Droll Models - Move along, nothing to see here!

droll1Kristen Horner, 18 United Kingdom

We’re a nation exposed to brainless beauty, reality TV wrecks, and most disturbingly, inaccurate, damaging representations of women. Something’s got to change. Fast.

 A question to consider: If I were to ask a young girl about who she looked up to in the public eye as a positive role model today, whose name would come up?

Perhaps Lubna Hussein, a Sudanese women’s rights activist who, after being flogged 40 times for wearing trousers in public, says she is not afraid of more corporal punishment and will continue to fight for her cause? Possibly Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl mercilessly shot by the Taliban after rightfully opposing the decision to ban females from attending school? Or, after the profound success of London 2012, surely a female sports star like swimmer Rebecca Adlington or cyclist Victoria Pendleton?

 But, no.

A survey of 1000 children by the BBC’s Newsround showed that, disappointingly, one-fifth chose Cheryl Cole as their role model. When asked why, many made ambiguous comments such as “her hair is gorgeous” or simply, “I love her.”

 And it’s no wonder our children are viewing Cheryl as a good role model, when us adults are equally as guilty. Miss Cole was crowned most inspirational woman of the decade by the UK’s leading cosmetic surgery review website, ‘Good Surgeon Guide,’ with a landslide 78 per cent of the vote. Out of the 1178 women surveyed, one-third of them related Cheryl’s ‘inspiring’ disposition to her ‘natural beauty.’ (Doesn’t it seem a coincidence however, that the run-of-the-mill, self-absorbed user of this surgery website chose a glamorous, good-looking ‘Wife And Girlfriend’ as their icon as opposed to a woman of substantial achievement?)

 This is the girl who has recently become the face of a multitude of war-paint products, including hairsprays, foundations, and lipsticks aimed at impressionable young women, endorsing L’Oreal’s famous “Because we’re worth it” phrase. Seriously, worth what? Worth thinking that the only way to achieve self-assurance is to dress up to the nines every day and rarely leave the house without a face full of slap? The only message Cheryl and her cohorts are sending out is that to feel good about oneself, a woman must look good. Not just ‘good’ or ‘pretty’ (even those messages are damaging), but altogether flawless. And, if that one-sided, exclusive view of a woman is not adhered to, success cannot be strived for.  Maybe L’Oreal’s well-known phrase should be altered to “Because we’re worth more.”

Pop stars are certainly not the worst offenders for churning out the appalling message that ‘beautiful girls finish first’. The curse that is reality TV has afflicted Britain’s teens with portrayals of women as unintelligent, airheaded, Barbie doppelgangers, whose only ‘talents’ seem to be ‘vajazzling,’ getting ‘mortal’ and endorsing their next brand extension nail varnish. Shows like The Only Way Is Essex, often abbreviated as ‘TOWIE,’ Geordie Shore, and Desperate Scousewives (in itself a misogynistic slur by patently inferring the only ‘career’ a woman can aspire to have is overseeing a house and children) represent young women in a nauseatingly comparable style; it seems the sole decisions girls on these shows have are mind-numbingly trivial- whether to dye their hair brunette or blonde this week, or which thigh-skimming dress they should don the next.

The depiction of the way we look is only one side of the problem; our ‘catty and competitive’ attitudes towards each other are the flip-side. Vicky Pattison, a participant in MTV’s garishly promiscuous Geordie Shore, may be one of the rare members of a reality show who actually has some form of qualifications (she studied Drama at Liverpool John Moores University between 2006-2009). But, that can on no occasion compensate for her bitchy, malicious attitude towards her fellow housemates and life in general (a typical episode of Geordie Shore will see her present a fun-loving, confident girl to her peer’s faces, but when she is given the chance to speak to the camera in solitude, a vicious, hateful side comes out as she blindly slanders her ‘friends’). What’s the effect this outward and inward judgement is having on young, suggestible teenagers? Well, the figures say it all.

The Girl Guides study of reality TV’s effect on young girls shows that:

Ø  86% of girls asked believe reality TV ‘pits women against each other’ for ratings Ø  70% feel reality TV manipulates people into thinking that it is acceptable to treat others badly Ø  78% (of viewers of reality TV) felt that gossiping is a ‘normal’ part of a relationship between girls

These shocking figures are directly caused by the negative, categorising, inaccurate view of women in today’s society. And practically nothing is being done to change that. Although we see ourselves as part of an equal world nowadays, women still have to fight for equivalent pay and top business careers, as men make up 78% of MPs and 95% of FTSE 100 chief executives. The Government is also reluctant to change anything about the current equality climate. The Home Office website has a meager email address to ‘hear women’s views’ and to be informed in ‘what really matters in achieving equality.’ What is the Government essentially telling us? “Drop us an email and we’ll get back to you shortly.” This is a response that is far too passive for such an important and serious issue.

Another survey undertaken by Girl Guiding UK studied girls aged between 7 and 21. When asked what career they wanted, many kept to more traditionally feminine jobs such as hairdressing. When asked why they were put off by a career in a predominantly male environment (for example, engineering or business), many said it was because they did not know of any women working in those industries. This claim was supported by the fact that the girls struggled to name a single female politician, businesswoman, or sports star.

 Are these statistics not telling us something? Young girls will always be impressionable. It’s in their nature, and it’s a large part of growing up. So, by dangling the champagne lifestyle of fast cars, free drinks and constant glamour in front of their eyes, we’re giving them the wrong stimuli to go off of and ultimately harming them in the long run.

Whatever happened to individuality, fierceness, and independence? A young woman having creative role models such as Cyndi Lauper, Kate Bush, or Björk would come of age understanding that a girl does not have to dress in a promiscuous manner to attract male attention. Hell, they don’t have to dress in a certain way at all to attract attention! They should wear whatever THEY want and be whoever THEY want to be, not be dictated to by tabloid manipulators (“The perfect date outfit!”, “The ultimate date ‘do!”, “Smell like the A-List!” ...no, thank you, I’d much rather wear a perfume that I’m fond of, not Victoria Beckham).

If only the mainstream media thought this way and aimed to give young women a plethora of intelligent,  strong-willed, influential role models who can be looked up to and moulded off. After all, if the only examples our youngsters have are boozed-up, inane, egotistical underachievers, who seem to ‘have it all,’ what can we expect from them in their adulthood?

The answer? Very little.


Your StoriesErin Bagwell