Help young women find better role models

We need to re-think our role models

By Anna Trevelyan cropped-anna-pic-2-e1436354275658.jpg

A poll was published this week announcing that British parents think Kate Middleton is the best role model for young women. Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus were voted the worst. Forgive me (and I’ll probably be rejected from multiple parenting groups for saying this) but if I had a daughter I would actually rather she be a bit more like Nicki Minaj (or Miley Cyrus) than Kate Middleton.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying Nicki Minaj or Miley Cyrus were role models, but at least they have a talent and have been driven enough to make a career out of it. They are successful business women, whatever people may think of them personally, and they have the freedom to express themselves and live their lives in the way they choose. I am sure Kate Middleton is a very nice person but her family have made no secret of the fact she was ‘born and bred’ to be a princess. She has devoted her life to being the wife of someone born into enormous privilege. She has given up her own career, her own voice and opinion in order to fall in line with a royal brand. If this would be what would become of my daughter, I’d actually rather she wore a skimpy outfit of her choosing (it is very clear Kate no longer gets to choose such minor things as clothing) and sang on a questionable record. She would have achieved something and it would have been on her own terms.

I find it fairly ludicrous anyway that someone would choose a ‘role model’ whom they don’t actually know. My role models would have to be my parents, my sister, my uncle Jack and a few family friends. Despite what the tabloids may want us to think, we know very little about these women. We may feel we know their media personality but even the most outspoken artists are carefully managed by their teams. We don’t know them – yet somehow people want to become them.

If we have to have so-called ‘role models’ let’s at least make them inspiring. Malala Yousafzai, against all the odds, opened a school recently (on her 18th birthday) for Syrian refugee girls and called on world leaders to invest in “books not bullets”. Unfortunately this news was overshadowed in the media as one of the Kardashians also turned 18 that week and was given a Ferrari for doing absolutely nothing. If we want young women to have good role models then I suggest we start talking about some of them.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai (L) cuts a ribbon near Noura Jumblatt (R), founder of the NGO Kayany Foundation, at a school for Syrian refugee girls, built by the foundation, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley July 12, 2015. Malala, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, celebrated her 18th birthday in Lebanon on Sunday by opening the school and called on world leaders to invest in

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai cuts a ribbon near Noura Jumblatt (R), founder of the NGO Kayany Foundation, at a school for Syrian refugee girls, built by the foundation, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

When I was younger I desperately wanted to be Ginger Spice. I loved her hair (I used to be down at the chemist buying those terrible 99p red hair dye sachets like a pigeon on a chip), I loved her style (I used to take my mum’s old-curtain-aeriesque long skirts, rip them up at the sides and flounce about in them) but most of all I loved her attitude (several vile pictures still exist of me flipping the Spice sign). However, it turned out she was more ‘human’ than ‘idol’ – well, what did I expect?  A series of eating disorders, broken relationships and a stint in rehab made me swiftly move onto the ill-fated All Saints (more disappointment there as, surprise surprise, they were real people not the cardboard cutouts the record companies wanted us to believe they were).

Safe to say I learned my lesson about having A-list role models – don’t. What you see is not the real world, and you’re admiring something which doesn’t exist.

Let’s try and give young women something higher to aim for. Maybe a Nobel Prize winning person, maybe an athlete, a family member, a teacher or even a politician – just don’t make it someone without a point of view. Young women need someone inspiring to look up to. It’s up to us to help them find them.


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