TOWIE, Geordie Shore and Desperate Scousewives create 'role model deficit' for girlsReported by Metro.co.uk on Friday, 11 May 2012 (on May 11, 2012)
*For more than 100 years, the Girl Guides group has been an inspiration. But, as Ross McGuinness finds out, it fears that reality TV and the cult of celebrity is damaging the future of young women.*
Former TOWIE star Amy Childs is no role model for young girls (Picture: Xposurephotos.com)
Growing up is hard enough as it is. But growing up without someone to look up to is even harder.
That is the message from Girlguiding UK, which publishes a report today emphasising the lack of positive female role models for girls and young women.
It says the ‘Towie generation’ is exposed to such a narrow field of women in the public eye that they are harming their futures.
It believes shows such as Geordie Shore and Skins are creating a ‘role model deficit’.
The study is a follow-up to its Girls’ Attitude Survey for 2011, which showed more than half of 11 to 21-year-old females think there aren’t enough female role models.
The organisation set up six sample focus groups of females from the same age bracket to explore the issue.
Their feedback showed girls adopt misguided views on sex and relationships from reality TV programmes and believe sportswomen are somehow less successful than sportsmen.
By the time they reach their teens, they start looking away from their parents to celebrities and TV shows as influences, the report found.
‘Within their own lives, there is a reluctance to stand out from their peers,’ it concluded. ‘The link between appearance and popularity is strong and many avoid being seen as brainy or hard-working.
TOWIE's Sam Faiers is snapped in a revealing dress on a night out in London (Picture: Xposurephotos.com)
‘They talk of the growing pressures to have a boyfriend and the way in which TV shows can make teenage sex seem like the norm.
Anxiety about their changing bodies can be exacerbated by the celebrity images they see, even though most know at a rational level that these are manufactured.
‘With career decisions still in the future, there are few popular role models who inspire them to think seriously about their working future, let alone branch out into non-traditional fields.
Their dominant external role models are drawn from music and film – Cheryl Cole, Emma Watson, Adele, Nicki Minaj and Jessie J.’
Girlguiding UK said the lives of celebrities are ‘hugely influential’ on girls’ behaviour and that, for some, programmes such as Geordie Shore and The Only Way Is Essex are ‘a blueprint of how their lives should look’.
One girl told the study: ‘Geordie Shore… it’s funny to watch, but it persuades boys to think that’s the proper way of doing things. They’ve got no respect for anyone.’
Scousewives stars Amanda Harrington and the O'Toole sisters are becoming aspirational characters through their TV show (Picture: Xposurephotos.com)
Midge Coombs, a Girlguiding UK trustee and guide leader in Bristol, works in the technology sector at KPMG.
She told Metro: ‘I don’t think reality TV shows are something that are inspirational for girls and young women.
‘There’s quite a lot of sensualisation so a lot of the reality TV programmes that are out there at the moment, and are quite a standard part of our TV diet, normalise some of the behaviours that aren’t necessarily what you would want girls and young women to think is a healthy relationship between men and women.
‘There are lots of things in some of the TV shows that make underage sex, drinking or drugs seem normal – because everybody is doing it. When, in fact, it’s a TV programme. Not everyone’s doing it.
‘Role models are critical but it’s very difficult if there’s not been somebody there before. Having those strong role models really gives you something to aim for, something to achieve and something to almost go a stage further.’
Ms Coombs said the girls who took part in the study were unable to name any female politicians other than former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. ‘The fact that the only woman they could identify was Margaret Thatcher highlights the fact there hasn’t been anybody since. Which is quite terrifying.
‘As a result they’re unlikely to ever be engaged by politics.’
To rectify the imbalance Girlguiding UK has commissioned a series of ‘day in the life’ videos featuring successful women in various careers.
Links: Full news story
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