When I first built this website, I knew I would need some motivational, sassy photos of girls ‘doing their thing’. But I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, or where to start looking.
Enter the miracle that is the internet search engine: the result of tireless research, correlation and cataloguing by umpteen technicians, that allows you to type in random specifics such as ‘small yellow dog in a red flower pot’ and receive – within seconds – a myriad of photos of sandy-coloured canines posing in crimson-painted pots. It’s clever, magical and brilliant.
So I searched for ‘women and girls in danger’. And the results shocked me.
Most of the pictures were of girls screaming. Accompanied by face-clutching, eye-popping and eyebrow-raising. Where were the girl heroes, climbing and swimming and running and fighting?
So I tried ‘brave women and girls’ instead. Maybe if I put the word ‘brave’ in, it would get rid of those petrified faces. These results shocked me even more. There were women wearing tight shorts and bikini tops, or ‘saucy’ military costumes, brandishing over-sized weapons and pouting at the camera.
On a rather cross whim, I decided to change my search and type in ‘men in danger’. A mighty feast of heroic images met my eyes: men climbing things, men on horseback, men swinging from ropes, men wrestling wild animals, men fleeing avalanches and men surfing great waves.
I tried ‘brave men’, too. Can you guess what happened? A mighty feast of heroic images met my eyes: men climbing things, men on horseback, men swinging from ropes, men wrestling wild animals, men fleeing avalanches and surfing great waves.
Now, if you browse this website or watch my videos you will see that I did find a great site with some fabulous images. And I’ve noticed, that if I do the same searches on the internet today, the pictures that appear are much more inspiring and far less stereotypical. But it frustrated me back then that the ‘go to’ images of women and girls in danger were ones where they were predominantly frightened … and that the ‘brave’ pictures were sexualised, fantasy figures. Where were all the real-life girls showing their natural pluck and spirit?
I think there is a lack of realistic girl heroes in books and films. Many brave girls are written into fantasy other-worlds, which are far-removed from our common experiences. It’s as if there is no place in the real world for girls to come out on top; no room for them to triumph. A female supehero is a marvellous thing – but being immortal and able to freeze the enemy to death with your own, hi-tech snot, has limited inspiration value compared to a regular gal who braves her fear of heights to save her friends using nothing but a shoe and a broken hair clip.
And that is why I want to write about real girls finding their feet in the face of danger. If girls and boys don’t read about ordinary girls succeeding, then they won’t write about them in their stories – and they won’t believe that girls have the power and resources to overcome difficulty beyond the page, either.
The stereotypes have to go. Then the real girls can find their feet and release their inner hero.