Why I think infantilising ‘femininity’ in mainstream media and Hollywood is damaging to both men and women (and why I think it’s ok to be a woman).

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In this blog I explore the impact of ‘infantilising’ femininity, which has often been taught to us through mainstream media, popular culture and children’s entertainment. By this term, I mean showing women as incredibly young to the point of child-like, with no wrinkles, small waist and big bust, character traits that include naivety, ‘innocence,’ never setting any boundaries, letting everything happen to her without any awareness, being at the man’s beck and call, being reliant on the male gaze’s approval, seeking assurance from men, having less money and property than men (or none at all), and any ‘fierceness’ in characters, often portraying women fighting against the dominating father figure, attempting to ‘fight the patriarchy’ by sacrificing herself for her father’s unhappiness.

Without knowing it, the majority of children’s entertainment, media coverage and mainstream film shows women as the role of the ‘infant’ and men as the ‘father-figure’ or sometimes even ‘priest-like’ status, honouring the women with his approval or ‘permission’ to exist. Often women in ‘adulthood’ character roles – i.e. wise, loving, fierce, sets boundaries, thinks for herself, intuitive, works with nature, is naturally beautiful and is over the age of 22, and worst of all… single – gets demonized in these character roles for being an adult, and for being in her power.

In a lot of these narratives, men are shown as playing ‘God,’ and you could argue that this sometimes extends to phallic symbols of power, as a contrast to the infantilised version of women who are trying to avoid ‘sin,’ – the ‘sin’ of growing up and being who you are, and the fear of being ‘left-behind’ in this patriarchal system if she doesn’t find a man, and being ostracised instead. Before the pandemic, people may not have been attending church that much any more (in the UK anyway), but I would argue a lot of the narratives that endorse punishing yourself, creating a system where some people benefit, and some people suffer, creating a sense of fear if people don’t behave in a certain way, or creating a system where children are bearer’s of ‘original sin,’ the Adam and Eve story that no-one deserves abundance, no-one deserves to live in the Garden of Eden and eat the fruit from the tree unless you’ve got written permission from God, is still in the ‘mainstream.’ These stories of self-loathing are still going ‘Live.’

I would argue it’s time to change the record. I would argue we all deserve to be here, and we all deserve to be ourselves. We all deserve to live a beautiful, loving and amazing life, in our fullness and in abundance. In our divine femininity and in our divine masculinity, through compassion and kindness. We are all just love.

LGBTQ+: Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine

I think it’s also interesting that the majority of lead character roles and dynamics in mainstream media and popular culture are heterosexual and monogamous. I would argue this in itself, is a control mechanism to create money for some, and create division and suffering for many. I would also argue… what have people got to hide? Why are they hiding representation of gay, lesbian, bi and trans people, for example, most of the time in mainstream narratives? What’s really going on here? Why, when I tried to do a paid promotion of the Bi in the 2000s LGBTQ+ merchandise series that I’ve created, did it get rejected as something to promote on Instagram? Why are we still being pushed towards this single narrative of ‘one way’ to be, one way to have a relationship, and potentially, a family unit?

Is the institution of marriage really the only way? And what is the social impact of forcing people into legally binding relationship dynamics that some people would never have naturally chosen? I would argue this is another example of the repression of femininity and masculinity, in different ways. This censorship of alternative narratives is one of the main reasons I created the Bi in the 2000s merchandise range about LGBTQ+ and universal love – people need to keep talking about this. (Find out more here: anna-frances.com/shop).

Mainstream media and the porn industry

I’m certainly not the first person to question this unequal portrayal of femininity in media and culture, and there have been a lot of amazing alternative narratives, stories and films that have been, and are still being created – however, even now I struggle to see these alternative narratives in mainstream streaming sites such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and mainstream music, film and literature. You could argue the issue is even more intensely present in the porn industry, which often casts women with not a pubic hair in sight, and with some women that have had multiple plastic surgery operations, to try and achieve the look of this infantilised version of femininity. In most cases, they’re trying to look like they were as a child and teenager – hairless, wrinkleless, slim and just starting puberty. And who watches the most porn? Statistically, it’s men. And what happens when people watch porn? They watch it alone, and they are conditioned into thinking it’s real-life.

What’s the day-to-day impact of this social conditioning, either through mainstream media or mainstream porn?

From my personal experiences, the times where I felt most in fear of adult men (it wasn’t often my peers), was when I was between the ages of 14 and 19. I’d get cat-called on a daily basis from men beeping at me and shouting at me through the window of their white van as they drove past – sometimes in my school uniform, sometimes just walking to my friend’s house. I’d get random men sat next to me and leaning on me on the bus. I’d get groped in clubs by men I never knew and never even made eye-contact with. I had builders on scaffolding literally give me a ‘mark out of 10’ as I walked past. Sometimes I’d be critiqued for being ‘too attractive’ and sometimes I’d be critiqued for being ‘not attractive enough.’

Sometimes I’d be called a ‘whore’ or a ‘slut’ by random men who’d just drive or walk past that I’d never met. Sometimes I’d be called ‘ugly,’ and sometimes I’d be called ‘fit.’ Either one wasn’t great – I felt constantly watched, observed and judged. It was a scarey time, and by the time I hit 21, I’d left my hometown in south east suburbia and moved to a city, I had more curves, I knew how to stand my ground a bit more, and a lot of the above (with a few exceptions – I did still get beeped from van drivers sometimes) pretty much stopped. Obviously there were other prejudices that continued (e.g. the pay gap) but that’s another blog for another time..

The treatment I received from these random men as a teenager while I was walking around my hometown is exactly why I’m writing this blog. Why did men at the time treat me like a hyper-sexualised object when I was teenager and going through puberty, but not so much when I was an adult? Why was it that when I was a size 8, not a wrinkle on my face, still getting taller (I stopped growing when I was about 17) with not a curve on my body, transitioning from a child to an adult, did I get cat-called, but not so much as an adult? Where did people get this idea, that I would ever have been interested in them in that way, as someone that had barely just started their period? Where did people get this idea, that as a young woman, I didn’t have any feelings, and I deserved to be publicly harassed, bullied and shamed by adult men I’d never even met? Why were even the teenage boys I was at school with treating me better than these adult idiots? Where were things SERIOUSLY going wrong in my hometown? I never signed up for this. Seriously.

The only conclusion I can possibly reach right now, is that people were taught this. I saw this happening so many times, where boys that I was at school with started very kind, and often very easy to talk to, and by the end of school, were very angry, were difficult to talk to, and were sometimes very mean. To me, it was obvious that the gender division was created. The anger, resentment and meanness definitely wasn’t there when I first started school, and I saw it happen with most boys as they made their way through school.

What next for divine masculine and divine feminine and how we move forwards?

I feel like at the moment, following the recent murder of Sarah Everard in South London (and unfortunately many other cases like this before hand, where women have been physically assaulted and attacked by men) many people are feeling a bit afraid of the future, and how to move forwards when thinking about gender, and when thinking about our relationships with our colleagues, friends, partners, family, acquaintances and people we’ve never even met, and maybe never will.

I think this division energy is strong at the moment, in terms of how we think about gender, and I think that we will always work it out, and I think in order for things to change, people need to say how they feel. I think part of the issue here, is that people have felt in the past like they can’t say how they feel. They’ve felt silenced, censored, ignored, put-down, mocked, disrespected and in some cases left out completely. This can create a culture where only some are seen as ‘worthy of being here’ and some are seen as ‘invisible’ or not here on this world at all.

The ‘cult of the celebrity,’ and institutional power

I think the cult of celebrity has added to this sense of ‘worthiness’ or ‘unworthiness’ in how we view ourselves and others, and I think the control of communications of who can have their say and who can’t, is also massively relevant at the moment. Recent controversies often get unreported in mainstream media, particularly for individuals who are considered to have ‘celebrity status.’ I think the cult of celebrity can be extended to politicians and political leaders, as things rise to the surface, and then quickly get pushed under the radar by mainstream press, often because these celebrities have connections that give them a powerful advantage. It’s common to see actions by those in the public eye being ignored for some time, and it’s only after legal action has been taken that certain allegations are taken seriously and shared in mainstream media. Censorship of certain stories that have emerged can also be seen by social media giants, with the content shared censored, and people’s data at risk.

Despite the general curve of what’s reported and what’s not, I also think it’s worth noting that it’s not always men that hurt women. I think this narrative rooted in the gender binary is limiting, because I think it’s true to say that sometimes men hurt men, sometimes women hurt men and sometimes women hurt women (I think this goes for adults hurting adults, and adults hurting children). As more things come to the surface, I think it’s important to note that abuse, violence and assault is never acceptable, regardless of your gender, it needs to be taken seriously.

Despite what celebrity culture might teach us, the reality is, everyone is just themselves, and everyone has a right to be here, and to say how they feel. I have spoken in previous blogs about what I mean between ‘toxic’ masculinity and femininity, and what I mean by ‘divine’ masculinity and femininity. I personally think that if all we are shown in the media is the ‘toxic masculine’ as ‘dominators of the earth’ then that is what we will learn to accept, in our external world, and how we view ourselves, whilst remaining blinkered to the unreported narratives that sometimes the people that we trust in the public eye (regardless of their gender) may be writing themselves into a more peaceful narrative than may actually be the case. Even with increased censorship, people are still managing to speak out.

I think it’s important to recognise that everyone is part of all there is, and what some people are doing to others (and getting away with it by hiding behind certain illusionary narratives, either because of their ‘celebrity status,’ or because they’re hiding behind certain institutional structures that are considered ‘safe’ and have authority in our society, e.g. the family home, church, the government, hospitals, schools, nurseries and the care system) is against Natural Law.

In society, abuse is often censored in the media, because it’s often the powerful elite that are either doing this, or are in some way ‘cashing-in’ on this happening. People are still afraid to talk about this in many industries, because they’re afraid they might lose their jobs. In 2016, 40.3 million people were considered to be in modern day slavery, with 4.8 million people being the victim of forced sexual exploitation (unseenuk.org). This statistic is worrying, especially considering we never read about it in mainstream media, and I’m hoping for change.

I think speaking out is essential, to realise that men are people, and women are people. No-one is God here, and no-one deserves to be treated like they’re worthless, enslaved or illegal. Everyone deserves to exist. And everyone deserves to say how they feel.

How can we heal the masculine and feminine?

I think that some women are afraid men don’t really respect them, and I think that actually some men are afraid that women don’t respect them. It’s obvious that within all of us is love, and any behaviour that is violent, is done from a place of mental illness, not a place of love. Abuse, violence, assault, and anything under those categories, is unacceptable. Our society needs to heal form the idea that 1.) people in power are above Natural Law, and would never do anything wrong to hurt anyone (by ‘in power’ I mean institutionally as well as those in the public-eye), and 2.) heal from the idea that we have to dominate others in order to be a good-enough person. It’s never ok to hurt others, even if you feel you were hurt yourself.

If people are acting violently, I would argue this is often because they have been hurt themselves, and if people are still hurting others, then I would argue that if left unaddressed, this cycle, in most cases, is likely to continue. The urgent message is: people have to take responsibility for their own healing, their own actions, and act now.

I don’t think that there is such as thing as a ‘gender binary’ but I do think there is such a thing as love. I think people are themselves, and I think both women and men, are currently feeling separated by fear. I think without the fear, it becomes easier for us to recognise that we are all part of all there is. Without the fear, it becomes easier for us to recognise that we are always part of the world. Without the fear, it becomes easier for us to recognise that we are always part of love, because love is all there is.

I hope that things change. I hope that the media, the entertainment industry, the children’s entertainment industry, find a way to say how they feel, without creating representations of people that are afraid, separate, abused (both emotionally and physically), and suffering.

Love is all there is

I think many people don’t believe that love is real. They think that God abandoned them, that they came here to suffer, to struggle, to live in lack, to live in ‘sin’, to live in hell. But the reality is, God is part of all there is, because love is all there is. Lack isn’t needed, because we will always find what we need. Struggle isn’t needed, because we will always find what we need. Abuse isn’t needed, because we are all worthy of being who we truly are. And finally, God is real, because you are you. You are amazing. And you will always be you. We are all a spark of divine light. And the ‘Garden of Eden’ that we were told about as children, is not separate from us, it’s within everyone. There is always enough for everyone. It’s always possible to be you, and to live in Heaven on Earth, without suffering, and in abundance.

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