Why are we picking the wrong role models?

Liv Rafferty /
Feb 13, 2017 / Opinion

I’ve written a version of this article before. A diatribe on the fashion and music industries relentless body shaming and persistent use of unrealistic and lacklustre female role models. I thought we were pretty hard done by this time two years ago, but oh how blissfully unaware I was.

Since then, the unthinkable has happened. Instead of progressing forward like I hoped, movement towards gender equality is coming to a dramatic halt. More and more women face discrimination, inequality and sexism in their everyday lives than ever before. I don’t need to reiterate the fact that The Donald becoming President has put women’s rights terrifyingly at risk.

Now, more than ever before, people need female role models.

Women of all ages need people to look up to, to admire and to inspire – especially, young teenagers who are only just becoming aware of the real shit storm we are currently living through. I’m not talking about your run of the mill celebrities who claim to eat “whatever food they want” and miraculously remain below size 0, or the self proclaimed Instagram stars who post far too many selfies of the the latest craze – currently, their perfectly sculptured, “slim-thick” bodies. We all need real people to look up to – none more so than the the young girls in generation Z who are moving into their confusing and challenging teenage years. If they have to be celebrities, why not ones who stand up for gender equality and challenge the patriarchy (say, Lilly Allen), rather than the women who continue to sexualise themselves in our media for the sake of fame (literally too many to even name).

The latest fad of clean eating, shredding and big booty girls has led to a boom in celebrity induced marketing campaigns for high flying sports brands. Brands like Puma, Adidas and Nike are using un-athletic, A-list celebrities as their face of their campaigns, instead of actual athletes. Less than 12 months ago the Olympics and Paralympic athletes graced our television screens and filled our hearts with adoration, yet there faces aren’t splashed across global campaigns. I cannot fathom why these brands and many more wouldn’t want any one of these breathtaking individuals, from their respective countries, to represent their brand. Puma could use one of their 42 German medalling athletes to showcase the sportswear, instead they forked out seven figures for the pinnacle of sporting achievement, Kylie Jenner. Puma isn’t alone, Adidas have recently splurged on ex-Victoria Secret model Karlie Kloss, as be the face of the new Stella McCartney range as well as plugging her own collection.

Now, excuse me for stating the obvious, but these are hardly admirable sporting figures – or, realistic body types – chosen to represent the brand. Nike briefly restored faith a by giving Serena Williams the stage she deserves, an iconic star of her sport, full of determination, gusto and pure skill. But surprise surprise, Nike collapsed under the ‘pressure’ and cast Bella Hadid as their cover girl in November last year. This only only contributes further to the globalised notion that being model size is beautiful and achievable. It isn’t. We have enough of seeing models in our day-to-day lives, splattered across every single magazine, down all the red carpets and littered across our social media. We don’t need them representing sporting brands too.

If huge powerful brands like this can’t pick people who honestly represent their ethos and purpose, then why will anyone else. It represents a problem with our society in regards to our obsession with celebrity culture – we’re picking the wrong idols. The old-as-time debate demands more REAL women, who do REAL things and can act as REAL role models for younger generations to come. Now more than ever we need these women in our lives, in a time when women are still seen as second class citizens; we need more people like Mhairi Black, Caitlin Moran, Sophie Christiansen, Serena Williams, Malala Yousifazi, Michelle Obama, Nicola Adams and Sheryl Sandberg. Haven’t heard of some of them? Google them, learn about them, talk about them and channel their inner girl power. These women aren’t afraid to break the mould; they stand up for what they believe in and work incredibly hard to get where they are.

Role models don’t have to be figureheads in the media. Changing people’s views on idols is essential for continuing the fight for women’s equality. Role models are found close to home; your mum, your grandmother, your auntie, your best friend, surround yourself with real women who are fighting the patriarchy every single dam day. Our compulsive fanaticism of celebrities makes this hard, but step away from the filtered life these women portray and focus on the women in your life who deserve your adoration. We don’t need Kardashians.

Words by Liv Rafferty

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