Cori “Coco” Gauff made history last week by becoming the youngest player ever to qualify for Wimbledon. That’s not all. The 15-year-old Gauff beat the five time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in her very first grand slam match. Her victory was a surprise to her as well and she thanked Venus and her sister Serena for inspiring her to reach where she stood now. Gauff had grown up watching the Williams sisters which is why tennis had become her life’s dream.
And dear people, this is why representation matters.
It is the year 2019 and media has become an integral part of our lives. Day in and day out we consume so much of media that we start believing what we are seeing and accept it as our reality. We start to treat it as our normal. And when there is a lack of female roles and characters in books, art, TV shows, movies, or news, it sends out a message. It says that women don’t matter which is then readily accepted as the norm no matter how distorted it is.
These are the distorted views of our society which are fed to the children too. Due to the lack of female voices and notions in the media, young girls are forced to grow up without any female role models whereas the boys have a plethora to choose from. This lack of female representation also teaches them from a young age that women have less value than men and that there are roads which only men can take. They start learning from a young age that there are things which only a man can be like a scientist or a race car driver. It becomes easy for boys to grow up into men who believe that a woman belongs only in the kitchen as this is exactly what they were shown.
The iconic movie Ghostbusters was remade with an all-female lead. It was a harmless reversal of gender roles and yet was greeted by a lot of criticism. However, that one picture of two young girls dressed up as the lead characters at the movie premiere, looking up to the actresses and talking to them showed the world the true impact that female representation in movies can make.
It is true that it took years for Disney to come up with a princess like Merida but it is also true that it led many young girls to take up archery as a sport. Similar were the results when Hunger Games came out in theatres. CSI broke TV records in the US and it also helped in increasing the number of women taking up forensic studies. J K Rowling gave young girls the opportunity to be like Hermione granger, the brightest witch of her age.
And when we are talking about the impact of female representation in movies, we cannot forget the one brought by Wonder Woman. This movie single handedly changed the way young girls and boys thought about themselves. In fact, it also filled adult women with confidence. It proved what all can be achieved if more movies were made with proper and adequate female representation.
The stories told through books, movies and TV shows are a form of art and art is supposed to reflect real life and human experiences. If it fails to do that, it cannot be called art.
Women are a part of the shared human experience and thus, it is important that they are represented too. Young girls deserve female role models. They too need to see relatable characters that look like them and talk like them. The media has the power to build a better future. It is high time that they bring hidden stories into limelight and create characters that have never existed so that the world gets to see more 15 year olds like Coco Gauff.