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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Golden Globes, Miss America, and What We Really Want Our Children to Aspire To

While preparing dinner tonight, the nightly entertainment news followed the national nightly news. We went from discussions of presidential candidates to what designer "the stars" were wearing. Hearing these entertainers referred to as "stars" over and over got me thinking. Why are celebrities the "stars" of our society? What is it about the lives of people who make movies and television shows so fascinating that they're stalked by paparazzi and people pay $4 a magazine to see what the latest "star" is wearing. Or a quick picture of them walking out of the gym. Or a coffee shop. Or strolling through the park. All the ordinary things that we ordinary people do everyday that no one documents. I know when I come out of Starbucks, there's no one waiting to take my picture in my baseball hat with my latte.

This was also the weekend of the Miss America pageant, in which we judge young women on their beauty and how great they look in a bathing suit. Is this really how far we've evolved? My brother-in-law joked that "inner beauty" doesn't pay the bills, but it does. These women might have a fleeting moment, but (with the exception of Vanessa Williams) do you remember a single Miss America? And we remember her because she was doused in controversy. The women who pay the bills get degrees in medicine and marketing and finance and law and education. Or they find jobs that challenge them or require them to work long and hard.

Yes, I sound like someone out-of-touch, with a grudge, and wearing Mom jeans, but it's so much more than that. I want more for my 11-year-old daughter than wanting to look like the women on the red carpet who contribute to society by parroting the words of others. And women who walk across a stage in a bikini needing desperately to be accepted. I want popular, celebrity role models who inspire creativity and activism and a sense of purpose beyond one's self. Although our "celebrity" is certainly lucrative and attention-receiving, those aren't the aspirations I want my daughter to seek.

And those aren't the aspirations I seek in my writing. It truly isn't self-aggrandizement or monetary gain. It truly is to reach people. Open their minds and hearts. Create discussion. To have a voice that is heard and that opens a channel for other voices to be heard.

No, there will never be the glamorization of a female Jeopardy champion and you'll never see an astrophysicist on the cover of People, but I hope that my husband and I are teaching our daughter that the fleeting moments of fame are not what you live for or aspire to. What we aspire to is a life that affects positive change. That challenges people. That helps people. Not that makes people wish to be you. But that makes people want to emulate what you do.

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