Some bumper stickers are funny. Not many, but some are. Most are useless drivel that make me lose respect for the driver, but that’s not what I want to talk about. Here is a bumper sticker I saw yesterday:
“Well behaved women rarely make history”
There are so many things wrong with this I don’t know where to begin. So I’ll just pick a place.
Firstly, there are lots of famous women throughout history, most of which did not behave badly. Off the top of my head I can think of: Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Mother Teresa, Jane Austen, Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth, Cleopatra, Florence Nightingale, Beatrix Potter, Helen Keller, Margret Mead, Princess Diana, and let’s throw in Oprah too.
Just to name a few.
So clearly the bumper sticker is just plain wrong. There are countless famous women who are famous for good things and behaving well.
Now let’s look at what this bumper sticker actually implies about women.
The only way to get famous is to be a badly behaved debauched whore. Or is that the only kind of fame worth having? Is this what women really believe of themselves? To get noticed we should wear little, drink lots, whore ourselves out and basically lose all sense of morality. This isn’t even hedonism. It’s not even seeking pleasure as the highest good, it’s seeking fame at all costs.
Should that be our highest aim? Fame at the cost of all else? Behaving badly will certainly get you noticed, but surely that’s not a good thing! And the more people who do it, the less impressive it becomes, so the ‘worse’ you have to be to get noticed. See the escalation of shows like ‘Big Brother’ and the introduction of shows like ‘The Shire’. Apparently now we need to add wealth to this sort of debauchery to make it more interesting. Please.
Who decided that fame for the sake of fame was a good outcome anyway? The Paris Hiltons and Kim Kardashians of the world are truly sad women. They are famous for nothing more than whoring themselves out. And these are women that other women aspire to be like?! Thankfully no one I know aspires to be like that, but there are certainly those that do see the Parises and Kims of the world as successful women who have ‘made it’. These women are only famous because there is a market for it. Truly depressing.
Fame is not an end in itself and ought never to be. Fame is fleeting and you are never its master. It will beat you down and you can not win. You may ‘win’ for a while, but it will not last, and the damage it does to you is not worth it. There are some things that cannot be undone. For a case study in this watch ‘Being Lara Bingle’. Or better yet, don’t watch it and use your time to do something worthwhile. She is not in control of her fame, and her lack of dignity (and lack of ability to use her brain) should be a turn off for anyone thinking she ‘has it made’. Does she do any good in the world? Not that I can see.
Having said all this, not all fame is bad. Some people use fame very well and use their influence to affect positive change. Good for them! That’s the way to use your advantages to help others and do good.
The fact that this bumper sticker ideal of women has so permeated our culture that it is mass produced as a bumper sticker and sells, is incredibly depressing. Women; stand up and get some self respect and do good things with your life. Reach your potential and have a positive impact.
You are worth more than being famous for being badly behaved.
Since writing this I have realised that this bumper sticker is actually the name of a book written by an intelligent woman and is about women standing up for themselves and getting heard instead of sitting back and living in silence. This is something I am board with, but I’m not sure people who buy this bumper sticker would be aware of that, and it’s certainly not the image it gives out once you remove its context.