Christina Aguilera is a fighter. Beyonce is an independent woman. You’ve heard the songs and received the messages: women don’t need a man to be happy. But we’ve known this for a while, haven’t we?
Throughout the decades, women in the media have gone through many social changes. In the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, most shows, such as Leave It To Beaver, I Love Lucy and The Brady Bunch portrayed women as stay-at-home moms, complete with frilled aprons, sparkling children and spatula in hand as their husbands come through the door with the famous line, “Honey, I’m home!”
[single] Moving on to the ’80s and ’90s, that stay-at-home mom changed. Many of the shows during this period were family oriented but instead of the classic Carol Brady image, moms were working. Roseanne, for instance, worked at a diner, and Mrs. Huxtable of The Cosby Show>/I> was a lawyer.
Entering the new millennium, women on television, in movies and in songs have completely discarded the homebound image. Sex in the City featured a group of women experimenting with several relationships while also balancing their friendships and careers. Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter” boasts about how her negative experience with a cheating man showed her she could pull through and stay strong. It can be argued these women are showing their independence en masse.
It’s no secret that the media is marketing to the single woman. Andrea Stavoe, biochemistry junior, noticed this but doesn’t necessarily consider it positive. “I think that most media that promotes [single women] overdoes its promotion,” Stavoe said. “It’s sending mixed messages to young women.” Suddenly it is valued to a be single woman in society, but has never been questioned for single men and this may be a result of the bachelor/old maid double standard that exists for women.
According to Marilyn Sylvan Thompson, a psychotherapist in East Lansing, the emergence of single women in the media was bound to happen. “There are more women than men, especially among older people, so it makes sense that there are single women,” she said. With many women and men opting for more single year, it seems natural that the housewife of the ’50s would eventually evolve into the modern woman.
From the happy housewife to the independent woman extraordinaire, women have proved that some women are happier being single and having a sense of independence that proves to be more powerful.
Dr. Maria Bruno, associate professor of writing, rhetoric and American cultures on campus, believes the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s may have played a role in helping women realize what they wanted their place in society to be. “Women began to examine their own roles and wanted other options besides being wives and mothers who stayed at home and loved housework,” Bruno said. “Professional women were getting tired of their second-class status. Popular culture begins to reflect these kinds of tensions.”
[maria] According to Thompson, though the media may not always show it, it is possible for happy and single to exist in the same sentence. “[A single woman] can build her self-esteem without it being eroded by someone who doesn’t want to share power,” Thompson said. “She can feel freer and less burdened than her counterparts in committed relationships.”
Michelle, an accounting sophomore who would like her last name withheld, agrees. “There’s nothing tying you down,” she said. “You can live the swingin’ bachelor life and have everything how you want it.”
Bruno notes that the idea of being alone and OK is nothing new, and this wave of independent-woman television shows won’t cause another bra-burning era in the near future. “Feminism already suggests it’s OK to be alone,” she said. “You don’t have to have a man to be complete. That’s been around a very long time.”
We’ve come a long way since women were expected to be clones of Mrs. Brady. Now women are allowed to be leather-clad crime fighters by night, and shy, quiet writers by day. Michelle thinks this is a step in the right direction. “We have gone a long way for women’s equality, but we’re not there yet,” she said.
However, Bruno thinks traditional images may never die. “We will always revere the Mother image, for instance,” she said. “And the career girl. But the robotic Stepford Wife who gets thrilled over her clean toilet bowl – she may not resurface.” Hell, I’d take women’s liberation over a clean toilet any day.

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