Over the past year of my life I have really struggled with my identity in the ways in which I am portrayed in mainstream popular culture. As a female, Christian college student I have two different identities that are viewed and labeled in to completely different lights. With the labels being so strong and prevalent, at times I find myself struggling to see how and where I fit in with the two- or if it is even a possibility for me to be both. As I continued my research in finding out what ways me identities do and do not conflict, a lot of my previous assumptions were confirmed while I few we even disproved.
With my first identity being a Female College Student, I start would with a pretty strong idea of how we are viewed. Due to the sexualization of young women, especially us in our late teens and early to mid twenties, female college students are stamped with labels that other people gave us. We are wild, we are slutty, and we are adventurous, reckless, loud, stupid, dependent, and incapable. A lot of these labels and pre-determined notions on how female college students are, come from mainstream media over-exposing the college party scene. We have all scenes the movies, read the books and some have even dreamed about the day they will get the raging college experience. In the major motion picture Project X, the typical young-age party scene is laid out. The parents are out of town for a weekend and it just so happens to be a good friends birthday, they want to do something wild that will make them ‘cool’ forever so they throw the stereotypical house party that every under aged students dreams of going to, right? Here there is loud music, jumping off of rooftops, drinking, smoking marijuana, games, throwing up, sex and more sex. The entire movie shows the boys having all the ‘fun’ and part of that fun is winning over the girl that if sober would otherwise never give them the time of day. Because she is apart of this party crowd, of course they show her drunk hanging over multiple guys. The girls are dancing on each other inappropriately, they drinking out of liquor bottles and really set up as accessories or prizes to be won by the guys. A main part of the plot involves one of the main characters trying to win over a girl for the night.
I honestly was not surprised when I watched this movie. I went in looking and hoping that it would provide and successful and stereotypical portrayal of how female college students and young women in general are portrayed in popular culture and it provided exactly that. The reality of a female college student consists more of that late Friday nights on our laptops trying to perfect the paper due Monday, Saturday nights working a part-time job to pay for our higher education and Sunday mornings spent sleeping in to recover and prepare for another challenging week. However, very few forms of popular culture like to show this side of young women for two reasons. The first of the two being that it is flat out boring. No one is interested in watching a girl struggle to get all her homework done and get sleep while maintaining somewhat of a social life. It is boring because it is real life. Why would you want to spend two to two and a half hours watching something you experience daily? The second of the two being that it doesn’t cater to the way men want young women to be. If popular culture continues to portray young women as less than capable of young men, then more people in real life will view them that way too. It is a fun and unrealistic fantasy for many to believe that the majority of young women are wiling to get drunk, party, have casual sex, and be reckless. But in reality, that is really all this label or concept of young women is. A fantasy.
My other identity is representing in the most opposite ways possible. Frequently, Christians are looked at to be strict, uptight, and weird by popular culture standards. I have always struggled with this, especially in my young adulthood due to the way others think ‘I am supposed’ to be as a Christian. In the movie A Walk To Remember, the story of a young lady who is a pastor’s daughter is told. She is very strong in her faith and therefore labeled as an outcast. She doesn’t dress like the other ‘normal’ students. She is completely cover in long sleeves and long skirts typically, she doesn’t really talk to boys because her father says they are sinful, she is kind to everyone and never says anything mean, and she spends all her free time at church or reading her Bible. I think this movie is an absolute perfect example of how Christians are portrayed by popular culture.
Major movies and books like to pick the most extreme part of a group and amplify it to make it seem that is how everyone in the group is, when in reality it isn’t true in the slightest. Most Christians prefer to dress more modest, but nowhere is it a requirement or really an expectation to have all parts of your body covered by clothing. It is okay to show your arms, it is okay to where pants and it is okay to where a neckline other than a turtleneck. Christian women are also allowed to talk to and date boys. Obviously there are rules that are firm when it comes to that relationship and what goes on, but there is nothing that says women can not go out on dates and get to know guys. And lastly and probably the strongest stigma that comes with Christianity is that all we do is spend our time at church and read our Bibles. Yes, it is good to spend time at Church and reading your Bible. A lot of Christians value that time greatly, but that is not the only thing our lives consist of. We are employed, we play sports, we go out to movies and we hang around friends outside of church. You see the characters time and time again. The group of Christians that only hang out with each other and all they care about is church, the Christian that dresses in out of style clothing completely covering her body, the Christian that has no friends because they are ‘weird’.
As you have probably caught on to now, the way popular culture has decided to portray two of my most important identities makes it impossible to fit into either of the little boxes created for me. How am I supposed to get drunk on a daily basis if all I do is go to Church? How am I supposed to have casual sex if I am not allowed to talk to boys? How am I supposed to be slutty if all I wear are unfashionable clothing that completely covers my body? The two simply can not and will not make sense together because they have been created to be so opposite. In the article “The Female Perspective of Hooking-Up on College Campuses”, Maura Gallagher was able to bring my two identities the closest to uniting as I think they can get. She explains that it is becoming more socially acceptable to have casual sex because that’s what a lot of men are looking for in the college experience. This is how female college students are label as ‘sluts’ and ‘reckless’ because they are now doing what typically was looked at to be male behavior. However, she then goes on to say this is not the case for all female college students and that those who have a strong religious affiliation showed less regret when it came to hooking up because they didn’t partake.
Another factor that can influence a girl’s reasons to hook-up is religion. Girls who indicate strong religious beliefs are less likely to indicate a high level of regret related to hook-ups (Maura Gallagher).
I think the conclusion I have come to is that I simply can not be both popular culture’s view of the Female College Student and popular cultures view of a Christian at the same time due to the fact that they like to take the extreme of an identity and plaster it over everything, making those who do not do their own personal research believe that that is the way all people who carry that identity act. Because I have two strong and prevalent identities in today’s popular culture, I will always struggle with not being able to fully align with the stereotypes prescribed to me. Though some people may hate the fact that they will never be able to fit in with the way they ‘should’ be, I kind of like it. I like that I am a blend of all the different things that make me, me. I like that I am breaking so many stereotypes just by living my life how I feel is good and right, and I think popular culture can look at all us hybrids out there and reevaluate the way they label and put people into tiny, uncomfortable boxes.