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.


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