Sunday, February 16, 2014


Yesterday Mercedes and I were talking about how important it would be for young women to have a role model like Hillary Clinton become president.  It got me thinking about different types of role models, and especially about role models for women.

I think there are a number of classic role model categories. 

The King.  The key attribute of the King is power.  There are a lot of King-type role models from actual kings to powerful business leaders and politicians.  I think Hillary Clinton would fit into this category.  There are some female role models in this category, say, Margaret Thatcher or Marissa Meyer, but I think the main value of a Hillary presidency would be to strengthen this model for women.

The Warrior.  The key attribute of the warrior is competitiveness.  The warrior wants to win.  These days I think we have very strong role models in the warrior mold because of our sports heroes.  In fact, I think one of the main roles that sports serve in society is to give us warrior role models.  A  lot of kids grow up wanting to the next Michael Jordan or Lebron James.

The Princess.  The key attribute of the princess is beauty.  The princess wants to be desired and fought over.  A lot of our princess models these days come from Disney, but a lot of the more recent disney princesses break the simple princess mold.

The Artist.  The key attribute of the Artist is the ability to evoke emotion.  I think a lot of modern female role models are princess-artists, like Madonna.

The Wizard.  The key attribute of the wizard is knowledge.  Wizard role models tend to peak a long time after they die.  A few great wizards are Aristotle, Newton, and Einstein.  One interesting difference between wizards and artists is that artists depend on a lot of people understanding their work.  Wizards depend on only a few people understanding their work.

The Mother.  The key attribute of the Mother is selfless love.  There are a few great Mother role models, say, Mother Theresa, but I think that a lot of Mother role models are more personal.  Thus, a lot of kids might have Mother role models even if there aren't a lot of world famous Mother models that people look up to.  Note: there can be male Mother models too.  None of these models are meant to be strictly gender-specific.

So there are my primary categories.  There are more, and most actual role models mix categories.  So, Bill Gates might be a Wizard-King and Steve Jobs a bit more of an Artist-Wizard-King.

I think that people try on all different sorts of heroes, and a lot of different things speak to us.  Some people who have been my heroes at one point or another include Ty Detmer (the Warrior), Abraham Lincoln (the Philosopher-King) and Albert Einstein (the Wizard).

I also think it is important for women to have a variety of heroes because history has often pushed them into certain roles, and having role models is an important part of being able to try out different roles for yourself and discover/build your idetity.  Thus, I think there is a need to strengthen the female King model, and I think electing Hillary would help in this regard.

I think it would be especially nice to have some more female Wizard role models.  Yes, there are some, like Marie Curie.  One list of the top 100 scientists of all time has her listed at number 26.  I think this is about right if we attribute to her the discovery of radiation (although there may be others who have better claim).  Also, the list gives pretty short shrift to Mathematicians.  I would probably put Gauss, Euler, and a few others on the list a bit higher.  Anyway, the point is that #26 isn't that high for the highest woman on the list.  Lists of the most influential people vary widely (see here, and here) with the highest women listed as between #13 and #48.  Interestingly, #13 on Time's list (Queen Victoria) isn't even on A & E's list.  (In any case, I don't think Queen Victoria should be ahead of Karl Marx).  Likewise, A & E's top lady (Mary Wollstonecraft at #48) isn't on Time's List.  

I doubt Hillary will ever make these lists, but it is something for the most powerful politician in the world to be a woman.  I wonder how long it will be before a woman is considered the most brilliant living scientist.  This list has Jane Goodall ranked as #3.  Madonna and Lady Gaga are already #1 and #2 on a list of the worlds highest paid musicians.  And their earnings dwarf those of the highest paid actors, and athletes.   

Of course, while earnings are not necessarily a great indicator of who are the greatest role models, they probably approximate how many people look up to someone.  Although in the case of golf heroes like Tiger a big factor in his earnings is that rich people look up to him.  Anyway, the point is that women role models are more prominent in some categories more than others.  Female athletes are prominent in some sports, and not so much in others.  I tend to think that the highest paid female athlete in the world owes part of her fame to the fact that she is something of a Warrior-Princess.


  1. It will be your daughter's generation who will have more science and math female mentors. Your categories made me smile. Right there there is a young woman readying herself for the White House. I hope the country will be a world power by the time she gets there.

  2. Maria the Usurper!

    Xenia the Warrior-Princess is the only warrior princess in my eyes!