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For the last two weeks teen daughter and her friends have been experiencing what its like to go to work. As part of the state school curriculum, students are required to do two weeks work experience in year 10. The teen and her friends have loved dressing up, getting up on the bus/tube everyday and going to work. They are all lucky enough to have well connected parents and friends who have found them placements in some really interesting places. They have risen to the occasion and accepted the challenges thrown at them, and as parents we have seen them blossom as their placements progress.
I explained to my teen, do whatever they ask you to do, and do it with a smile, no matter how boring, as there are people with degrees who would love your placement. And she did and had a great experience.
This has not been the case for everyone from their school, with one girl walking out of a great placement as they were 'treating her like their bitch'. It was no surprise to anyone who knows her, as she is something of a wananbe WAG with an attitude.
Working Girls, the new series on BBC Three highlights the worrying attitude some girls have to work. Young women who have never had a job are given a chance to intern in really interesting companies and the way they approach this is a hideous insight into their unenthusiastic, lazy attitude. Feminism is not a word that figures highly in their vocabulary and their false sense of entitlement is staggering. The fact that over the last 100 years women have had to fight for the right to work and earn their own money, means nothing to them and one wonders what kind of role models they have at home.
Of course, as is the way with format TV, the girls in the episode I watched are mentored and encouraged to face their insecurities and the programme ends with them having a miraculous change in attitude and determined to find work in the future.
If only life were actually like this, as anyone who works knows, it is a big commitment to take on an intern and very few people have to time to devote to helping someone who is rude, ungrateful and work shy, why should they, when there are lots of hard working, willing young people, grateful for a chance to show their worth. In real life the girls in this programme would almost certainly have been asked to leave after only a few days.
I have written before about the lack of role models for young girls and how reality TV is giving them unrealistic expectations. And while I appreciate Working Girls is an attempt to show the girls the benefits of working hard and earning their own money, isn't the fact that - A. they are on TV, therefore 'living the celebrity dream', and B. it is totally unrealistic to think they could turn their attitude and lives around after only one week - providing yet another false view of the real world?
I am huge believer building teenagers self esteem and encouraging them to follow their dreams, but watching reality TV (however well intentioned) is creating a generation of women who aspire to nothing more than shopping and being married. Isn't it time that young women rejected these fake, dumbed down role models and started to be proud to call themselves feminists?
Feminist writers Liz Stanley and Sue Wise said 'Feminism directly confronts the idea that one person or set of people has the right to impose definitions of reality on others'.
We couldn't agree more. Any one fancy starting a reclaim feminism campaign?