Huffpost Women
Sian Dixon Headshot

Why Do We Expect So Much of Women in the Public Eye?

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Not long ago we Tweeted that we were looking forward to Rihanna's tour. After the Tweet, we used the hashtag #ForWomen, which is the name of our new campaign. We put a link to our Facebook page, where we'd posted a picture of Rihanna and the caption: 'She's one of those women who divides opinion, love or hate her sexy style you can't deny she's got the body for it.'

We were astonished at the responses. We were called 'idiots' for 'holding Rihanna up as a role model', 'worshipping a talentless and pointless product of Hollywood' and 'glorifying stupid bitches who like to be beaten up'. Most of the responses were so vitriolic we had to remove them from our Facebook page immediately.

We were also given more reasoned arguments as to why Rihanna was a poor role model. Her alleged reunion with Chris Brown was the main sticking point, even though this reunion has not been confirmed anywhere other than on gossip sites. What has been confirmed and is known as a fact is that she was assaulted by Brown.

But she's the one who's a 'stupid bitch' and a 'bad role model'?

It's interesting that in even mentioning Rihanna, there is an assumption that we're holding her up as a 'role model'. There seems to be a great expectation that women such as Rihanna, who are famed and adored for their talent and looks, have to be 'role models' and cannot just be 'famous'. Their every choice is scrutinised and ripped apart, even though this vicious deconstruction is often based upon little more than gossip and heresay. We argue amongst ourselves and in the comments sections of magazines and newspapers about whether or not Beyonce is a feminist. We criticise her for calling her tour The Mrs Carter Show as if she's personally let us down in wanting to celebrate her marriage as much as she celebrates her career.

Do we do the same to men? Do we expect men in the public eye to be 'role models'? If we were to Tweet about David Beckham, perhaps saying we liked his body in his latest underwear campaign, would we be criticised for holding up as a 'role model' a man who has been accused of cheating on his wife? Do we shout that Giles Coren should just shut up about his damn kids and writing about how much he loves his wife and stick to the day job?

We live in a world where women are expected to be a certain way - and men a certain way. One glance at the Everyday Sexism Project proves that assumptions about what women should be, and what men should be, are still rife.

We live in a world where whatever choices they make, women simply can't win. Choose to focus on your career and you're selfish for leaving it 'too late' to have a family, and for 'taking jobs away from men'. Choose to be a housewife and mother and you're a drain on resources, fecklessly sat about watching daytime TV and writing boring status updates on Facebook. If you admit to loving fashion, beauty, shopping, you're a 'shallow airhead'. If you're more into sports, academia or economics, you're 'unfeminine'.

It is our belief that women should be celebrated, not belittled. But not just celebrated when they act as 'role models' because they make a decision with which we personally completely agree.

We think women should be celebrated as humans. Human beings with flaws, who are not perfect, do not all think the same and do not all act the same.

We think women should be supported to make the choices that are best for them, within an environment of encouragement, warmth, good humour and reasoned debate.

This is why we've called our new campaign For Women. We're not just for a certain type of woman. We're not for 'girly girls' over 'tomboys', and vice versa. We're for all women. Because together, we think women are unstoppable. And for us, the starting point is accepting women for who they are.