Recently I started reading memoirs. In particular, I have become just shy of obsessed with reading memoirs written by women who are exploring their identity, pursuing happiness or on some sort of journey of self-discovery. Books like "The Happiness Project," "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Rim Trail," and "Poser: My life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses" have made their way to my bedside table. This is surprising because these books do not belong to my usual genre of reading. I grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries and Madeleine L'Engle. I still love mysteries, fantasy, and (some) science fiction. I mostly read non-fiction books for work (even if I enjoy them) and shy away from the modern American novel. I never even considered memoirs as a genre worthy of my time. That changed when a good friend recommended "Wild." I shouldn't have been surprised, I suppose, because I loved "Eat, Pray, Love" (like most American women) but must admit I naïvely thought it was some weird wonderful fluke.
What has changed? Maybe it is just the existential angst of my 30's that makes me want to read about self-discovery, but I suspect it is more than that. As I have studied representations of girls and women in the media, I often find myself frustrated, alarmed or annoyed by what passes for female characters. There are a few exceptions, but mostly I gave up hope on seeing a realistic representation of women. But these books have made me think twice about my reading habits and my feelings about the media. They portray real women with their actual struggles, joys, surprises and questions about life. These women are not overly-idealized characters, but authentic and complex human beings writing honestly about life. The kind of human being I strive to be.
These books have reminded me of what books (and other genres of the media) can be--inspirational. Reading these books has inspired me to consider my own life, to turn challenges into opportunities, and to be flexible. I am branching out and being adventurous; from the small things in life (drinking lavender vanilla lattes at a new coffee shop) to career changing moves (I started writing a book). I think about what makes me happy and how to be true to myself. These books show that media can represent women positively. And I am enjoying that refreshing change of pace.
EMPOWERTAINMENT aims to take a critical look at media in regards to how gender and women/girls are portrayed. From popular articles, videos, and websites, to original submissions, we want to not only examine the media and its relation to gender, but help shift it.