Growing up, I never saw myself on TV. As in, I never saw anyone that I could relate to. I had little to no strong female role models in media to look up to. I internalized the fact that boys are better than girls, because that is what I was led to believe.

All the best superheroes were men. All the smartest characters, all the coolest, funniest, strongest characters were boys. If there was a smart female character she was painted as the ‘know it all, goody two shoes’ that nobody ever wanted to be around.

I used the phrases ‘run like a girl’ or ‘beat by a girl’ when referring to weaknesses, because that’s what I felt was true. And because I’d been led to believe this from such a young age, I never noticed how toxic it was to my self-esteem.

Now that I’m older, I see the effect it has had on me and both my male and female peers. I see how girls have to fight to be taken seriously. Every year, the girls have to petition teachers so that they’re allowed to play football with the boys because there isn’t a female team. I see that girls who had a large interest in STEM fields, largely male-dominated, have changed their paths to more female-dominated fields, such as nursing or teaching. They made this change not because they lost interest, but because they “feel it would be a better fit.”

Historically, men have assigned women a certain field to work in, and then taken over it when it seemed like women were getting too good at it. Cooking is a ‘woman’s job’. Why then, are so many celebrity chefs men? Care taking is another thing that is seen as strictly for females, but the number of male doctors far outnumbers the number of female doctors.

Women have had enough of being pushed aside in their work. They are standing up and we are getting to see the product of their efforts. The new Ghostbusters movie was phenomenal for me to see. Smart, strong, brave women saving a whole city? Yes, please! And then I got to see the joy in little girls afterwards. Little girls who finally have someone to look up to, to make them believe that yes, they can be smart and strong and still be female.

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For so long Wonder Woman did not get her own movie, and when she finally did, it was directed by a woman and it broke records! The movie is now getting a sequel, and Gal Gadot is in extremely high demand to play the character again. If that does not prove what the world is missing out on by ignoring women, I don’t know what will.

Young celebrities turn themselves into role models as well. Zendaya, a former Disney star, sees the bias and works to correct it. She speaks out on a number of issues, including sexism and misogyny, all while being a fantastic actress. Lily Singh started out as a YouTuber. She now advocates for girls’ education in Kenya, has done a bit of acting, and is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for children’s rights. She was Forbes’s 3rd highest paid YouTuber in 2016 and ranked #1 on Forbes’s 2017 list of Top Influencers in the Entertainment Industry.

“The future is female” does not mean that women seek to remove men from all the positions they hold. It means that women will fight to get the positions they deserve and will not stop until they do so. It means that the future holds great, amazing things for women and girls of all races, nationalities, and talents.

I might not have had good role models, but I can work to make sure that little girls growing up now do. I might have had to wait until my self-esteem had completely deserted me before I realized my worth, but little girls who come after me should not have to.

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