There was quite the brew-ha-ha in the media this morning (and on Q&A on ABC last night) about the fact that Julia Gillard, our new PM is a woman. There were discussions about her suitability as a role model, given that she lives defacto with her partner and has no children, and also whether the fact that she is female will determine the polls come election time.
Our new Prime Minister is a woman. It shouldn’t make a difference, but it does! The whole discussion got me thinking about female role models. Who decides what makes an appropriate role model. What attributes must a woman possess to be deemed role model material. In a way, although I disagree politically on many issues with Julia, I think she is a good role model for young girls. I mean, she keeps her clothes on which is a change…
The discussions in the media this morning were in response to a column written, saying that Julia may give young girls the impression that it’s ok to live with their partner, if they ultimately wish to be married and have children.
Here are some excerpts from Bettina Arndt’s column today in the Sydney Morning Herald:
Living as a de facto with her partner may suit Julia Gillard, but does that make her a good role model for others? …….
It’s fine for Gillard – a 48-year-old woman – to live with her bloke. Yet as a popular role model for women, her lifestyle choice may influence other women into making big mistakes about their lives…..
Cohabitation produces two groups of losers among women and children. Most women want to have children – Gillard is an exception – and some miss out after wasting their primary reproductive years in a succession of live-in relationships that look hopeful but go nowhere, leaving them childless and partnerless as they hit 40.
It’s the women who end up stranded when they spend years in a succession of de facto relationships waiting for Mr Not Ready or Mr Maybe to make up his mind……
If Gillard chooses to play house in the Lodge, this choice sends a strong message to the huge numbers of women who rightly admire her and seek to follow her example. A lifestyle suited to her particular needs may be riskier for many women and their children.
I think this journo is utterly discrediting the intelligence of many young women. Julia is a role model not because of her personal relationship choices. She is a role model because of her abilities, her talents, and her ambition to occupy Australia’s top job. Girls know that. Don’t they?
The glass ceiling may not be broken, but it’s certainly cracked, and it’s been done by women LONG before Julia’s time. Many of whom have chosen marriage and children, and career. It can be done, and it astounds me that a journalist in 2010 is suggesting that if Julia Gillard were married with children, she may not be where she is now.
We are inundated with images of women in the media and through popular culture. Women who millions of young girls look up to and aspire to be like. Women who are shown to us as having little substance, some talent, but most importantly – bucket loads of beauty.
It scares me to think how many girls look to Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus as role models. Or heroines like Bella from Twilight. Talented and beautiful they may be – but what do they represent?
My main role model growing up was Madonna. She kind of lost me at her Sex book, but prior to that I saw a woman who wanted to rule the world, a woman who grew up motherless, used her ambition and determination and limited talent, and turned it into an enterprise. In retrospect, I see that she changed women’s sexuality. Using male sub-culture, she created a woman who was sex object and sex subject at the same time, allowing women to feel more powerful and in charge of their own sexuality.
I also looked up to Princess Diana. Mainly I just liked watching her in all those outfits and hats. But also she was graceful, dignified, and charitable.
Now I admire a different kind of woman altogether, but this morning as I thought about role models, and how refreshing it is to see a woman with clothes on being celebrated in the media for her achievements, I reflected on some other female role models in pop culture. Women/girls whose sexuality or beauty comes second to their excellence, and their ability to kick butt.
I’ve made a list, because as you may have worked out by now, I love making lists.
- Princess Fiona from Shrek
She chose to sacrifice her fairy-tale looks for love, challenging our cartoon cut-out Cinderella-style expectations of a princess who lives Happily Ever After. She’s a romantic at heart, but determined, strong, spirited and seriously awesome.
- Beatrix Kiddo / The Black Mumba from Kill Bill
She abandons her life as a hired assassin when she realises she’s pregnant with Bill’s (head of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad) child, denying him the right of fatherhood, in order to protect her unborn child. This action provokes the attacks on her leaving her in a coma. Upon waking from her 4 year sleep, she makes calculated plans to get revenge, proving that one lone woman can be more powerful and possess more testicular fortitude than some of the world’s baddest bad guys.
- Anne Shirley
Am I the only one who remembers Anne of Green Gables? Her fiery, red-haired temperament and academic excellence, combined with her accident prone good intentions and drama queen tendencies intrigued boy-about-town Gilbert Blythe. But she would not be wooed by his tall, dark and handsome looks. Literature was her passion. Bold was her middle name. And she would sacrifice even love to follow her dreams, although love was eventually hers.
- Hermione Granger
Here’s a girl with back bone. She’s a mud-blood in a wizard’s world, but that doesn’t get her down. She’s studious, hard working, and knows her spells better than anyone so rather than copping it on the chin, she wields her wand at those who would bring her down and zaps them into subjects of pity. She’s courageous, loyal and undaunted by some of the underworld’s nastiest creatures. I like her.
So there’s my list. In a world of botoxed, buxom, bootilicious beauties…. It’s nice to know there are some who can still be ultra-cool and clever without getting all their gear off. No, Ms Gillard wasn’t on the list. She may be a role model for some which is great – but not for me personally. Not to say I’m not backing the carrot tops. There’s 2 out of 4 on my list that are red heads.
So who would make your list?