Sunday, May 19, 2024

Female role models changed over time


By Nadia Paschal

Pop culture is constantly evolving, and it can be hard to keep up with what or who is in or out. However, one thing has remained constant, and that is the importance of role models. It’s especially important for there to be women to fill these roles, so that young girls, or women of any age, can look up to them. 

There are various definitions of what exactly a role model is, but there are a few common features that they possess. Ambition, confidence and a positive attitude are just a few attributes that they have to offer.

Kaitlynn Lehr, a junior at SUNY Plattsburgh, was involved in competitive dancing as a child and found most of her role models within that field. She looked up to the professionals in that field, and in terms of celebrities found herself relating to some of the stars of the television show “Dance Moms,” such as Maddie Ziegler and Chloe Lukasiak.

“It was nice to see someone going through the same thing,” Lehr said. “Their professionalism at that age and how amazing they were at dancing (was inspiring).”

The status and image of the ideal role model has changed drastically over the last decade or so, especially for women. Many female idols, such as Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus, had whole brands that revolved around being wholesome, family-friendly and just overall being “America’s sweetheart.” 

Studios and managers pushed them to fit a certain mold so that they would fit an image they could sell. It was all about what made them the most money. Famous women were held to different standards than famous men were.

“People are very careful about the way that they present themselves to people now versus back then. Now we are all about being inclusive and celebrities really want to make sure they’re not hindering that inclusivity in any way shape or form,” Lehr said. “So they’re very cautious and careful about what they like, what they comment on and what they share on their platforms. Back then they would just like whatever. They did not really think about the inclusivity as much as they do now.”

With that in mind, female role models of past generations should not be completely denounced. They paved the way for those who are currently considered role models, and worked hard to get to where they were, inspiring young girls to also pursue their dreams. This showed that women could achieve anything that they set their mind to.

One thing that many look for in a role model today is authenticity. Individuality and nonconformity appeal to Gen Z, and many look for women who emulate those traits. We’re in a time that’s focusing heavily on female empowerment but in a more genuine sense than we’ve seen in the past.

Lehr said she feels there is authenticity among idols and role models, but in a way that can be considered carefully crafted.

“There is a sense of fake authenticity, but they are standing up for what they believe in at the same time. Not necessarily that they’re fake in everything that they do is fake, but they go about it in careful ways to make sure everyone is included and they aren’t harming anyone,” Lehr said.

Lehr said that female role models and new celebrities these days can be found on TikTok, YouTube and in the music industry rather than traditional forms of media such as television shows. However, the status of these icons is ever changing, as people move from trend to trend and are drawn to the newest and hottest thing.

Although the amount of media we consume on a daily basis can be overwhelming, many modern role models can actually be found online. 

The rise of social media offers a whole new breed of idols that are easier to connect with and more relatable than the typical celebrity. Their images may also be carefully crafted, but you can still get a sense of their values and their personality, as they connect directly with their audience.

There are still celebrities who are considered timeless, setting good examples for a long time. Women such as Taylor Swift and Beyonce have been in the public eye for many years and continue to be revered.

It was inspiring to talk to other women about who they considered role models, and what qualities they find important. It made me reevaluate who I look up to and what I find important. 

Personally, I look up to women who fight against injustice no matter the cost, such as Jane Fonda, Angelina Jolie and Audrey Hepburn. They are not afraid to use their platforms or upset people in order to speak up and defend what’s right and get involved directly with the causes they fought or fight against.

Women have been fighting to express themselves for years, and it seems like progress has been made rapidly over the past few years. 

There are many great examples of women across multiple industries for girls of any age to look up to and see themselves in. No matter what field or interest you look into, there are women who push boundaries and make change.


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