6 min read
by Kaitlyn Locke, editorial intern MEDIAGIRLS
She’s cheered them on from the stands or from home; begged you for their concert tickets; and she’s rushed to the movie theater to see them on the big screen: role models. Your daughter most likely has a lot of them, whether she calls them that or not. As consumers of media, girls and young women are exposed to a lot of different kinds of people, and get the chance to connect on a personal level to women who inspire them.
After looking back at the past year, here are five women who we think slay at being role models, based on how beautifully they used media to create good in the world. They care about others, and they work hard to use their positions to cheer on fellow women and to create opportunities for everyone to get involved in issues they’re passionate about.
1. Gina Rodriguez
Her Twitter bio simply reads “Lioness — I can and I will,” and that pretty much sums up what we think about Gina. She’s powerful, and she owns it. Gina has talked about how she only plays roles of women who inspire her; this couldn’t be truer with her character Jane in “Jane the Virgin.” She’s smart, feisty, loves her family, is dedicated to her education and her passion for writing, and always speaks her mind. Gina also hosted the first annual Young Women’s Honors in November, which featured the accomplishments of ten amazing women. Gina said about the event: “My goal is to generate positivity, inclusivity, unlimited potential, and the possibility every woman is born with. As a young Latina, I had to break down barriers and overcome naysayers. When you see someone following their dreams, it gives you allowance to follow your own.”
Rock on, Gina! We can’t wait to jump into the new year with you.
After starting out as a popular Disney Channel star, Zendaya has skyrocketed into the public eye. She’s known not only for her singing, acting, and dancing abilities, but for the way she uses her massive social media presence to promote social justice. In 2015, when a TV commentator on the show “Fashion Police” made an offensive comment about Zendaya’s hair at a red carpet event — joking it probably had the “smell of patchouili oil or weed” — she stood up for herself, gracefully but firmly asserting that the comment was unacceptable. Since then, Zendaya has made herself known for her confidence in calling out acts of injustice, both in Hollywood and in the political and social scene. At the same time, she’s emerged as a style icon who likes to joke and laugh with her followers — she can be lighthearted and silly while sharing stories about her day, but knows when to be fierce and serious.
Zendaya is a force to be reckoned with, and we can’t wait to see what she creates in 2017.
3. Simone Biles
Simone Biles is historic. She’s epic. She’s truly one of the greatest rockstars to have emerged in the past year. Simone, at 19 years old and 4 feet 9 inches tall, became one of America’s greatest athletes ever at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Her list of awards is staggering: gold medals in all-around, floor, and vault this year, part of the gold medal-winning gymnastics team “The Final Five,” and now the most decorated American gymnast ever. She’s widely been called the greatest gymnast in the world, but it’s not only her awards we love her for — it’s the way she carries herself and stands up for herself, and especially how she shuts down anyone who tries to compare her to other athletes. On the sexist media coverage of the Olympics, during which she was often compared to male athletes, Simone said:
“I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.”
We’re completely with you, Simone!
4. Jazz Jennings
While she’s not an athlete or a movie star, Jazz, in case you haven’t heard of her before, is a role model in her own right. Now 16, Jazz is a transgender teenaged girl who for several years used YouTube as her outlet to express herself and to explain how she had always known she is a girl. She and her family have been in the limelight since she was very young as a model for how to raise a transgender child. Jazz has embraced the national attention and has used it towards activism; she founded a charity to raise money for transgender children, and has been part of several human rights campaigns and organizations to spread awareness for trans children. Jazz is the definition of fearless — she speaks out for what she believes in and acts to help others while spreading awareness and acceptance.
We can’t wait to see what other projects she works on in 2017 — we’ll be rooting for her every step of the way!
5. Emma Watson
How fitting it is for Hermione Granger, “the brightest witch of her age,” to have grown up to become one of the one of brightest fighters in the drive for gender equality. After the “Harry Potter” movie series ended, Emma could easily have used her fame to do a few rom-coms for the rest of her career and then retire to a tropical island. What did she do instead? She went to Brown University and got a degree in English literature. That same year, she was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. In September 2014, she gave a speech at the United Nations Headquarters announcing the start of the campaign HeForShe, which promotes the inclusion of all people in working towards gender equality. Most recently, Emma hid copies of Maya Angelou’s autobiography in the New York City subway system — her way of spreading light and awareness.
We’ve loved her since she was first sorted into Gryffindor, and we look forward to watching Emma next year, and for many more to come.
Share this list with your girl(s), and ask how many of the above women she’s heard of before.
- Ask her which one she’s most inspired by, and why.
- Who would she add to the list?
- Who would you add? (Hint: Have one in mind ahead of time.)
Encourage her to keep up with role models from all different fields in the world, and especially the subjects that intrigue her most (sports, drama, science, etc.); help her create a “vision board” for her room with quotes from women she most admires. It’s a fun afternoon arts-and-crafts activity, but it’s also an ever-evolving source of positivity and empowerment.
By teaching girls to create and to root for other girls and women, we’re teaching them to stand up for themselves and become advocates in their own right, following in their role models’ footsteps.
Kaitlyn Locke is an undergrad studying journalism and Spanish at Boston University as well as an editorial intern for MEDIAGIRLS. She is the Features Editor of The Daily Free Press, Boston University’s independent weekly student newspaper. Kaitlyn lives in Boston and spends her free time working as a barista, learning to play guitar, and buying too many leather-bound notebooks.
Michelle Cove is the Executive Director of MEDIAGIRLS®, a nonprofit organization that teaches girls how to critique the way girls and women are portrayed in pop culture with an emphasis on creating empowering content.
She is also an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and author whose projects have been featured on numerous national platforms including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Katie Couric’s talk show “Katie,” “The Today Show,” The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
Visit www.mediagirls.org to learn more.