Friday, 12 October 2007

Good role model?

Whilst doing my customary skim-read of the Times website this morning, I saw a standfirst that really annoyed me:

We caught up with Lily Allen at Chanel’s Paris salon. Here she talks about Lagerfeld, her weight and being a role model.

It seems that there are two massive issues for any young women with a prominent position in the media - her weight and being a role model - and that the two are inextricably linked.

Be too thin, and you will be continually derided for being a poor role model, as if young girls have nobody to look up to but vacuous pop princesses whose every coke-snorting escapade is lovingly splashed across the latest issue of Heat, as if you are directly responsible for the existence of anorexia.

Be a healthy size 8-12 though (no fatter than that, because of course that would be, like, gross!) and you will be lauded as a great role model for young girls and your 'gorgeous curves' will be lovingly praised in patronising drivel that implys that until the reader saw your 'rubenesque' figure in a bikini they were locked in a cycle of hating their figures so much that their only solace was an entire box of Krispy Kremes consumed alone in front of America's Next Top Model.

This immediate assumption that being a role model is part of a celebrity's job generally only applies to female celebrities. You don't see the media going potty every time a male celebrity goes on a drinking binge or loses a few pounds. And yet, this is the same media that goes nuts over single mums, lack of male teachers in primary schools, the fact that not having any men in their lives can be damaging to boys. Whether it's actully hugely damaging or not (I haven't a clue and suspect it depends largely on the individual) the fact is that boys are statistically less likely than girls to have lots of role models in real life. If anybody needs celebrity role models, it's boys not girls.

And then, there's the vacuous nature of the manner in which this role model business manifests itself. It's almost completely to do with weight. It helps if you don't drink or smoke, but basically, in order to be regarded as a 'good role model', it's all about the curves and very little else. The trashy end of the media (which, let's face it, is most of it) will print photographs of a talented actress or musician, but all they will discuss is her weight fluctuations, with finger-wagging accusations of eating disorders, labels of 'poor role model'. Is not being anorexic all girls are to aspire to? It's the media that's creating the idea that no matter how talented and successful she is, a woman is nothing but a body, whether skinny or fat. And that, my friends, is a poor example indeed.

1 comment:

john ball said...

excellent piece