Sunday, February 19, 2012

Superheroines for Gender Equality?

In the 1960's through 1980's, when superheroines were emerging as prominent figures in pop culture, they had a definite effect on the liberation of women. From all-female comics to influential figures like Rosie the Riveter, women finally had representatives on their behalf, strong role models that could help them achieve the equality and recognition that they wanted. However, did this really turn out the way it was planned? Did this emergence of powerful superwomen help or hurt the female population? In an article on this topic, author Cari Jean questions the effects of these incredible women on our society. She brings up the idea of "Superwoman Syndrome", and the idea that maybe these women that purportedly can "do it all" set impossibly high expectations for real-world women. In the article, she addresses the historical importance and context for superheroines in 20th century pop culture, but it is primarily about the negative effects and symptoms of this issue.

Miranda Redinger also brings up the negative effects of the "Superwoman Syndrome" in her article. In fact, she seems to advocating that the sexes return to their original "designated duties", so that we may maintain balance in our daily activities. She believes that in redefining responsibilities and rights, women have increased their problems and stress, and actually relieved men of the responsibility they once had, contributing to what she calls "Peter Pan Syndrome", or these men never growing up.

What do you think of this? Are these valid points, or is this idea of "Superwoman Syndrome" simply a scapegoat for the pressures of daily life? Do women really feel "exhaustion, over-extension and a nagging guilt that we are fulfilling all of our duties insufficiently"? Would it have been better if women continued to live as housewives, without "trying to juggle, family, career and social activities" and feeling "pressured to be able to do it all"??


  1. I agree with the idea of Superwoman Syndrome that Cari Jean writes about in the first article. Woman of the 21st century are under a lot of pressure to manage demanding professional careers, managing a family, maintaining physical appearance and partaking in social events. On the other hand, I do not believe that women would have been better off continuing as housewives and accepting inequality. The problem stems from the fact that women took on a larger professional role and maintained the same role in managing a household. I think that if men take on a more active role in family affairs and household duties then women would be less overwhelmed. This a generalization due to the fact that their are many men who greatly participate in family affairs, however, so is Superwoman Syndrome. There are women who do not feel this way but I think that many of women in todays society feel the effects of an exhaustive daily schedule. I think it comes down to examining why most men don't suffer from "Superman Syndrome". Could it be that besides their career they less to manage in their lives?

  2. I definitely disagree with the argument made by Miranda Redinger. Women have come to far to escape back to their "original roles" in society. These kind of attitudes contribute majorly to the slow progress of total gender equality. I think that this kind of attitude is a scapegoat. I do agree that there is a lot of pressure for woman to "do it all"- manage a career, family, household, healthy diet. I mean go read an issue of Cosmo, or an article about First Lady Michelle Obama. Yes, women should have high aspirations in their lifestyles, but what women need is a balance. Regressing back to a stereotypical 1950's Donna Reed society shouldn't be our only option. Women should still be given a choice as to what they want for their life. I agree with Alexandra's comment on how men should take a more active role in a household. I guess it comes down to the individuals, and how they want to live their lives, but society shouldn't hold us back from a fulfilling life.

  3. I agree that women can be overwhelmed by the pressures that society puts on them to juggle many different things at the same time and seeing a superheroine balance them so effortlessly can make it even harder. However, reverting to the role of a housewife would not be a reasonable solution. Instead, this would make it seem as if the superheroines in the media are flaunting their independence and ability to take on many responsibilities. What matters now is that women have the opportunity to have many things to do, even though the stress of handling them is overwhelming at times.

  4. I agree with the statement that recently women have been expected to "juggle" more things than just being a little housewife. However, I think we forget that back in the 1700's, being a housewife did not mean take out your vacuum or throw a frozen pizza in the oven for household chores. These women had to work equally as hard as the men in order to take care of their house and children.

    As technology improves, saving time and effort, our responsibilities naturally change as well. Women in the early 20th century were finding more time on their hands due to the efficient technology that was being invented. I s think this is one of the reasons why they saught jobs elsewhere. I think that according to this article, women are expected to "handle too much," but in all honesty, it is probably the same amount of work that they used to put in when they were just "little housewives." I think that there should definitely be equality of work, but I don't believe women are taking on too much. Superheroines do not normally have families to take care of because of their dangerous jobs, but they're still working hard doing "manly" jobs instead.

  5. The argument that Miranda Redinger makes is so interesting! I get so caught up in thinking that superheroines provide an outlet for women to step out of their societal stereotypes of a housewife that I never would have never considered the idea that their influence could be having a negative effect on women. However, I think that it’s sad that women feel as if they cannot attain the examples that superheroines set for them! I don’t think that superheroines set an example about what all women SHOULD do, but rather provide a goal for what all women are capable of doing. I think that the role of superheroines is to provide inspiration that women can be more than just homemakers rather than provide an expectation of a woman’s role in society.

  6. I thought feminism was about choices: having the option to work, to chose your own life, without being forced to be the "little woman," caring for the kids with no hope of a career outside the home...

    At varying points in my 20-year marriage, I have been the primary breadwinner, secondary breadwinner and now full-time caregiver to our daughter. I don't consider being a housewife a "step back," and am pretty insulted by anyone who'd suggest otherwise. My daughter is autistic, and as such, requires me to be a little bit more available than parents of neurotypical kids. It's not possible for her to be a latchkey kid, and having a job that only gives me hours between 9 and 3, and time off when she is out of school is tricky. I've worked from home doing various things, but nothing that has enabled me to pay bills in any significant way. Since my husband is the one with the professional career, it's just sensible for him to be the breadwinner. Had I been the one to go to law school, maybe the situations would be reversed, but they aren't.

    I don't think I have now, or ever had, Superwoman Syndrome. I know I can't do it all, and don't *want* to. I have quite enough pressures without failing to attain some false idea of perfection, fed to me by Madison Avenue or comic books. Personally, what I see as far more damaging to women isn't the role of superheroines in comics, but the way the artists and writers interpret them. There are many fine and courageous examples of womanhood in comics, but who'd know it by merely looking at the illustrations?!

  7. My intention was not to convey that women should go back to stereotypical roles (nor to appear condescending to anyone who chooses that path). I am grateful for my education and career, and agree that the solution is for men to step up domestic duties and bring more balance and equality to homes and families. My first question is what will be the trigger to do that now that some of the financial pressure has been relieved?

    There is a common trap that many relationships get snared in, where the woman does more than her share because it is important to her that everything be done to a reasonable standard. If the man does not willingly take responsibility, she can end up becoming a nag. The result is often that she builds resentment about the imbalance, while he builds resentment about feeling constantly berated. This can become a self-perpetuating downward spiral.

    My second question is how can modern superwomen use their powers to encourage men to put down the beer and the remote and do the dishes without either party feeling belittled, taken for granted, or resentful?


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