Young men need female role models

Illustration by Tonesha Yazzie

Women as role models are critical for the positive development of young men.

The media industry has seen a massive shift toward the inclusion and advancement of women in powerful roles. The casting of actress Gal Gadot as DC’s Wonder Woman is a great example of someone using their profession to become a role model for young women and men alike. According to an interview with BBC, Gadot is against competition between genders.

"It's not about women versus men any longer, and who is better or stronger than who,” Gadot said. “There's enough room for all of us — and boys and girls, women and men should remember that.”

Women in power have great influence over the development of young men as much as they do over young women. Providing a basis for how the different genders should treat each other is not a role limited exclusively to men. Having a powerful, woman role model allows children to comprehend the meaning of equality and mutual understanding between the genders.

Throughout my life, I have had many female role models, but none quite so respectable as my mother. My childhood was guided by her strong will and ability to adapt to situations. Her strong influence over my upbringing allowed me to develop a proper understanding of how I should conduct myself when confronted with an issue of gender.

With the lessons from my mother in mind, I melded easily enough into the job market. Throughout my working life, I have had many more female superiors in the workplace than males. Without these constant influences, I do not know how my views and beliefs on culture and our society would have changed.

Another strong influence over young men, according to The New York Times, are animated heroines like Korra from the animated show “The Legend of Korra.” The article states the importance of the show is "its mature characterization of adolescence, touching on sexuality, family and gender dynamics." As a show that is remembered fondly by both men and women, the show impacted the growth of society as a whole.

However, the tide of influential women does not stop there. New shows with female-led casts are more abundant than ever, like Netflix’s “Carmen Sandiego” and “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.” These shows aim to tackle complicated issues like personal identity and responsibility while providing a diverse cast living in a fantastical society most would consider ideal — a cultural utopia.

Children are in desperate need of role models and female idols are helping. The National Fatherhood Initiative states that in the U.S., more than one in four — about 19.7 million children — live without a father in the household. This dangerous example and lack of guidance from both parents can lead to four times the risk of poverty and the likelihood of abuse. While the number of households without a mother is significantly lower — approximately 5 million homes — it is apparent that children in the U.S. require outside sources of influence.

With multiple avenues showcasing female authority and a general need for cultural direction, we should be attempting to elicit proper behavior in the next generation of children.

Regardless of in-home influences, we should strive to provide young men with media that properly demonstrates the importance of gender equality and the values expressed by female-led protagonists. Animated shows like “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” are on Netflix and available for young children; live-action movies like “Wonder Woman” and “Rogue One” are huge influences considering the impressive histories and universes of DC Comics and "Star Wars"; musical exemplars are also impactful, with artists like Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift dominating modern music with catchy tunes and often well-meaning messages.

We oftentimes latch on to people who exemplify the ideals and traits we hope to attain. Female influencers are fundamental to the well-rounded comprehension of each other, for men and women alike.

It is crucial for us as individuals to recognize the cultural impact these women can and do have on our perception of complicated issues such as gender norms, equality of pay and importance of character.

With the month of March being battered by history-altering events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the democratic primaries taking place, it is also important to remember the trailblazers of gender neutrality during National Women’s History Month.

Go watch a season of your favorite female-led TV show or purchase your favorite Emily Dickinson poems. Then, show them to your younger brother, nephew, male cousin or any young man in need of a woman role model.