The problem of emotional trauma in young women remains one of the core issues in women’s mental health that needs to be addressed as a complex, sociocultural issue. In a number of cases, the nature of emotional trauma in women can be traced back to their childhood. Specifically, the trauma often occurs as a direct effect of prejudices and gender stereotypes imposed onto girls for being female. Biological sex remains one of the major oppression tools that restrict girls and women from expressing themselves and promote further injustice toward them.
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The case witnessed recently is one of accurate examples of young girls being oppressed and developing trauma that will affect their further life due to them being female. The specified case was observed while shopping in a local mall. A girl of roughly six years old was visibly unwilling to interact with the people around her, possibly due to shyness. However, her mother, who had encountered a friend, was trying to introduce her daughter to the friend in question. While the girl did greet the person in question politely, she kept a very straight and serious face, which apparently made her mother feel dissatisfied with the welcoming that her friend received. Thus, she started urging the daughter to smile, claiming that “nice girls should be sweet.” While greeting someone politely and warmly is a skill that people should learn in order to improve their communication skills, the specified situation was clearly mishandled since the mother emphasized being a girl as a direct prerequisite to being polite.
The case described above could be seen as a minor embarrassment for the girl, yet it may serve as a source of trauma for her, imprinting onto her the idea that women must be agreeable and polite to the detriment of their needs and in order to placate the needs of others. If similar situations occur several times in this girl’s life, she is likely to internalize the idea that women must accommodate others and satisfy others’ emotional needs without questioning it.
However, the cases of sex-based oppression are not restricted to the stereotypes concerning the behaviors that girls and female adolescents should supposedly adopt. Apart from the specified ,misconception, there is also a commonly held belief that the manner in which women dress defines the attitude toward them and, therefore, somehow justifies the instance of violence. Although the specified assumption is entirely incongruent with the existing principles of social justice, human dignity, and the basic human rights, it prevails in contemporary Western society, perpetuating the trauma that young women and girls experience when facing an assault.
Taking an example from a personal experience will require delving into the confinements of a personal trauma. Particularly, when wearing a skirt that was slightly shorter than most of the outfits that I was wearing at the time, I was catcalled by a boy with whom I had considered to be on friendly terms with. However, when complaining to the adults, I received a response that could be summarized as that it should have been expected given the way I dressed. The specified situation, while not being uncommon, is extraordinarily upsetting since it perpetuates the idea that a manner of clothing or a specific type of clothes can justify violence against women and girls. Thus, despite the fact that the situation described above did not entail any physical violence and mostly involved lewd commentaries on the part of the boy, it was still quite traumatic to discover that gender stereotypes defined violence against women and girls being sometimes seen as justified.
The instances of trauma may also occur at an older age as girls reach their adolescence and then turn into young women in their early adulthood. Using a personal experience as a referent, it is necessary to mention that the requirement for accommodating the needs of complete strangers for the simple reason of being female remains one of the core sources of trauma for young women. Namely, when wrapping up a recent conversation on an entirely unrelated topic, a male neighbor who has recently moved in started reproaching me for the lack of positive emotions shown during the conversation and suggesting that a young woman such a me should smile more often.
Arguably, the specified remark could not be seen as immediately offensive and, therefore, traumatic. Moreover, it would have unlikely been registered as such if it had been a singular incident. However, the specified situation takes place quite frequently, especially with older men, and leaves quite tangible discomfort. The seemingly innocent piece of advice turns out to be rooted in a stereotype that women should be accommodating and pleasant, The described attitude stems directly from the decades of attempting at commodifying women and womanhood, in general (Oliff, 2017). Therefore, the described situation was far from an innocent remark since it had rather somber underlying meaning, namely, the perception of girls and you women as the tokens that are not supposed to be active participants but, instead, are perceived as someone to be acted upon.
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Therefore, the situation descried above could be seen as a traumatic one, especially given the ominous circumstances, namely, the fact that an older man made the specified suggestion. The statement that he made perpetuates the idea of women as tokens and objects, which is why encountering the specified attitude was quite unpleasant. Furthermore, the fact that the described experience was only one of the many indicates that there is a bigger problem of the perception of women in modern society lying underneath.
Finally, when considering the roots of trauma in girls and young women, one may need to consider the cases when women’s intellectual abilities are presumed to be inferior to those of men. Specifically, I have been a witness of the situation in which a girl, who was willing to enter a chess context with a list consisting solely of male participants was told by one of the staff members in the competition that she might experience too great a challenge when competing and be eventually disappointed after being beaten. The specified case displayed not only rampant sexism but also complete disregard for the emotional trauma that a girl has received. While it would have been quite unpleasant to hear the specified statement from a fellow student, the fact that an adult, who is perceived as an authoritative figure, has made this claim must have been particularly traumatic for the child. Therefore, the scenario provided above indicates that the problem of sex-based oppression remains prevalent in modern society, and that it needs to be addressed by revisiting its core.
Olff, M. (2017). Sex and gender differences in post-traumatic stress disorder: an update. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 8(Sup4), 1351204.