As a teenager, I would never think that I was supposed to follow any gender roles thanks to an ethically correct environment. However, stereotypes indeed ruin girls’ personal development throughout the world. For example, people still think that martial arts are not girly and that girls cannot get interested in them without a severe reason. When I got involved with martial arts and started facing confusing reactions to it, it made me start praising pre-feminist works like Little Women.
Most of the time, girls still face obstacles in their personal development because of gender roles . When I was a teenager, I wanted to try martial arts. I did not pay attention to any social norms which would distance me from getting involved with a “boyish” hobby. For example, I got involved with martial arts thanks to history class. It made me believe in the nobility of martial arts. However, when I started to tell my friends about my new interest, they did not understand me well because of the rarity of my case. The Polish system INDARES can prove that martial arts are indeed ranked lower by girls (Kudláček table 3). It is a sign of the uneven informational and social access to this sphere between boys and girls.
It allowed me to pay attention to the history of women in martial arts. Judging by the responses in my environment, people continue to associate women in martial arts with the noble youth. At first glance, it is not abusive. However, it indeed discriminates girls and women. Some of them can doubt the righteousness of their interest in martial arts if they lack appropriate social or financial statuses. It is not a secret that taking hobby-related classes can be expensive. Nevertheless, people do not make an accent on it in other spheres which are not tagged to be boyish or girly. My classmate thought that I was emphasizing the historical trace of women being engaged with martial arts like fencing because I was charmed by aristocracy. This hit me with the realization that social biases prevented my friends from getting my message in the right way. I did not want to become an aristocratic woman, I simply liked martial arts.
This revelation made me appreciate works like Little Women by Louis May Alcott due to their attempt to contradict these stereotypes. The book observes the way women have to be brought up in the environment according to the gender roles from the very start (Bender p. 140). Alcott makes a step against social predispositions. The story becomes feminist even though it was released yet at the very beginning of the rise of the feminist movement. The plot can relate to social predispositions, which make it difficult for girls to explain their intention to study martial arts. For example, people can think they do it because of being afraid of men (Nair par. 2). However, it cancels the purpose of martial arts, which is full of philosophical and ethical ideas. Bringing such seemingly innocent topics in public works can finally make the audience pay attention to these psychological details, which demonstrate people’s addiction to gender roles and reasoning errors.
In conclusion, the way people reacted to my involvement in martial arts made me reevaluate the feminist input of such works as Little Women. The representation of gender roles in Little Women can prove the audience the need to change social realms and to improve equality. While people are used to following gender roles, it can have a negative impact on the way they understand girls’ needs, desires, and capabilities.
Bender, Clare. “Gender Stereotyping in Little Women: “Let Us Be Elegant or Die!” MJUR, http://research.monm.edu/mjur/files/2019/02/MJUR-i08-2017-8-Bender.pdf. Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.
Kudláček, Michal. “Gender Differences in Preferences in Martial Arts.” Archives of Budo, 2015, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282950282_Gender_differences_in_preferences_of_martial_arts_in_Polish_adolescents. Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.
Nair, Karthika. “10 Things Women Learning Martial Arts Are Tired Of Hearing.” Feminism in India, 2015, https://feminisminindia.com/2015/06/30/10-things-women-learning-martial-arts-tired-hearing/. Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.
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