Becoming the Perfect Woman
In today's world, media consumption has become an integral part of our daily lives. From social media to movies and TV shows, we are constantly exposed to images and stories that further shape our understanding of the world and ourselves. However, for some individuals, this constant consumption can become obsessive, leading to a blurring of the lines between reality and fiction.
This phenomenon caught my attention when I read the article “Standing on the Shoulders of Complex Female Characters'' by Rayne-Fisher Quann, an activist and social media influencer known for her discussions on feminism and pop culture. Quann's perspective and critique of the societal trend of "mental illness chic" piqued my interest. This is a trend where individuals romanticize their struggles with mental illness for aesthetic or entertainment purposes, or to gain attention. Quann shares a dream where she seeks help, but a Hollywood producer is more interested in turning her experiences into a movie than in assisting her. She also talks about how she tries to romanticize her own experiences with depression through the way she writes them in her articles to make them more intriguing for her audience, like eating chocolates in bed and writing poetry. The article's exploration of societal pressure on women deeply resonated with me, as it reminded me of my own obsessive experiences with mental illness. I felt pressure to make my tweets on my private Twitter account entertaining and introspective while downplaying the reality of my issues to avoid causing concern.
The prevalence of “mental illness chic” can be attributed to a combination of factors, including the glamorization of mental illness in media and the normalization of self-disclosure and sharing online. Social media has created a platform for individuals to share their personal experiences and struggles, and in some cases, this sharing can become performative, with individuals striving to make their experiences more interesting or appealing. In addition, the media has portrayed mental illness in a way that romanticizes it, making it seem like a desirable trait to have.
Consequences can be detrimental, particularly for young women. Women are often subjected to societal pressures to conform to a certain standard of beauty and behavior. These pressures are amplified in patriarchal societies, where women are expected to be submissive and domestic. As a result, many young women use their experiences with mental illness to relate to fictional characters who are also struggling with similar issues. Shows like "Fleabag" or "Euphoria" have gained massive popularity, particularly among young women, for their portrayal of characters dealing with mental health issues. These characters provide a sense of representation and validation for individuals who may feel isolated in their own experiences.
The danger lies in the tendency to romanticize and glamorize these characters' struggles, leading to the normalization of mental illness as an aesthetic rather than an issue that requires proper treatment. By shifting the focus from romanticization to understanding and supporting those who are affected by it, we work towards a more empathetic and informed society.
Art by Dizzy Starfie