Sunday, June 03, 2007

Iconic women

I recently read a nicely written essay about intelligent women that threw me by one underlying assumption. It started by taking for granted that Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson represent womanhood in our age. They are what we value. We judge all women by how they live up to the Simpson/Hilton ideal.

I kept thinking: "What society are we talking about?"

Is there anyone who holds those two women up in that way? Anyone? I'm looking all the way to the back of the room. Please raise your hands high so I can see you!

I mean, sure, Jessica Simpson is pleasant looking and she occasionally exhibits a bit of goofy charm. But Paris Hilton? It is seriously news to me if anyone finds her vaguely attractive on even a superficial physical level. As far as I can tell, she is nothing but a joke.

(I'm sure she'd say the same about me.)

It made me think about who would be an ideal American woman. As an author, I thought I should be able to name an example. Not that all heroines should be idyllic icons. But if we, as a culture, have an image of the perfect woman, I ought to know who it is so that I can do some healthy comparing and contrasting.

Despite nearing middle age myself, (another 40 years and I'll be there!)I guess it's true that it's hard for me to think of feminine ideal as being too far into adulthood. I don't see myself selecting Barbara Bush to represent the femininity of all women, for example. I realize this is probably ageist and sexist, a dreadful combination. But there you have it.

I guess I think that if I were forced to pick a celebrity that represented American womanhood, I would pick someone like Soledad O'Brien or Katie Couric or Mia Hamm or even Kelly Ripa. Someone who contributes something.

They may not be promoting world peace, but they're at least getting the kids fed and clocking in somewhere. Who would you nominate?


catslady said...

I would have to nominate oprah. She's come a long way baby lol. And boy does she contribute and not just money.

Lois said...

I dare say the Paris Hiltons and Britany Spears of the world have been and always will be a bigger deal and looked up to more than anyone. I guess because they have the fame, the fortune and the parties without doing a whole lot. I mean, even Bill Gates is a great example of a person who is doing good (whether you like his technology or not LOL), but still, I guess only the geeks of the world really think of him and all.

My heroine growing up (she's still on the list, but now she has company on the list) was Sally Ride, America's first woman astronaut. Very cool. :) But how many actually know who she is? :)