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Sydney

I too feel frustrated when I see a feisty female character in a book or movie decide to be submissive afterall -- and that learning to be submissive afterall is what is portrayed to be moral and good. It seems that these movies/books get flagged as "feminist" or "women's interest" merely because a female is the main character, even if she spends the whole story learning what it means to be a "good" woman. This inevitably means pleasing the men in her life/catching a man, becoming a good caretaker, or putting her own interests aside for the good of the group.

I had to write an essay for med school applications this past year about a role model that has made me want to go into the field I am choosing. I was REALLY hard pressed to think of famous female scientists whose careers I wanted to emulate. I guess I could have chosen a man, but somehow the men who I know who have been successful in science are not as inspiring to me.

chem fem

I've been doing this for years. Ever since my partner introduced me to climbing I searched for books on pioneering women like Lynn Hill and Alison Hargreaves and not give the slightess hoot about the first summit of everest or Heinrich Harrer. I've always felt the need to find examples to justify women doing things, being the first at this or the best at that. I even told my parents when I was aged 7 or so, to go vote for Margeret Thatcher, knowing nothing about politics but just wanting a woman to be great.

Broce

I'm a climber too, Chem Fan, and have had the opportunity to take classes with a couple of my heroines of rock, Bobbi Bensman and Robyn Erbesfield. What a treat! And it's true that as a female climber, I can learn more from other women than from men after a certain basic point, because my body structure is more like theirs, so my approach to a climbing problem is going to be different than that of a six foot 200 pound guy who can bench press ridiculous amounts.


My other personal heroine is my many times great grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. When I'm seriously seriously stuck in life, I often think on how she might have handled a similar problem.

Aideen

Happy, I agree with you 100%. I didn't start liking alternative music til I heard women were involved, and it took bands such as Hole and Sleater-Kinney to get me further interested in the genre. Now, I like male and female bands in equal measure and am just as likely to stick on a bit of Manic St Preachers on the auld iPod as I am anything else. But it took that initial discovery of female artists to get me interested in the first place - I heard the Manics on TV as a child and distinctively remember hating them and finding them really boring, cos I just saw the genre in general as not applying to me in the slightest. Also, I think that when I hear of a band for the first time I'm more likely to be initially intrigued by them if they are female.

Having said that, I am a particularly female-oriented person. I've always identified more closely with females, had mainly female friends etc...even as a child all my teddies were girls. There are lots of girls who don't like hanging out with girls and say they get along better with guys, and maybe it's just that they identify more closely with males. Do they need female role models as much as I do?

Also, I agree about putting your initial prejudices behind you. Like the whole "people identify more closely with role models of their own gender" thing could be used by guys to justify not giving all-female rock groups the time of day. Sometimes when I find myself not being interested in a male band, I ask myself "would I like them if they were female?"

elfinity

Hm, perhaps my experience does not quite fit, because I grew up in a country culturally fairly different than US or UK, but I've always been very ambivalent about gender of my role models.
When I was a pre-teen, it was Joan of Ark and Robin Hood. Then it was any revolutionary hero (and we have both men and women as heros) for a while, but I think maybe it wasn't so much that I thought of them as role models, but as of, HEY, it would be cool to be them.

Then in 9th grade we read Crime and Punishment and I realized that I identified COMPLETELY with the murderer Raskolnikov. Not so much prior to the murder, but the before does not take up that much space that it almost doesn't count. That scared me a lot (OMG, what does that meeeeaaan!), but not because it was a male character.

I think the person who came close to what would fit the "role model" definition for me was this one war pilot, Maresiev, whose plane got shot down during WWII and he did not have time to jump properly so he got stuck behind enemy lines with shattered legs (up to knees, I think) in the middle of winter (yes, the scary Russian winter) Not only did the man crawl for like a week towards the front, he managed to get through. That's not the awesome part. The awesome part is that even though his legs got amputated and the tips of his fingers had all the nerves frozen off, he managed to convince his superiors to let him fly again, and trained himself how to fly a plane with prosthetic legs and all. And then asked to be sent to the front lines again. And he was sent.

(sorry that my comments end up so long, it's just that I have to explain a lot instead of just referencing names)

That story blew my mind and probably is responsible for my "never give up" attitude and all but worshipping the will power.

I did get vaguely irritated that in most literature that I've read, women never seemed to get what they wanted and had to submit to men and if they did get what they wanted, it was too late. In fact, I can't really remember any female character that was strong and willful and it was considered good. Maybe it's that bit combined with cultural gender equality (on the surface) that made me fairly indifferent to which gender my heros are. I don't think I ever thought about it until your post.

Richard

>>> How I hung on every word uttered by Margaret Thatcher and Jeanne Kirkpatrick!

I always thought that Jeanne Kirkpatrick would have made a wonderful president, and Maggie Thatcher is still a hero of mine. Both women were strong conservatives who operated very comfortably in traditionally male circles. So what happened to you politically that made you turn Left?

The Happy Feminist

I never said I agreed with them, just that I was enamored of their example.

But no, I actually was much more politically conservative as a kid than I am now-- and I can still be quite conservative on some things like national defense issues (although I certainly oppose the current war.) I guess I will have to explain my political evolution at some point or other.

David Thompson

The movie character with whom I most closely identify is Michael Corleone from The Godfather.

??? Damn, what kind of screwed-up childhood did you have?

I'm skeptical of this "gender affiliation" business, though other people seem to put a great deal of stock in it for some reason.

The Happy Feminist

Well I identify with him except for the uh part where he kills a lot of people.

Hey, why don't you give elfinity a hard time for Raskolnikov? (The main thing I remember about him is that he spent a lot of time being sick in his filthy room.)

Cassandra

I think I used to have what you're talking about it but I've sort of outgrown it. Not because it's inherently immature, but because the area that always bothered most was children's programming. This was really a good deal of what turned me into a feminist: why were there three boy Rugrats but only one girl, plus the evil Angelica (though to give the creators some credit, Lil was virtually indistinguishable from her twin brother; certainly not a traditional female image). Three boy power rangers to two girls, and then when they had the chance to remedy that by adding a new power ranger, they made it a boy! Doug was about a boy, but there was no female equivalent (till years later, sort of, in the form of As Told By Ginger which, yes, I was way too old for, but I didn't care). Thank God for Sailor Moon. The overrepresentation of boys in children's media is still a pet peeve of mine.

That said, like I said, I don't really notice that sort of stuff as much anymore, except occasionally in interesting historical biographies, just because usually the women have even more to overcome than the men, which makes for a more dramatic story.

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