I want to be pretty

Evening all

Just wanted to make a few small points following some things I have read recently. Firstly, a good article in the Telegraph on Saturday, by Bonnie Greer, and about Michelle Obama. For once it was about her and not what she was wearing. What an amazing woman. Michelle for President I say. Michelle visited a school last week really close to my office (Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School) Watch the film on the link – I challenge you not to shed a tear. She told the school girls there: “being smart is cooler than being anything in the World”. She’s a role model made of gold. It’s a good article. Read if you get a moment as I found it inspiring and hopeful.

Then, when I got back to work this morning one of my colleagues left an article on my desk which she had seen in the Metro. “Got boy trouble? Just ask Elaina, 7” is the headline. So it’s more of the same … this bizarre phenomena of children being given adult roles – as agony aunts and relationship experts. This time not in the US (where we could believe it could happen) but this time in the UK on Mercia FM. I really do wonder how anyone could think this to be cute? Or entertaining? Or appropriate! What purpose can this possibly serve? I am really not at all sure. Ratings? Ah yes. That must be it.

My new book this week is The Story of Childhood – growing up in modern Britain, by Libby Brooks. Fascinating so far. I liked this quote from the preface: “The human young must serve an extended apprenticeship, only after which they are deemed competent to become integrated members of society.” Slightly ironic next to the other extreme (these child agony aunts who appear to be being given adult wisdom – but are actually being used to make money … let’s face it.)

One of the saddest stories in the book is about Laura. She’s 15 and she’s tried to commit suicide. Bullied for years she finally cracked. She says: “When they started beating me up I actually remember thinking to myself, ‘I want to be pretty.’ Part of me thought something must look wrong with me for them to hate me so much and part of me thought if I become really pretty next time I see them that’ll show them that I don’t care what they did to me.” How completely and utterly tragic. Brooks says:

“After more than a century of the women’s movement fighting for the right to participate in public life, liberation has been appropriated for the private preoccupation with presentation. What this tells young women is: you can’t change the world but you can, and indeed you have a responsibility to, change yourself.” Gives a new meaning to the “Because you’re worth it” slogan, don’t you think.

Laura says: “Loads of teenagers don’t really know who to try to be.”

Which is why Michelle Obama, speaking to girls in a school in Islington, is such a powerful and hopefully life-changing moment for them at least.

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