Saturday, 2 February 2013

Female role models

Aung San Suu Kyi by Htoo Tay Zar 
Listening to Dessert Island Discs on Radio 4 with Aung San Suu Kyi, it struck me that our choice of female role models is sadly revealing.

Last week I talked about Joanna Lumley as a role model. A model and actor, since 2008 Lumley has been involved in more role model worthy activities, in her Gurkha Justice Campaign. But she was a female role model long before this. For what - looking glamorous and delivering lines?

I'm not having another pop at Lumley. I'm just wondering, when there are people as courageous, charismatic and intelligent as Aung San Suu Kyi in the world, why do we persist in adoring Cheryl Cole and Kate Moss?

We could model ourselves on the women who are trying to change the world. Instead we choose those who can sing, dance and smile. 

Hilary Clinton by Michael Gross for US State Department

More than just a pretty face

Is a pretty face and a nice bottom really all every woman wants? I hope not.

Shouldn't we really be showering our misplaced adulation on more meaningful targets - women like Hilary Clinton, who get out there and do something real?

You might not agree with everything Clinton says and does, but Kate Moss went out with Pete Doherty and we still love her.

Aung San Suu Kyi 

Suu Kyi is the kind of female role model we should be talking about, and encouraging our sisters and daughters to talk about, and here's why:

  • Intelligence - she's Oxford University educated
  • Conviction: she spoke out against the rule of Burma's brutal dictator
  • Strength of character - it sustained her through 15 years under house arrest, often alone
  • Courage - she's faced down guns and much more
  • Power - she's leader of Burma's opposition, she could be leading the country soon

And if you want your female role models to be beautiful, she could give most of her rivals a run for their money in that department too. 

The fact that Aung San Suu Kyi has even married and and raised two children, also goes to show that powerful, impressive women don't necessarily don't have to compromise on feminine aspirations (although I'm not saying this is easy - but that's another blog post). 

Serious role models

I'm as guilty as any - who doesn't want a pretty face and killer abs? But I by continuing to adulate women who prance about for a living, instead of those who get on and change things, we're not really helping the world - meaning men and women - to take us seriously. More Aung San Suu Kyi, less Angelina Jolie. 

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