Turning the Tables: How Rosalind Busts Stereotypes
When I was younger, I was very “typically” girlie. I loved pink. Even my first pair of glasses was pink. I danced ballet and loved Barbie. As I got older, I began changing. My tastes, my style, and my values began to morph through different influences. These traits didn’t feel necessarily woman-specific but they became more true to myself. I learned that some traits considered negative for women (headstrong or stubborn), are for some reason are considered positives for men. I came to realize that men and women are not deemed equal in our society.
As we’ve seen in popular media lately, men and women are treated very differently. Sociologists have found that much of the reasoning behind this is due to conditioning as we grow up. For example, girls are taught to be beautiful nurturers and caregivers, but boys are taught to be strong, confident providers.
Why is expressing emotions a female trait, and confidently asking for what you want (and deserve) a male trait? And how do these questions effect the character of Rosalind in this play? As I prepare this multifaceted role, I find myself considering these questions.
Rosalind is in love, but is not able to woo Orlando. She is bound by the confines that court society has created for her, as well as her own upbringing. However, the moment she enters the wilderness of the forest, dons men’s clothing, and begins to carry herself as “a man”, her behaviour changes. She’s funny. She’s headstrong. She doesn’t just ask for what she wants, she tells Orlando what to do in order to woo her. And in the process she ends up wooing him.
This confidence is something she carries with her when she returns to her life as a woman at court. She is transformed. Why does behaving like someone else cause us to grow and change ourselves? Why does flipping traditional gender roles alter behavior?
With Rosalind, it’s important to raise the thought that stereotypical gender roles are simply that: stereotypes. They are judgements we place on one another whether someone expresses themselves as male or female, but the solution for changing the collective mindset to consider one vital point: we are people. Grieving, effeminate, changeable, longing and liking, proud, fantastical, apish, shallow, inconstant, full of tears, full of smiles, sometimes all at the same time. Whether we have personality traits that are typically “manly” or “womanly”, the combination of those traits in different ways is what makes each one of us unique.
One of the lessons Rosalind learns is that through releasing any restrictions related to her gender that she not only has so much more to offer her partner in love, but also offer the world as a human being. And that is a beautiful thing.