5 (un) Real Role Models

I recently wrote a posting for Gifted for Leadership and I thought I’d share it here as well…

From Hillary to Miley to Condi to Britney, I find most discussion about female role models in popular culture pretty idiotic. There’s always some big “controversy” brewing in the media about women in the limelight: Too emotional or too robotic? Way too sexy or too pear-shaped in a pantsuit? Overly assertive or too demure? Too many dates or too many pounds?

Despite all the controversy and chit-chat about prominent women in the media, there’s one arena in which pop culture has gotten it right: fiction. In recent years, movies, books, and TV shows have presented us with some amazing female characters deserving of our admiration. In their honest depictions of the complexity of what it means to be flawed and human, these fictional women are as real as it gets. So here’s my personal toast to 5 great female characters and the traits that make them work emulating:

Brenda Johnson (from TNT’s The Closer)-She can deal with corpses, perverts, and chauvinism, so it’s obvious that she’s a cool cat. But what I really admire about detective Brenda Johnson is her demonstration of the fact that sweetness and smarts aren’t mutually exclusive. Constantly relying on her southern-bred manners, Brenda is sweet, kind, and polite in a world that’s often rough and rude. Brenda shows us that we need not sacrifice the kindnesses of “femininity” passed on to us by our mothers and grandmothers to still be smart, savvy, and very good at what we do.

Marge Simpson (from TV’s The Simpsons)-“Poor, poor Marge!” I’ve often thought as I’ve watched Marge tough it out with her dope of a husband. But the reality is that Marge exemplifies what it means to live as a giver of grace. She doesn’t love her dysfunctional family begrudgingly; her care, attentiveness, and forgiveness are given freely and generously. Her grace springs from devotion, not duty. Despite his annoying idiocies, she sees something in Homer that no one else can, and she forgives and forgets…and forgives and forgets…and forgives and forgets again.

Hermione Granger (from the Harry Potter book series)-Through the ups and downs of life as a muggle in a wizard’s world, this feisty adolescent exemplifies what it looks like to be courageously loyal. Hermione shows us that loyalty to our friends and loved ones doesn’t mean backing down or going along-it means speaking one’s mind, sticking it out through arguments and misunderstandings, and if needed putting one’s life and limb on the line.

Juno (from the movie Juno)-She’s an offbeat teen who’s gotten herself into quite a mess: pregnancy. But despite (temporarily) losing her boyfriend, disappointing her parents, and being abandoned by any real friends, Juno remains her quirky self and presses on with her decision to carry her unplanned pregnancy to term. The social isolation she faces as she comes near to term is painful to watch, but it doesn’t seem to faze Juno herself. I admire Juno because she is unswerving in her determination even when she stands alone.

Precious Ramotswe (from The #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency book series)-As the first lady detective in Botswana (who’s proudly “traditionally built”), Precious navigates a variety of mysteries and crimes. Through it all, Precious remains unruffled, constant, and steady. She chooses to live in a simple way, enjoying tea with friends, anchored in the beauty of her surroundings, and assuming the best in others. It’s not that her life is problem free or that a cup of red bush tea instantly solves all her problems; rather, it’s that Precious has a sense of who she is and what she can do in this world. She isn’t bowled over by the unexpected; she isn’t stressed out, worked up, overscheduled, or overburdened. Precious takes what comes her way, does her very best, and keeps her spirit calm.

I don’t admire everything about these women, but I do admire them deeply.

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2 responses to “5 (un) Real Role Models

  1. Very interesting post. I, too, admire Precious and Brenda–I’d never thought of Marge Simpson that way!

  2. I doubt it’s the women that read your articles, but someone is buying the content within the pages of People and US Weekly. It’s the same with politics. Who votes based on the details of a campaign platform instead of identity or personality?

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