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What It Means to Be a Woman: Teenage Girls and Role Models

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I teach ninth- and tenth-grade English class at the Brookewood School. For the final project, I asked each girl to define for herself what is it to be a woman and design a website to share her ideas with the world. While I’m proud of each and every site I’m blown away with the realization they all reached: a woman cannot be a better woman and wife by herself. We need to look for role models to become good women. And the girls came up with some ingenious places to look.

Role Models from History

  • Womenocity

    “Lucy Stone was an abolitionist who fought her entire life to give human dignity to all… Stone shows us great respect for all human beings. Stone realized the worth of every person and worked to make sure they were treated rightfully so. From Stone, we can learn the need to respect both ourselves and everyone around us.”

Role Models from Books

  • To Be a Woman

    “In Suzanne Collins’ series The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is left alone in the world after her father dies in a tragic mine accident. Her family crumbles and is on the brink of starvation. Her mother is emotionally destroyed. Katniss decides to grow up and care for her little sister Prim as well as her mother. Katniss has to stay strong to take care of her family and give Prim the guidance her distraught mother cannot provide.”

  • Then and Now Women

    “Jane Eyre is portrayed as this girl who is strong because she went through this awful boarding school. When She was offered a proposal by Mr. Radcliff she denied him because he was already married. Jane was strong and willing to deny love because she knew it was the right thing to do to help her become the woman she was meant to be.”

  • What Makes a Woman Loving.

    “In The Odyssey Penelope never loses hope in her husband. By waiting and staying loyal to her husband, she shows the love and compassion that she has for him.”

Role Models from Religion

  • What Does It Mean to Be a Woman

    “The point that I am trying to make with this website is that the answer to this question, ‘What is it that makes a woman a good woman?,’ has been found and explained by the Catholic Church. My view is not shared by most of society, as Catholicism is perceived as sexist by many. The Catholic approach to what it means to be a woman and what her role is in life, I believe, is the most accurate throughout all of history.”

  • Women Virtue

    “Mother Theresa is a courageous woman, who goes out into the world and teaches others about God. Mother Theresa has a great heart for God, and wants to serve him with all her heart.”

Role Models from Public Life

  • What It Means to Be a Woman

    “Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton have influenced and inspired many other women wishing to be succesful like them. They have proved that anything is possible if you put your heart to it.”

  • Mamitanena

    “Teenage girls were immediately attracted by the fashion that Kate Middleton’s dress represented. Young women saw a chance to dress modestly and purely, instead of what has been offered to them so far, short shorts or shirts that show too much skin. Girls saw a chance of accomplishing their childhood dream of becoming a princess, without it being seen as different or ridiculous by their fellow teens.”

  • Woman 2012

    “There are many women in America today who make important decisions for other people. With great women in the news every day, younger women and girls have much inspiration to know they can do anything they want in their futures.”

Role Models from Their Own Lives

  • Be a Woman

    “We learn what it is to be a woman mainly from the real women in our lives. We learn from our grandmas, our sisters, our mothers, and our aunts. From these women we learn by watching what they do and hearing their stories. We watch our mothers work everyday, come home and make dinner, and make sure we are ready for anything. Our mothers are our superheroes and role models for what women should be like!”

  • What Should Women Be?

    “My mom is a hard-working, strong and independent woman. Her thought on being independent is that is it part of happiness and productivity. Being able to think for ourselves and be individuals is very important in order to become independent.”

  • How a Woman Should Act

    “My mother is a great example of that. My father is in the military so she can’t be dependent on him. We move around all the time so she can’t be dependent on her family and friends. My mother has to be independent.”

  • Teens2Women

    “Just because someone is younger than you doesn’t mean that she can’t be YOUR role model. Just remember though most girls look up to whoever they’re closest with, so act appropriately around them. Teach them to be better and to not make the mistakes that you made.”

What did you think being an adult woman would be like? Is it everything you imagined? What have you learned as an adult? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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