Glitter to Grit: Diversifying Female Representation and Why It Matters.



Wide eyed and awestruck, I would sit before an 18 inch television captivated by the images of white, small, and thin girls displayed upon the static, buzzing screen. Enchanted by the magical fairy tales of beautiful princesses finding their strength in princes who seemingly swept them away from their dangers. I would watch sleeping beauty be brought out of sleep by a magical kiss from a prince. I dreamed that my prince would save me. I imagined him sweeping me away and saving me from distress. After all, it was advertised that finding my prince was the best thing to do for myself.


I would walk along the aisles of Walmart, drowning in a world of fairytales and cinderella shoes. Barbies in dresses, pink everywhere, and fairy wands. This is the narrative and the seemingly only narrative that existed for girls.


These narratives polluted the world. If it wasn’t on TV, it was in the stores, it was in the books and just about anywhere our young eyes would fall upon.




There were fairy tales and then there was television and media, broadcasting a stereotypical household where the male was the breadwinner and the woman fell in line to the man. The message was deliberate and clear in what the female role was to both young and old -- You are not strong enough on your own. You must look beautiful in according to the societal standards. You are under the man. You do not have power without your “prince.”


What we see, affects how we see ourselves and I fell in line with the rest of the young females dreaming of the day when our prince would finally come and save us.


But for many, this is not what life looked like.


The media never portrayed women of color and how hardworking they were. You didn’t see the single mom working two jobs and supporting her children. You didn’t see the women who were fighting hard to become lawyers, doctors, and other professions that weren’t for “women.” There wasn’t a place for women who didn’t fit the stereotypical mold. Their stories were not told, they were not celebrated, and they were shoved to the side.


When we say female representation matters, this means all females. It’s not just models and celebrities. It’s not just the “ideal” American dream and dollar bill signs. It’s the women who have been overlooked and work their ass off day and night in hopes of better days for themselves and the next generations to come.


When we say female representation matters, this means the immigrants who have gone through hell and back. It means the women whose roots are from a different country. It’s the women of foreign backgrounds and culture. It’s celebrating the diversity, and creating a safe place for them and the stories they carry.


When we say female representation matters, it means we are representing young girls who don’t want to play kitchen or pretend. It means celebrating young girls who may not like princesses and fairies, and not demanding they do because it is “normal.” It means that the generations to come will feel more comfortable in their own skin and we cheer each other on.



When we say female representation matters, it means we are representing young girls who don’t want to play kitchen or pretend. It means celebrating young girls who may not like princesses and fairies, and not demanding they do because it is “normal.” It means that the generations to come will feel more comfortable in their own skin and we cheer each other on.

Representation matters, because it creates a place for all. The media and film has definitely progressed in this. It is more often that young girls and women can look at the screen and find an image of themselves. But this is not to disregard the work that needs to be done, because when we say female representation matters, it means all females. To the women before us who have fought so hard for us, to us who are continuing the fight -- let us remember to never become complacent and ease up.


Representation is not about how people want things to look like, fantasies, or the accepted idealism. It’s about people’s stories and realities that differ from their experiences and our own experiences. It extends to body image and the stories we tell. What are people pushing on social networks and various medias? Even in a trend of body positivity and celebration of different shapes and sizes, it still seems to be drowning in a push for a specific body type and standard.


Body shaming still thrives whether it’s from ourselves and comparison, or others and the media. What does this tell young girls? What does this tell women who do not fit the accepted “mold”? When we begin to represent a diverse community of women, we begin to chip at toxic systemic and societal structures that exist to oppress women.





Let’s talk about representation and why it matters. Let’s keep fighting for more representation.  Let’s talk about the little changes we can make in our lives, to social networks, media, and big screens. Because when we say female representation matters, this means looking at our own actions as well as the big picture. This means fighting the small things that are integrated in our lives we may not even notice. This means checking our own bias and confronting our responsibility.


In the words of Rachel Naomi Remen, a professor of integrative medicine and author, “Being safe is about being seen and heard and allowed to be who you are and to speak your truth.”


It seems that many oppose representation because it pushes them out of the picture. But that’s not the case. Representation is making space, for all. Girls can love princesses and girls can love dirt and trucks and the color blue. Women can stay at home and care for children, and women can be single and focused on a career. Women can be from a lineage of a caucasian race and it should be normal and accepted for women to be of different color and race — Not looked down upon. Representation is making space for everyone and their stories.


Representation is important and vital in being and heard. Whether it’s giving screen time to films and TV shows that celebrate girls who aren’t in dresses and crowns or to women of color and different roots. It’s changing the narratives media portrays and the ideals they broadcast.

Because being safe, starts with being seen and being heard.


Written by Sveta Petty

Photos by Sveta Petty

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© 2018 We Are Kathy: Their stories, her stories, our stories.

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