I took a group of Yr 11 girl boarders out for dinner tonight, to say goodbye to one student who will be leaving at the end of her GCSE, but also to celebrate the fact that they had made it to study leave. It was all very friendly and polite, until I asked who their role models were.
“Angela Jolie“, why I asked, ” because she does loads of charity work and she has loads of kids“. “Kate Middleton” was the next suggestion, although they couldn’t explain why. “My Mum“ piped up another student and three or four nodded their head in agreement. Then there was silence. They munched away at their food, thinking carefully who inspired them. ” Ohhhhh, Diana Ross” The group turned to look at that particular student with confusion. ” oh no I mean Princess Diana, she fought Bulimia and stuff“. Again silence. One student then said, “I can think of loads of men who I look up to but not actually many woman“. I thought I would throw them a suggestion, ” what about someone like Emma Watson? ” Oh no, she is too prefect and I am sure she is doing it for attention“, “doing what” I asked? “all that charity work“. Must admit I was as confused as they were at this point.
I often listen to the girl boarders with their endless chat and am surprised at who they actually do look up to, and if I am honest there isn’t many who make this list as you can see above. Why is this? Could it be the way many famous woman present themselves? Either discussing diets, clothes or makeup and always being criticised by the press for ……. well anything. The programmes the boarders watch also give me a clue. Made in Chelsea is compulsory viewing, but then so is every Disney film going. ( the house is for 11 to 18 year olds but this doesn’t stop a Disney marathon or even the High School musical DVD back to back). So a mix of Lucy Watson, who is described in her Bio as generally terrifying, Else the Snow Queen and Gabriella Montez, the nerdy goody two shoes. No wonder they are confused.
As a parent, who would I choose to be a role model. Adele, Taylor Swift, Malala Yousifazi, JK Rowling. I am sure there are plenty of others but why are they so hard to think of. And my boarders are right, I can think of several male role models that would be good for my son but not really for my daughter. Perhaps I need to think of this differently and consider what qualities do I want from a role model. Honesty, determination, talent and a desire to do something that is right. I also want my children to look up to someone who is who they are because of what they are, not because of what they look like.
Which brings me back to my dinner.“Ohhh though of another one, Marilynn Monroe”. I asked, “do you know what role models means? it should be someone who inspires you, that you look at and think, I would like to be like them“. “Yes” came the reply. “I would love to look like her, she looked really nice and everyone recognises her“.