutic, beautiful, and unique
careers of today have a very limited availability based on gender. These types of expression are
what give life to our individuality.
Lastly, the arts. The most vital part of human nature, not only as a passion, but as a tool to
tell stories and carry on ideas. After some exploration in modern and ancient art, I found that a
majority of the depictions in art work is of male characters. Approximately 70 percent are males


(Charlotte 136-148). The universal form of expression, art, has mostly depicted males. Not only
depicted them, but in dominant roles. Ultimately leading to a society that expects less of women.
Following our passions is difficult enough. It’s a risky idea to begin with and that’s why
I’m researching we people do or don’t follow theirs. I’ve come to a conclusion that sometimes it
may not be a choice. The cards we are dealt can have a big role in whether or not we have the
opportunity to follow our passions and even more so in whether or not we are successful in our
passions. Unfortunately, after extensive research, gender is undoubtedly one of those “cards.” On
a brighter note, we are advancing, slowly but surely. Regardless of our progress, it is as certain as
it is unfortunate: gender does indeed play a role in following our passions, specifically negative
towards women.


Wilson, Eric. "In Fashion, Who Really Gets Ahead?" New York Times. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

O'Kelly, Charlotte. Gender Role Stereotypes in Fine Art: A Content Analysis of Art History
Books. Vol. 6. 1983. 136-148. Print.

"When Is a Woman Not Woman Enough?" BBC Sport. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

"Geena Davis on Her Hollywood Campaign to Get More Women On-Screen." Vanity Fair. Web.
11 Nov. 2015.

"Hollywood Gender Discrimination Finally Receives Attention From Feds." Vanity Fair. Web.
11 Nov. 2015.