Like many girls, I watched many, many romantic comedies when I was younger. I drooled over the love, the heartbreak, the laughs and the happy endings. I wrote about it, I dreamt about it – finding my one true love. These films and novels shaped my view of marriage and romance. However, as I aged and slowly started to learn what love and heartbreak truly felt like, I began to realize something.
All of these romantic movies and books are unrealistic – and sexist.
If you look into most (though not all) of them, they all consist of a plot surrounding one factor: The girl falls in love with the guy, gets her heartbroken and chases after him until she gets him, or until she finds a better man.
And with that comes the underlying message that a girl needs a guy to be happy. She doesn’t feel full until she is in love.
Where does this come from? The patriarchy. Centuries and centuries of men being in charge, of them being necessary to a woman’s life for financial and familial stability. But with these very unemotional requirements have grown more heartfelt questions. What would it be like if I finally met the perfect man? If I fell into this mystical, magical state called true love? In a perfect world, what would make me happy?
Unfortunately, for years it’s always boiled down to one thing: men.
Like I said, I used to write romantic novels all the time. I, too, fell into that trap of wondering what man would be perfect for me, would make me endlessly happy. Then, I realized: I don’t need a man to be happy.
No woman does.
From a young age, the necessity of male approval is embedded in our minds. And let me tell you: We’re better off without it.
Not only does this take away from a girl’s self-confidence – especially when she’s young and boys aren’t really focused on crushes or girls – but it also affects them later in life. It takes away their independence as they age and forces them to look to males for comfort.
I only just fell out of this mindset this last year, right after my Stanford acceptance; I realized that all the boys that had made fun of me for being smart or determined didn’t matter to me, because I was still thriving. All these movies where the girl is amazingly smart but takes it for granted and loses faith in herself because one boy doesn’t turn her way … They’re unnecessary.
Today, nearly a year after realizing this, I still indulge in romantic comedies every once in a while – but just for the fantasy and, more often, for the character analysis (what can I say, I’m a writer at heart). I’ve pulled away from writing romantic novels where the girl has to turn to a male figure for some realization in herself, writing instead about girls who grow their own self-confidence before shedding her beauty upon any man (or woman).
In today’s world, this girl-chases-guy cliché is way too worn out, and I’m ready to change it. Girls should know there’s more to life than boys who treat them like they’re unworthy of their time. Girls should know that they’re worth more than any man’s approval.
And that should be enough.
Contact Damian Marlow at ddrue ‘at’ stanford.edu.