More Debate About Female Role Models

Kate Middleton has become something of a lightning rod in discussions about role models for girls

I linked to an article the other day on the mama mia site entitled, “This is why Kate Middleton is no role model for my daughter.”

There was an opposing view posted on the site more recently entitled, “Kate Middleton IS a role model for my daughter. And I am not afraid to say it.”

I am pretty amazed, and dismayed, at the ferocious support of a woman who none of us knows, and who will never give any of us a moment’s thoughts. By all accounts, Kate Middleton has lived a very wealthy and pampered life. There have been many stories that she took a gap year, and that her mother was involved in her applying to the same university that William did, trying to foster a royal romance. Even if you don’t believe these things, her behavior during her 20s was nothing to admire. She worked very briefly for a company named Jigsaw, and her boss said she was not very committed, asking for Mondays and Fridays off, and coming and going according to William’s needs. I linked to one story compiled from others here, and take it with a grain of salt, but the same things have been said over and over, so I believe there is a grain of truth in it. After quitting that job, she “worked” for her parent’s company. It gave her the flexibility to be available for William at amoment’s notice.

Since marrying William, she seems to have not improved her work ethic. She quit her job with her parents to prepare for the wedding.

Let’s count:

In 2011, she made 34 public appearances.  Not too shabby, to work every 10th day. She claimed she didn’t want to make appearances without William, who actually had a job at that time. In 2012 and 2013, she did far fewer than any other member of the royal family. In fact, 1/10th as many as the Queen. Yes, she was pregnant, but many pregnant women work. In 2014, with an older baby, she did 4 appearances before the Royal Tour to New Zealand and Australia. Am I obsessing about the lack of work the Duchess does?? No, of course not. But I am disturbed by the hero worship she gets for doing practically nothing.

I realize Middleton can’t win no matter what she does. And I don’t think that women should judge the decisions of other women. But this is what sticks in my craw: this fawning and god-like worship of her by other adults is embarrassing and scary. “She doesn’t dress like a tramp,” is a pitiful reason to admire someone. (How about the fact that she looks almost skeletal in the same type of gown she looked healthy in at her wedding.) There is no reason to dislike this woman, just as there is nothing about her to admire. She has made a practice of being empty, a blank slate, with no opinions to cause any controversy. So sad to see women admire this. So sad, that so many women in both those opinion pieces linked above seem to have chosen to hero-worship this pleasant yet vacuous woman. How many women would write in defense of Angela Merkel, a real role model in my view? Not too many. Why? She isn’t pretty, tall and royal. We are still fed the fairy tale BS, and many women just can’t get over thinking that a Barbie life, a Princess life, is something to aspire to.

I don’t think marrying a royal is anti-feminist. I think being lazy in a role in which you could be doing so much good is anti-feminist. And admiring a woman for marrying well, being pretty and acting pleasant is a pretty low bar for a role model. I grew up in an age in which women couldn’t get jobs, they were the secretaries. The women of the 60s and 70s fought for our right to work. It seems like Princess Diana, for all her faults, and there were many, understood this and sought to be useful.  Middleton doesn’t seem to have that compulsion and that flies in the face of the duties the other royals seem to feel.

I would not want the Duchess’ life. I would hate to go out and about with cameras following my every move. I would hate to have to live in a gilded cage the rest of my life. There are reasons Diana cracked before the press hounded her, literally, to her death. There are reasons Fergie fell apart, and from all accounts, Chelsy Davy, Prince Harry’s ex-girlfriend, chose to walk away. She is a lawyer who supposedly has her own professional life. And the security issue, especially with children, would haunt me every day and night of my life.

But Middleton picked this life, knowing the obligations and seemingly choosing to not fulfill them. She is not a figure modern women should be admiring. She barely does anything. And that admiration, that wish for a princess fairy-tale life, is part of the reason I believe women have set themselves back in the 50 years since the women’s liberation movement. We just can’t give up the dream of a tiara and a glass slipper.

More about that later.


Edited to add:

I sent this to the author of the piece that defends Middleton as a role model.

Rebecca Sparrow, let’s put you on the hot seat here, since you took on Maggie Hamilton. I think you resent anyone questioning Kate Middleton’s life because, as you said, it is similar to your life in that you followed your spouse’s work. No one is saying that is wrong. But how is it the basis for a role model?

And Melinda Gates is the same – an accessory to her husband, without whom, she would not be known.

How about Angela Merkel?? Not one of the Kate-defenders here mentioned her. You know what I think? I think it’s because she’s older, short and not pretty. Kind of frumpy. Doesn’t matter that she is brilliant, tough as nails, and a self-made woman. She isn’t pretty like Princess Kate. She isn’t sparkly, and she doesn’t wear McQueen and high heels, and have pretty brown hair blowing in her face. So she isn’t a role model that any women here mentioned.

How sad. Really. Makes me feel like the feminists before me wasted their time.


How Thin is Too Thin?

Disclaimer: I am fat. When I quit smoking almost 10 years so, I gained 40 pounds, and I’ve only lost about 10 of them. I would like to lose the rest. I like looking thin. But there  is a difference between thin and anorexic thin.


I regularly read two blogs that deal with fashion: and Since they deal with fashion, often the readers will comment on the weight of a celebrity with a comment like “Go eat a hamburger, girl,” to which everyone, including the moderators, jumps on them. It is absolutely forbidden to comment on weight on these blogs. I understand that they deal with fashion and not health, but sometimes I think it’s irresponsible to have such a huge audience and refuse to allow any discussion of a very dangerous trend among celebrities: starving themselves, sometimes to death.

Did any reputable journalists notice that Angelina Jolie had the arms of a 6 year old child? I don’t see how people couldn’t notice that. And people who do comment often worry about the health of the celebrity, but also the impact on young girls,

Rachel Zoe is another drastic example. She is frighteningly thin. When pregnant, she looked much healthier. Ditto for Kelly Ripa. In this Oscars gown, she almost disappears. And Kate Middleton seems to be headed in the same direction, although with the stress,of being Queen to be, I think it’s understandable. But look at her compared to the thin Diana. Nope, don’t comment on it.




People defend the no commenting rule by bringing up the fact that we aren’t allowed to comment on fat women, either. I don’t think that’s valid for a few reasons. First of all, there are not many heavy women celebrities. Those who are overweight are often trying to lose half their weight. And we all have been warned ad nauseum of the dangers of being overweight, but where are the front page magazine stories of the dangers of being too thin? We hardly ever see those stories. Why? Because thin is good. Thin is moral. Good people are thin. Fat people are lazy sloths. That is the message we get, over and over, so much so that perfectly healthy young women who are at a good weight for their height hate their bodies. Cover up. Starve themselves into a prom gown. Pass out at school. I see it every day as a high school teacher. And I am tired of women like Keira Knightley being held us as a standard of beauty. If she is that thin naturally, I have nothing to say. But most women in First World countries who eat healthy don’t have chest and rib bones that stick out like this.


One other woman who come to mind is Kyra Sedgewick. She is very thin. I am almost the same age as she is, and you don’t stay that thin by eating healthy and an hour a day exercise. She has said she has had weight issues (read: anorexia or bulimia) in the past. You have to really watch what you eat. Is this healthy? Judge for yourself.


Who looks healthy, in my view? Emily Deschanel. Kate Winslet. Kelly Upton. All gorgeous, but they don’t look like they were just starved, almost to death.

I would like to be able to comment on a celebrity who I find is dangerously thin in a responsible manner, on a responsible blog. I am not body shaming, a term used to shut us up. I think our daughters’ self-esteem and maybe even their health depends on us starting to speak out about this.

Is Kate Middleton a Role Model???

  • I came across this blogpost which received a lot of attention and a lot of anger.

    The basic argument is that Kate Middleton is not a good role model. I agree with 90% of what the writer says. I have to admit, while I do like to look at the pictures of the future king and princess/whatever of England, I am slight sickened by the celebrity worship I see by people in the host countries and even here in the USA. I would never line up hours to shake hands with a royal. Why?? What did they do to deserve my admiration and attention? Nothing. William was born into his life and Kate Middleton, from all accounts, schemed to get into his life. Nothing there to admire. I am sure she is a nice, but vacuous, woman, a good wife and mother, but I certainly don’t want her life, nor do I respect her as an intelligent woman with something to say. Or if she is, they certainly haven’t highlighted this. She is very pretty, very thin, wears clothes beautifully and has the royal wave down pat. She seems kinds and caring, but who knows? Thus, I have zero desire to ever stand in line to meet her or admire her in any way.

    I compare her to Chelsea Clinton, who also is very privileged. Clinton went to college, got a degree, worked, got married, and still works and has ambitions. She is her own woman. Middleton went to the University and then did basically nothing for 8 or 9 years, until she got engaged. Her old nickname was Waity Kaity and her new nickname is Duchess Dolittle. Since her son was born, she did 3 (yes, three) public engagements. I get that she is a new mother, but I taught high school full time, drove two hours 2 times a week to get my Masters, and had three children under 7 at home, with a husband who was away four nights a week. And she can’t do a few engagements? Really? There are very hard economic times out there right now, and that she doesn’t do any engagements rubs people in her country the wrong way. I can  understand their resentment. It seems like she is lazy and a moocher. I don’t know if these things are true, but appearances are important, and when she is seen doing nothing but going on back-to-back vacations, people will feel stung.

    They also don’t seem to ever show their child, who will be the future king, (an outdated concept if I ever heard one) to the people in England the way they do in NZ and Australia. I am not going to be all judgmental about this because I don’t believe a child is a showpiece, but also because I don’t know their security concerns. It must be terrifying to never be able to take your baby for a stroll without a big security detail, and to worry about kidnappers, etc. I would be a nervous wreck, and never let him out of the castle.

    Now, back to the central question. Who would I like to meet in place of Kate Middleton and Kim Kardashian? I would love to meet Jonas Salk when he was alive (polio vaccine,) Nelson Mandela or Madame Curie (discovered radium) but Kate?? No. She seems pleasant and vacuous. As does her husband. I wish them will, but certainly, they have done nothing for me to admire. I realize I am the exception. I do appreciate that she dresses elegantly, and with class. I will give her kudos for that. She does show young girls that you don’t have to bare your body to be beautiful. And that stockings are still a good idea. 🙂

     We have a horrible habit of celebrity worship in our country, and obviously in New Zealand and Australia, also. The people lining up, frenzied, to see or touch her is bewildering to me. Isn’t there something more productive they could be doing with their free time? Have Easter dinner with their families?? Paint their houses? Anything but line up to touch someone who thinks he is “royal,” whose blood flows differently than our blood does. Nothing against William. He seems like a very grounded, delightful young man. But still.

    I do know my own daughter wouldn’t look to Middleton as a role model, because there is nothing there to look up to except marrying a famous man. I hope I raised my daughter to be smarter than that. Wish all young girls were.

A New Writer of Fiction

I am reworking a few chapters on the mystery, Reach, I started a few years ago, and adding to them, and God!!! My writing sucks!!! I teach English and creative writing, and one would think I could practice what I preach, but my dialogue is awkward and stilted, my narration is way too long, I love to tell you and not show – every single rookie mistake, which makes sense, because while I can teach kids to write, I haven’t been doing it along with them. I AM a rookie!! Except in poetry. I can write passable poetry. Plotting, characters, suspense…a whole different ballgame.

I am under no delusions that this novel is going to be publishable. Maybe, if I am lucky, I will learn a thing or two from it.


A Reflection on Royalty, Wlliam and Kate, and Happiness

I am not a fan of royalty, at all. I would never go stand and wait for a glimpse of anyone famous just by virtue of birth or celebrity. I admire accomplishments, not celebrity. I do, however, like the psychology of the royal tour to New Zealand and Australia.  I like to think about this: why people are famous and why some stand for hours to see them, and how we are all really people watchers, deep down, and we like glimpses of lives that aren’t our lives.

And I mostly like that William, the future King of England, seems so delighted with everything on this trip. From the old plane, to the offered wine, and the playdate, he seems like he is out of his usual box here. And having a blast! That he was so thrilled by a simple bracelet that was given to him, and he was, amazes me. He can own almost anything, and a silly little bracelet was giving him such joy. That’s nice to see.

I hope he takes this wonder back home with him. I don’t remember seeing him looking so tickled at everything ever before. I think he has a nice temperament (he even looks pleasant in his baby pictures) and is a good guy, but he seems really filled with happiness here. It is really nice to see. Because with all of their fame and fortune, I remind myself that they are real people, with sadness and loss and fears, just like everyone else, and he has had his fill of sadness in his life. So I find myself praying that this total stranger, who many would judge as being ridiculously privileged, has peace and a happy life.

A Short Tribute to Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert is leaving Comedy Central for CBS. Ever since the White House Correspondents’  Dinner, where Colbert was the first person to really criticize GW Bush, and did it while looking at him, he has been my hero.

Colbert had the courage to call Bush a fool, a jester; he was so tough on him, that I was actually a bit sick watching him eviscerate Bush. But it had to be done, finally, after all the lies and fear Bush/Cheney created, and all the anti-American labels they would put on any opposition. I truly think Colbert helped many Americans get their brains thinking again, including this one.


Chapter One, Sneak Peek – “Reach” – a Mystery

Breathe. Pull. Glide. Breathe. Breathe. Pull. Glide. I was getting into a groove, into a place where all I heard were the bubbles from my nose and mouth, and all I saw were the beams from the sun hitting the surface of the water. My heart rate was steady at 108 beats per minute, the water warm under my wetsuit.

Bump. Something hit me in the leg. What the hell?? The first scene from Jaws flashed through my mind, the shark heading back up to grab my leg a second time. I panicked, and flailed away, visions of the gaping mouth and teeth headed toward my poor, vulnerable body. I raced toward shore, and was bumped again. Whatever it was was stuck on my leg. I reached down, hoping to keep my fingers while I got rid of it, and I touched flesh. Oh, no. Not flesh. Not human flesh. I had to stop, and disentangle myself from whatever or whoever was following me. I looked down through my goggles to see none other than our not-so-reputable local real estate broker, disbarred lawyer, ex-coke dealer, and famous philanderer Charles “Chuck” Cortland. His open eyes were staring at me, and he was obviously dead.

Yikes! What happened to him? I couldn’t believe I was in this situation: going out for a nice, relaxing swim in the morning, and now having to lug Chuck back to shore, dead as a doornail, or a coffin nail, and Dickens liked to proclaim. I treaded water as I tried to figure out how to get him the 100 feet back into shore. Chuck had been a linebacker at Michigan State, and had only gotten beefier in the 25 years since graduation. I was a strong swimmer, but not that strong. I was praying I could get myself and his body in. I decided if it was a choice between good old Chuckie and I, he would be floating for a while longer.

After trying to grab him and get some purchase, I was finally able to get ahold of his hair and began to pull him in. It felt weird to drag him in by his hair. I kept expecting him to complain that I was hurting him, yelling, “Really, Leigh, do you have to pull my hair that hard, it really hurts,” I imagined him complaining, but then remembered that he was past any complaints. It seemed obvious that someone had killed him, since he had his clothes on, and I had to say that I was not surprised he turned up dead. I was surprised to bump into him dead, so to speak, but that someone had killed him – not so surprising.

Chuck had a checkered history since graduating from the University of Michigan undergrad program and gaining access to their law school. We could never figure out how he got into that esteemed law school. Chuck was not the sharpest tool in the shed. After graduation, he came back to New Jersey, and took the bar here; not to spread rumors, but it was said that he paid someone to take it for him. He got involved with real estate law, and then started buying and selling real estate for himself. Over the twenty years since his return, he became one of the biggest developers on the Jersey shore. Most of the condos and townhomes on Long Beach Island were built by his development group, and now he was in litigation with the Waterkeeper, John Brown, a humorless man whose job it was to protect the shore and the water. Chuck wanted to develop the end of the island, near a bird preserve, and John was having none of it. There was also the matter of Chuck’s little arrest for selling cocaine. He spent three years in the Big House, and lost his law license over that. He attracted big money and trouble, and it was only a matter of time before he crossed someone’s line.

After pulling and yanking and dragging, I got him up to the shore and onto the beach. I called 911, which was kind of pointless, I realized, but I wanted someone here quickly. Now that I was no longer panting and straining, I got the creeps being near his dead body.  I kept glancing at him, but his open stare looked angry, and confused, and made me feel guilty that I had not been there to help him.Within five minutes, four police cars pulled up. There was not much else happening on Long Beach Island in April, so Chuck was getting the full treatment. The first one to jump out was Sergeant Over. He didn’t actually jump out, as he tipped the scales at well over 300 pounds, but he tried to jump out. He was an obnoxious know-it-all who was smart, but thought he was smarter than he actually was. I began to debate the wisdom of my 911 call. I hoped I wouldn’t have to listen to the history of dead bodies washing up on the shores of our beloved Long Beach Island, from pre-Revolutionary times to the present.

To be continued…