In his post he finds it hard to identify any role models when there are shows like New Zealand’s Next Top Model. Then he asks:
What, for instance, is a young woman to make of the recent “slut walk”?
I’d like to offer a little help. Here is what I think you look for in a role model.
A role model needs to have some sort of personal strength. Someone who overcomes adversity – or at least copes with it. Someone who finds that certain spark in themselves that drives them onwards.
Imagine if you will a person who is subjugated. Someone who, because of their skin colour or their gender, because of their (physical or mental) health or weight or size, because of their sexual orientation or how they choose to live their sexual lives, is told that they are less of a person, that they should be shameful. Or even that they are evil and a blight on the earth.
Now imagine this person rising above all this. Someone who, despite a lifetime of being told how wrong they are, how much to blame they are for any ill that befalls them, rises up and stands tall and says “No! I will not be treated like this. You will treat me with respect and dignity!” Imagine what it takes to do that. What it takes to rise above all the weight society places on some people.
To me, this is a quality to be greatly admired. In anyone.
In a similar way, this one is about a person who does not give up what they believe in. They do not simply shut up and be a good little boy or girl (because they’re the only options some people see). They declare themselves as being who they are. They speak with pride about their life, their scars, their achievements. They do not cave in to social pressure but continue to be the good person they know they truly are.
This is another admirable quality.
Some people are oblivious to the pain around them. A phrase I like to use taken from Band Aid.
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
OK, so this was meant to highlight the starving in Africa (gosh, see how far we’ve come?) but it can equally highlight other bad things happening right in front of you, if only you’d care to look.
Imagine a person who feels the pain of others, who strives to understand what is really going on in the world. Think of one who is willing to listen to another’s story. Who reaches out to people and does what they can to comfort them, even if it costs them something considerable. One who is capable of great love.
Here too are qualities to be greatly admired.
Low social desirability
This is something that ties in with personal strength. In short, it is “I don’t give a fuck what you think I should be”. You are generally resistant to peer pressure.
People whose actions are driven by what they think other people want of them really has no control over their own lives – they are driven by what other people want.
Rating low on the social desirability scale means you are more likely to be truthful about yourself – you are more open and can share more. This is what I like to think of as the Laertes factor.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man
Yes, I know Polonius said a lot of other shit, and it still doesn’t exactly end well, but my take on it, what it means for me, is that you cannot truly represent yourself to others until you admit it to yourself. And there’s a bit of how you can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself.
All these things point to an admirable quality of integrity and honesty.
Back to the story
So, Martin was having trouble figuring out who could be a role model for his daughters. One thing he seemed to forget is that role models don’t have to be gender-specific. In fact, that is probably far more destructive than anything else. A role model provides an example of good character. Martin himself ought to be the role model for his daughters.
But if he really wants women as role models, perhaps he can actually choose those women over at The Lady Garden. Tallulah Spankhead, Deborah and Emma drew particular ire from van Beynen in his “response” to their criticism, resulting in his posting a whole new level of shit. Interestingly, MvB originally posted the article as “Cinderella got lost in translation” before changing it to the ever so clever “Yes, I expect my wife to keep her pretty little mouth shut“.
The really astute of you might notice that my examples of good role model qualities are totally gender-neutral. The reason for it is because a good role model is just that. The moment you try to introduce gender into a role model, you are limiting those you want to inspire. True inspiration has no limits. It isn’t bound by race, gender or age. It isn’t bound by social status, caste or economic status.
So, Martin, I could continue to tell you what Slutwalk is really about, but I will leave that (perhaps) for another time.
Right now, I guess I just want to tell you that you need to think about the sort of qualities that make for a good role model for any person. Then be them. If not for yourself, then for your daughters. Because the example you are setting for them – their future is looking pretty fucking bleak.