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The Perfect Role Model Doesn't Exist

No one person can be your everything

BY Agnes Amondi

Feb 01, 2023, 03:04 PM

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Serena Williams, the best female tennis player of her generation, has an outburst during the 2018 US Open final. She confronts the chair umpire and the next thing you know, her femininity is questioned. Her mothering skills are questioned. Her emotional capacity to tolerate contrasting views is questioned. Everything shifts from the game and becomes a scrutiny of her character. 
A refereeing decision goes against Cameroon female footballers. They get intensely emotional. What follows is an assessment of their capacity to become good role models to young girls. In fact, they got lectured about moral standards and professionalism. Here's part of it.

“It wasn’t a world cup last 16 in terms of behaviour I want to see from footballers. I am completely and utterly ashamed of the opposition. There are young girls out there seeing that behaviour, that’s not right. My daughter wants to be a footballer and if she watches that she’ll think. No, I want to play netball.” Phil Neville.

Sounds familiar?  Well, you don’t have to be a sports enthusiast but the above illustrations would certainly ring a very loud bell of behaviour expectation for women in higher and more visible positions in society. 

Note that the writer is not absolving the misdemeanors of the two parties. The examples are used to purely illustrate the unrealistic demands placed on women. Ever heard of the “good girl syndrome?” Compliance and silence are premium qualities here. 

With the emphasis put on them to be the perfect role models, some of these demands aren’t good for anyone. Here’s why.

Perfectly Imperfect

Young girls don’t need to see women in society being flawless 24/7, 365 days a year. We don’t want Serena Williams (just for the example) to always put on a forced smile even when under stressful circumstances just for the cameras. If it’s your take that she was being unfairly critical, that’s fine. We aren’t saying you can’t disagree. But emotional outbursts in sport and in life are common.

Most people don’t even need a pile of reasons to confront others, just give them an inch and they’ll take a mile as the saying goes. So don’t get all too philosophical on women in high pressure situations or otherwise, about “checking their emotional state” or give them the “it’s a bad look,” That line of advice is not needed.

Reality Check

There’s nothing wrong with having women at the very upper echelons of society portraying good, socially acceptable behaviour. In fact, it's good. It sends a message that good manners matter. But it all comes crashing if these women promote the always sunny, all smiles, no problems, we all get along vibes.

While it's understandable that we'd like these high profile women to uphold and maintain the “standard” because they have great influence over the destination of millions, the demand might be too great and impractical at that. No one person can be your everything. 

What young girls need is a practical and realistic portrayal of women. That even the best of us can have a bad day, be vulnerable and come down to the level of the mortal human.

Along with that, if it so happens that they have a public meltdown, this shouldn’t be used against them. After all, people have their own series of emotional meltdowns. The difference is that it takes place away from the glares of the camera.

Not Here To Raise The World

The blunt truth is that these women in the public limelight aren’t there to raise the world as it were. It just so happens that their jobs have elevated them to public consciousness. Whilst they are held to a higher standard - and for good reason, their behavioral obligations lie with themselves first before anyone. 

So before Cameroon gets lectured about “how young girls will tune out of football” make sure you are teaching your child good behaviour. Plus, is this not an insinuation that young girls aren’t capable of making judgements on their own? 

Again, being held to a higher standard is not the issue here. But being expected to be perfect and not have any weakness is. To that we say, we don't need perfect role models. Just normal.

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