Female Stereotypes In Contemporary Western Society In Good Girls Series

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Television network Netflix Original crime-comedy-drama series, Good Girls, is a show full of life lessons and hidden meanings. Most present-day shows are saturated with themes of alcohol, drugs, and violence; Good Girls is no exception. However, Good Girls focuses more on the woman’s point of view of life’s many dramas.

The show centers around three female characters: Beth Boland, Ruby Hill, and Annie Marks. Each of these characters represents a class of woman in a particular real-life situation. At face value, Good Girls appears similar in theme to other contemporary shows of like genre. Beneath the surface, however, the show highlights many assumptions Western cultures make regarding the “typical” woman. It examines the thoughts and actions of women from different social strata facing extreme situations in seemingly gender-equitable society. This paper focuses mainly on the characters of Beth Boland and Ruby Hill.

Beth is a full-time, middle class housewife who robs a grocery store after finding out her husband cheated on her and lost all their money on bad investments. Ruby is a black female employee in a restaurant who takes part in the robbery because she needs money for her daughter’s surgery. The paper examines ways personal income impacts female status in a family. Topics addressed include Good Girls’ examples of female stereotypes in contemporary Western society such as Beth’s dual status as a full-time housewife and independent female with a healthy income. Supporting evidence from a historical perspective is also supplied. Karl Marx, in his theoretical discourse Das Kapital, wrote that the base determines society’s other relationships and ideas to comprise its superstructure. The base refers to the forces and relations of production, and production determines social relations, social ideology, and so forth. Marx’s theory still applies to present-day relationships.

In Good Girls, season one, episode seven, Beth Boland is captivated by a diamond necklace in a jewelry store. The saleswoman says to Beth, “If you want to give your husband my card, I’m happy to set it aside for you.” The underlying sentiment is that women cannot afford extravagant jewelry due to their level of or lack of income. Women therefore need their husbands’ assistance and approval when making important financial decisions. The Western female stereotype is abundantly clear in this scene. The saleswoman subconsciously classified Beth as a low-income female based on her appearance and demeanor. Many people do, in fact, continue to stereotype women as earners of less money than their male counterparts. Women are also seen as having little ambition, content to quit their jobs and stay home once they marry. Their primary life purpose, according to some, is to take care of their husbands and children at home while the husband provides for the family and makes the important decisions.

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In another scene, an FBI agent gives Beth his card. Beth told Annie and Ruby, “He must know something; he gave his card to me, not my husband.” The inference is that if Beth were not a suspect, the FBI would have given the card to Beth’s husband, Dean Boland instead, as the head of the household. In the stereotype of family relationships, the husband is the leader and their wife’s position in the family is more like the assistant, rather than partner that have an equal footing. However, this idea is no longer applicable to today’s family relationships. Because of the economic pressures, most women today have a full-time job, women’s economic contribution to the family is the same as that of men, therefore, the female should share equal status with the male.

The ironic nature of the show’s title is significant. The main characters are definitely not “good girls” according to the stereotypical premise of who, what, and how females should be. They are not the girls who get good marks, take good care of the house, and spend all their time and energy caring for their family. But no one would not use these standards to assess a man. People usually evaluate women from an ethical perspective, and men from the perspective of merit and achievement. In fact, the show Good Girls emphasizes female’s revolt of the gender stereotype. The Qing Dynasty in ancient China occupied a time in history during which females had devastatingly low social and domestic status. The Dynasty demonstrated a “Men are breadwinners and women are homemakers” ideology, emphasizing the physiological differences between men and women. At that time in Chinese history, women’s standard of behavior was the “three obediences” – obey the father before marriage, obey the husband after marriage, and obey the son after the death of the husband. Moreover, girls were forced to practice foot-binding – a practice initiated for young girls in ancient China to restrict the normal growth of their feet. This practice hindered females’ ability to work, thus making them dependent on males for survival. Without working capacity, the female cannot obtain living resources by themselves and they are unable to resist discriminatory social ideology. They were more their father or husbands’ accessories than family members. This example of Qing Dynasty demonstrates that in all societies, producers have more power than consumers; those who control the distribution of valued goods beyond the family have the most power.

Returning to the discussion of Good Girls, in the end of episode six, before Beth thrown begs of money on Dean’s face, he said: “he’s not gonna mess with you anymore, not in my watch” and “dangerous people took advantage of you,” deep in his mind, he thinks Beth is a naive, innocent, and dumb girl who needs his protection. However, after Beth thrown money to his face, he was speechless, and he was totally shocked to who Beth had become. In this scene, Dean’s sitting postures are also interesting to look at. In the beginning, he was half laying on the sofa, and put his feet on the tea table, which is casual but haughty and declaring that he’s the owner of this family. But after, Dean was sitting on the sofa and look up to Beth. Beth was more aggressive and confident. This scene emphasizes the change of their relationship, which is Beth gain more power in the family and start to take charge. From ancient society to the nowadays society, the main factor in the steady rise of women’s family status and social status is the increases in employment rates which enable women to provide sizable shares of family income. In another word, income impacts a female’s status in a family relationship.

In addition, I think the target audience for this drama is women, especially full-time housewives, since their daily lives revolve around family and trivial household matters. The audience will never rob a grocery store, kidnap the store manager, or launder money for street gangsters; their fantasies of independent, stimulating life can only be satisfied through TV dramas. Of course, I am not advocating for participation in any illicit crime. My point is this: Beth, Annie, and Ruby’s illegal activities represent female discontentment with their place in life, consequently leading them to reject the stereotypical lifestyle for themselves. The diversity characters are significant to the series. Ruby as the only black main character demonstrates that sexism, class oppression, and racism are inextricably bound together; and black women experience a different, more intense oppression than that of white women. For example, when they are in the old lady’s house, she asks Rudy to do all the works, and all Annie needs to do is set on the sofa. In another word, income impacts a female’s status in a family relationship. One hundred years ago, when the world inaugurated International Women’s Day, gender equality and women’s empowerment were radical ideas.

In today’s Western society, gender equality is the supposed norm and expectation. However, can men and women be truly equal in the areas of income, household responsibilities, and personal merit? It is obvious that female status had risen due to female enter the working space, but the stereotype toward women still exists. Gender equality is at the heart of societal development. Only when people are fully aware of the crises and make reflections on them can our society be a better place to all.

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