Friday, 10 February 2012

Monroe, Mohan & Role Models

Having been stuck in bed all week with an unwelcome sickness, a substantial amount of time has been depleted, thinking. One topic raised inside my cranium was on the subject of female role models. Curled up in a ball in bed, snubbing my laptop in a response to fatigue I needed something to occupy myself with, without exerting too much strain on myself. I turned to my Audrey Hepburn box set, something I could watch without spending too much time ruminating as I was feeling drained enough already.
Unfortunately, this didn’t turn out the way I planned and I started questioning the stars of Hollywood from this time. The main focus for me was Marilyn Monroe, one of the most recognised and iconic stars from old Hollywood. Having read numerous non-fiction books whilst at university, studying for my dissertation, I had crossed paths with the lady in question in academic books and read of the attitudes towards her at the time. Ever since, I have been left feeling pity and sympathy for a tortured soul who was shaped and moulded into a sex symbol, catering to the forged ideas that women are only there to enhance a man’s needs. Hitchcock described her himself as having sex written all over her face, unlike Grace Kelly who he admired for the suggestion she gave of an ‘inner passion and flashes of congenial wit’. There is no denying the beauty of Marilyn and she still has me laughing when I watch her films. Seeing her stuck through a window in Gentleman Prefer Blondes will never get old, but the tragic manipulation of her life and the way she was monopolised by the film industry makes me, in truth, believe she isn’t a suitable role model for women. The hostility felt towards her during her life soon disappeared once she had died which is how we became to regard her as such an icon.

Unfortunately, a day after I found myself having these thoughts, an editor from the The Sun newspaper, Dominic Mohan, appeared, to give evidence at the Leveson inquiry, an ongoing investigation into the culture, practices and ethics of the British Press.  It wasn’t long before he was trending on twitter along with the notorious ‘page 3’. Giving evidence, Mohan in discussion of page 3, labeled it as an ‘innocuous British institution’ representing ‘youth and freshness’. I, along with what appeared to be everybody else on twitter, was left utterly offended and affronted by what Mohan had said. Page 3 echoes the thoughts I had had the day before on the issue of women being sexually objectified.

Fifty-seven years ago, Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat on the no. 2857 bus whilst twenty-three years previous to this event, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic. History has seen Emily Davison throw herself under a horse in protest of women’s rights to vote in Britain, Mother Teresa devote her life to the poor, sick, orphaned and dying and Elizabeth Fry as a major driving force behind prison reform, in order to see prisoners were treated more humanely.
Whether it be Sofia Coppola becoming the first American woman to win the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival or Florence Nightingale’s pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War, there are so many women today and throughout history who I consider to be a true role model whether they work or have worked in the arts, science, as an activist etc. and whether they are well known to us or just ordinary people who we may just pass by on the street.

I find it insulting and insolent to strong women today and to those who came before, a world the women I have mentioned along with millions of others, have fought against to give us the rights to equality, freedom and the strength to have our own voice. I understand the world I live in isn’t perfect and as equal as I’d like and I don’t just mean in regards to gender, but also with creed, race and class. However, I do believe this objectification is completely wrong and disrespects everything humans have worked for; we are smarter than ever, with a bigger understanding of the universe we occupy. We have been blessed with knowledge being just a click away yet attitudes like that of Dominic Mohan will stump our growth and frankly needs to be diminished from society. We owe it to the strong women that saturate our existence and we owe it human nature. 
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