Apparently, America believes women are supposed to be unhappy. The image of the high school beauty queen or the insecure middle school girl has long permeated the mainstream media. However, there is an unseen consequence in bombarding society with images of unhappy women, the women start to believe this behavior is normal. In other word’s women start telling themselves “I’m supposed to be unhappy”.
For instance, when identifying a learning disability such as ADHD girls “are more likely to show a different set of symptoms and side effects. These include anxiety, depression, constant talking, daydreaming and low self-esteem. But their behavior appears more typical of how other girls behave.”(Bob Cunningham, “do boys have learning and attention issues more often than girls?”) Despite nearly 10% of the populating having some form of a learning disability, over 60% of those people are boys, or so it seems. According to several researchers the reason for this disparity may not be biology but a lack of girls being identified as having a learning disability because they display “normal” behavior. Yet, this “normal” behavior (“anxiety, depression, constant talking, daydreaming and low self-esteem”) is a list of mental health disorders. Furthermore, of the women who have a mental health disorder, 41% of those women have a depressive disorder as opposed to 29% of men with a mental disorder. While gender definitely plays some role in the development of depression and anxiety, there is another component, that, those often cited by doctors, is often overlooked by the media.
Similarly to how women with are less likely to be diagnosed with a learning disability because the female behavior which is indicative of such a disability is “normal”, the behaviors which often indicate depression and anxiety must also be considered “normal”. 62% of girls ages 12-20 have low self-esteem. Hearing girls talk about how they feel “fat” or “gross” in locker rooms or dormitories is normal and often considered a bonding experience. No one is surprised when a girl says she feel insecure. Yet, if we consider such behavior normal are we not also telling girls that if they feel insecure or depressed, they should not get help, because these emotions are normal? 57% of all girls have a mother who criticizes her own looks which only serves to further normalize the behavior. It is proven that there is a biological component to female depression, but when more than 1 in 2 young girls has low self-esteem the problem is no longer just a biological one but a societal one.
One of the main symptoms of depression is the belief that an individual is undeserving of happiness. With regards to women, this belief is not entirely unfounded. So long as the idea of unhappy women is normal, young girls with depression will continue to believe that their happiness is not to be expected.