Friday 21 July 2017

Stereotypes & Women Breaking the Mould #StreamTeam #Ad @Netflix_CA

Looking to Netflix for examples of female trailblazers and women who break the mould. 

Disclosure: As a Netflix Streamteam member I receive special perks
 for my participation, post and sharing. All opinions are my own.

When I think of the term "Role Model" I think of someone whose behaviour, actions, convictions, and qualities make them worthy of admiration, imitation, emulation, and inspiration. That doesn't mean they're perfect or even successful in their pursuits, but that their motivation for saying or doing something is good, positive, and consistent with their beliefs and convictions. Role models are those who simply by doing what they do inspire engagement, conviction, action and often change in others.
I think our kids both need, and look for positive role models who exude qualities and core values that align with theirs. I also believe it's important for kids to have a sense of history and where they came from, in order to understand where they are, how they got there, and where and how they want their futures to unfold. Throughout history there are examples of women who break the mould, or at least add cracks to it, and over time change its shape. They're trailblazers that defy the restrictions and stereotypes of their time. I might not be able to get my kids to read a book about the history of feminism or about stereotypes, but I have a good chance of success at conveying information and starting a conversation by finding common ground through a show or series. 

Netflix can be an extremely helpful tool for segueing into important conversations, and an excellent way to draw attention to gender biases, stereotyping, and the depiction of women in the media and on screen. As parents I think it's important to give our kids guidance, context, and perspective on the constant barrage of media, images, and messaging they're exposed to on a daily basis. Given the speed of change for this generation, they may not realize many rights and freedoms they enjoy today were not available to their mothers or grandmothers. They might not understand the struggle and sacrifices made by women (and men) to secure these gains in women's rights and freedoms in regard to life choices in health, relationships, education, and careers. Without history and context our kids may fail to understand what is at stake, and why indifference to gender stereotyping, bias and inequality is not an option. One just has to look to the news, and the challenges we never imaged possible to rights and freedoms as proof that maintaining those gains is not a given. We need trailblazers more than ever to challenge the status quo, and stereotypes. More than ever our kids need role models.

Each generation of women has had to work within the restrictions placed upon them by stereotyping and inequalities often entrenched in the legal system. Each generation has had trailblazers that challenged the status quo and the way thinking of their time. Seeing how far women have come is an important part of understanding where we are now and, how far we still need to go. Being aware of, and calling out negative and limiting depictions of women, and questioning stereotypes is an essential part of the process. Otherwise these stereotypes and double standards will continue be used as excuses and justification to limit women based on gender.

Netflix has many examples of women rejecting the stereotypes of their time, finding ways to break the mould, and working around society's restrictions and barriers. These women forge ahead and find their own space and place in non-traditional ways, and act as an example to our kids that they don't have to accept the status quo, limiting gender roles, or others' definition of what being a woman means. 

Below are a list of period series with multiple examples of strong women who despite the restrictions placed on them by society find ways to define themselves and question society's stereotypes and prejudices. The women in these series all at some point struggle with questions about what is the just and right thing to do in the reality of the moment, and the potential consequences of their choices. 

Spoiler Alert: Although I've tried my best to have a meaningful discussion about the following series without giving away so many details that it spoils your viewing experience, you continue at your own risk.

Downton Abbey: (2015, TV-PG, 6 seasons)
The Crawley sisters, daughters to the Earl and Countess of Grantham are examples of completely different women who in their own ways push the boundaries of their position, class, and gender, and defy the stereotypes and prejudice of the time. 
Lady Mary, is the eldest child of the Earl of Grantham, but her gender disqualifies her as legal heir to Downton Abbey. Nonetheless she finds ways to wield influence over it's management and future. She seems determined to pursue happiness that's not merely defined by a husband or being married. Lady Mary is by no means perfect or even nice, but she's an example of a strong woman refusing to sit back and accept the status quo.
Lady Edith, is the quiet and often almost "forgotten" middle daughter. This may be why she's able to defy stereotypes and expectations of "proper" behaviour for a lady, by learning to drive, writing about Women's Sufferage, and running a magazine.  
Lady Sybil the youngest and most vocal and radical in her rejection of society's stereotypes and restrictions based on class, position and gender, constantly pushes the envelope of what is considered proper for an English lady of her time, much to the dismay of family elders. While her sisters are looking to make changes within their class, Sybil rejects the whole idea of class.    

Call the Midwife: (2016, TV-14)
This series is interesting in that some of the midwives/nurses are nuns, while others are not. Although the nuns are dressed in black and white it quickly becomes clear the issues this show tackles are definitely not. In contrast to the ordered rules and rituals of the nuns, are the nurses trying to figure out their role in a time of change. They see and respond to issues such as pregnancies out of wedlock, birth control and family planning, poverty, and illegal at the time abortion and homosexuality. Gender stereotyping and inequality is never more obvious then in relation to reproductive rights and sexuality. Each of these women are forced at some point to deal with their feeling about these issues, while still trying to do their job, and what is right for the health of baby and parents. Not always an easy task given the restrictive laws, norms and prejudices of the time. The midwives regularly face situations which force them to examine the validity of both their and society's prejudices, concepts of right and wrong, and stereotypes. Sometimes the right thing to do isn't necessarily the legal one.

The Bletchley Circle: (2014, TV-14, 2 seasons)
This series revolves around the lives of 4 women; Susan, Millie, Lucy and Jean who all worked as code breakers at Bletchley Park during WWII. As code breakers their work was not only classified but highly unusual positions for women to hold. The series is set post-war, with the main characters settled into traditional gender roles as wives and, or mothers. The group is brought back together when several women are murdered in London. After being largely ignored by male police detectives, they put the skills that got them hired as code breakers to work in an effort to link and solve the cases themselves.

Murdock Mysteries: (2016, PG, 3 seasons)
In this series both Doctor Julia Ogden and Doctor Emily Grace are pathologists, a position traditionally held by men. As pathologists, they try to reveal the details of a crime from the deceased often using unconventional approaches. They often face resistance to their use of new or less conventional techniques to reveal clues, as well as gender stereotypes that call their credibility into question. 

The Crown: (2016, TV-MA, 1 season)
At the age of 25, Queen Elizabeth takes the throne as head of the British Monarch. Not only is she young, but neither her sheltered life nor her education has prepared her for the very public and male dominated political arena. Balancing the challenges of her public and private roles as monarch, wife and mother are made even more difficult by the gender biases, and stereotypes of the time. 

The Pinkertons: (2015, TV-14, 1 season) 
Set in the 1860's, this series tells the stories of a father and son detective duo that team up with the first female detective in the "Wild West" (Kate Warne) to help solve crimes. She proves to be a smart, resourceful, brave and a successful detective despite, or maybe because of her gender. She also inspires other females to join the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

When Calls the Heart: (2015, PG, 2 seasons)
Elizabeth Thatcher is a young teacher from a privileged background, that embraces the challenges of teaching and living in a small coal mining town despite her parents objection, and the town's skepticism. Her parents think a teaching position in a coal town in beneath her station, while most of the town thinks she is too pampered and soft to survive the hurtles of teaching in the town's saloon with limited resources. Both sides think she is not suitable for the position because she is too much a lady. Both sides make assumptions based on class and gender stereotypes. But, Elizabeth not only survives, she thrives, and brings the town's people around to her modern approach to teaching. 

Why not spend some quality time with your tweens and teens watching one (or more) of these series, and then start a conversation.

Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about trailblazers and mould breakers.

Disclosure: As a member of the Netflix Streamteam I receive special perks for my participation, posts, and sharing. All opinions are my own. Images courtesy of Netflix.

1 comment :

  1. Always count on your great lists. I am going to watch When Calls The Heart next. Thanks.