Why Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and Beyoncé are NOT Role Models for Women (3/3)

three of the celebrities edited

This is the last post in the Series ‘Why Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and Beyoncé are NOT Role Models for Women?’ In the past two posts I discussed why Marilyn Monore and Madonna should not be considered as role models. Here, I am arguing why Beyonce Knowles-Carter should not be taken a role model as well.


beyonce performance

No one can argue that Beyonce is a multi-talented entertainer. She writes her songs, sings, dances and has her own clothing line. She is a businesswoman, a wife and a mother.

Born in Huston, Texas in 1981, Beyonce Knowles started singing at an early age. She became popular as the lead vocalist in the R&B group Destiny’s Child. The all-female band released their first album in 1997.

 In 2003 Beyoncé released her first solo album, Dangerously in Love, which was a huge success and won five Grammy Awards. Whereas Destiny’s Child released their last album in 2004 and broke up later that year.   She married Jay-Z in 2008 and the couple had their child in 2012.

Beyonce and Husband Jay-Z

Beyonce and Husband Jay-Z

Beyonce is critisied for her bodysuits and provocative dances. In addition, her performances sometimes  contain highly sexual gestures and acts.

Her sheer dresses especially those recently worn on Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, revealing shocking details of her body, are similar to those found in strip clubs and red light districts where women sell their bodies with prices set up by their managers.

        Rakhi Kumar wrote in her ” An Open Letter to Michelle Obama: Beyonce is Not a Role Model” replying to a statement by Mrs. Obama that her daughters should take Beyonce a role model:  “Beyonce, performing in sheer body suits, nipples displayed, mouth open, high heels and sheer tights, shaking her butt on stage, can no longer be held by world leaders as an icon of female success.”

In addition, her single ‘Bow Down’ caused a huge controversy since it contradicts Beyonce’s earlier ‘Feminist’ songs such as ‘Girls Run the World’ and ‘Single Ladies’. Her previous songs clearly said: ‘Women, girls don’t bow down to men,  you’ve got the power.’ And now? She’s saying the exact opposite.

Barry Saunders , a staff columnist in the New Observer says: “it was obvious that she needs to rethink what image  she’s trying to project – and to whom.”

“The more successful I become, the more I need a man.”

Beyonce Knowles

Beyonce said in an interview with GQ Men’s Magazine: “I truly believe that women should be financially independent from their men. And let’s face it, money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define value. They define what’s sexy. And men define what’s feminine. It’s ridiculous.”

 While complaining about men defining what’s sexy and what’s not, Beyonce poses for the men’s GQ Magazine for seven photos (including the cover photo) in her underwear and breasts almost visible.

Beyonce on the cover of GQ Men’s Magazine.

Hadley Freeman writes an article in the Guardian titled: Beyonce: Being Photographed with your underwear doesn’t help Feminism. She says: “Knowles rightly hates the fact that women are humiliated by being paid less than their male counterparts. But they are similarly humiliated by being fed the message that it doesn’t matter how successful, powerful or smart you are – all that matters is how sexually available you are willing to make yourself look.”

Although Beyonce might be trying to symbolize woman’s independence and power, the image portrayed by her performances and costumes shows that the ultimate success of a woman is by wearing similar bodysuits and dancing provocatively to men. As a result this might lead to girls self-objectifing themselves which means, treating their bodies as if they are objects to be taken care of in order to attract men. This comes with high price to women and girls in the form of disorders such as  restrictive eating and depression.

Meanwhile supporters of Beyonce argue that there is nothing wrong with showing off her body in the sense that she’s proud of it. The question I’d like to ask: Does women’s pride really lie in whether they are sexually available or not? Does it lie in their physical appearance?

 I believe not.


It’s true we know little of the human side of these women, their lives, their laughs and cries. They, and other similar artists, are a result of our materialistic, postmodern society which drifted us into the tides of never-changing subculture and technology.

Although these women were definitely female successes in the male-dominated music industry, they promoted a new stereotypical image of a woman. They present us with an image we receive through media. Being it only an image makes it far from objective reality. Apart from the ‘traditional’ image of a woman as a house maker, they promote an image that sends a notion that sexualizing women is necessary in order to be powerful or successful.  Their presentation lacks exhibiting the brilliance of the mind instead of the body. They ‘promote’ sexuality rather than true gender equality and female liberation. The image they’re portraying is the sex symbol.

None of them represent an independent, modern educated woman, or even show that part in them. Instead, these beautiful women make society rate them according to their physical features rather than their level of education, knowledge or skills they acquire.

In addition, These fake images provided by the media give women and girls unrealistic notions of how they should look like and tend to teach girls to self-objectify themselves, that is treating their bodies as high quality products to attract the male gaze.

Our role models should be open minded, respectful to all religions and ethnicities, and most importantly, representing a woman who is in control of herself, not by exposing her body and ‘selling it to the public’ to make tons of money  but by making her own decisions and letting the world respect her for who she really is, not by her physical appearance, and promoting  gender equality in education and job opportunities.


Why Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and Beyoncé are NOT Role Models for Women (2/3)

three of the celebrities edited

This is the second post in the series  ‘Why Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and Beyoncé are NOT Role Models for Women’. In the last post I was arguing why Marilyn Monroe should not be taken as a role model. This time, I am looking closely at Madonna and I will argue why she should not be considered as a role model as well.


The many Faces of Madonna edited

The Sex Symbol of the 1980s, Madonna’s strategy was ruling the world through pop music. Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone  was born in Bay City, Michigan in 1958, she had a scholarship in a dance school, but dropped out two years later and headed for New York. She later recorded her first song which topped dance charts in 1982.  Soon she became the most selling female artist of all time and an icon to millions of girls worldwide. Along with her success, however, Madonna’s music, videos and books were famous for their controversy.

Although Madonna might be considered by some as a good role model, since she does not take drugs, doesn’t drink alcohol, she’s physically fit ,diets very carefully and is an extreme workaholic, her obsession with sexuality clearly ruins that.

“Just about everything in the world is centered around sexual attraction and sexual power.


In 1992, she published the pornographic coffee table book Sex, featuring herself along with models in erotic poses. Madonna argues that by using these images she proves that women are in control of their sexuality and demonstrate female liberation. The book was very much criticized as commercial rather than revolutionizing. Many critics were concerned about its ‘bad influence’ on the young.

 “What is really objectionable in the book is a nasty sort of aesthetic fascism that renders physical beauty the repository of all dignity and power.” wrote Zoe Hiller in the Independent.

Madonna mentioned that she is interested in and passionate about the education of women. She funded education projects in poorer countries. Moreover, she has been, or as it is argued, a promoter of gender equality and female liberation, a movement which started in the 1980s  known as Girl Power. Rather being a term for women empowerment, Girl Power was criticized by being more of a superficial term used to primarily sell records.

Zoe Hiller refused to consider Madonna a feminist role model: “True, her career has offered a graphic, self-conscious illustration of how women can use sex to acquire power and money.. Sexual power has always been the female domain: the point of feminism, surely, is to lay claim to other kinds of power – ones that aren’t predicated on drop-dead looks.”

Madonna in 'Like A Prayer Video'

Madonna in ‘Like A Prayer Video’

In her music videos, “Open your Heart” and “Express Yourself”, Madonna is first shown as a subservient to men’s pleasures. By the end of the videos she wears men’s suit as if to emphasis man power and gender equality. The second part sends a message that women are to be successful if they are similar to men in their appearance or attitude, something which I totally disagree with, women are women for the way God created them, with their minds educated and their ability to take their own decisions not by throwing a bunch of men’s clothes and some masculine attitude.

Madonna abused religious symbols in many of her work. As a result, her ‘Blond Ambition’ tour was opposed by the Vatican, and her video ‘ Like a Prayer’  was condemned by  the American Family Association and refused to be shown on by many US television companies.

Marilyn Monroe signing autographs in 1953 (left) and Madonna in the 1991 Oscars.

Marilyn Monroe signing autographs in 1953 (left) and Madonna in the 1991 Oscars.

She promoted a ‘super slut’ image in the 1980s, she copied Marilyn Monroe’s appearance, her famous pose and clothes in many occasions.

 Madonna didn’t just copy Marilyn Monroe, however, she kept reinventing herself to keep pace with the changing popular trends. ”She’s like a chameleon,” said Nars, a makeup artist. ”She loves to change. She really gets into it.”

   She introduced mass audiences to different cultures such as the rising gay culture of the 1990s and different ethnic groups including Latin, Asian and Indian cultures and their artifacts. This showed Madonna’s intelligence to gain fortune and match the ever-changing public taste, a reflection of the characteristics of the postmodern society. This is clear intelligence and hard work from Madonna’s side, something I highly respect, however as The New York Post columnist Ray Kerrison wrote:

“She will do anything, say anything, wear anything, mock anything, degrade anything to draw attention to herself and make a buck. She is the quintessential symbol of the age; self indulgent, sacrilegious, shameless, hollow.”


Why Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and Beyoncé are NOT Role Models for Women (1/3)

three of the celebrities edited

The Post-Modern society has become a society based on the image world of Media. Media which is dominating more and more of our lives, is a major agent of socialization in our age. These women, which we came to learn of primarily through Media, are cultural icons of our age.

It is important here to understand the difference between an ‘Icon’ and a ‘role model’. An icon is a person regarded as a symbol or represents a particular movement or age. Whereas a role model is a person whose behavior is regarded by others as a good example to follow and to be imitated.

The reason why I chose Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and Beyoncé knowles specifically is that I believe that each of them is a cultural icon of her era. Monroe in the fifties, Madonna in the eighties and nineties, and Beyonce in the 2000s. Each of them brought new meaning to the entertainment industry in her way that largely shapes our lives today.

This post is one of three in which I will argue why these particular icons should not be considered as role models.



Marilyn Monroe’s inspired celebrities all over the world and influenced the future generations, from Madonna in the eighties, Drew Barrymore in the Nineties and Christina Aguilera and Paris Hilton in the 2000s.  With hair dyed blonde (or a wig), parted red pout, half-closed eyes, breathy voice and immodestly dressed,  Monroe became the ideal image of a sexy woman with millions of male admirers.

Christina Aguilera (left), Paris Hilton , Scarlett Johnson and Lady Gaga with Marilyn Monroe's famous blond curls and red lips.

(From left to right) Christina Aguilera, Paris Hilton , Scarlett Johnson and even Lady Gaga with Marilyn Monroe’s famous blond curls and red lips.

The image of Monroe for which she became popular is a complete contradiction to images of her earlier life as Norma Jeane Baker.  She got married when she was 16 and worked in a factory during the war when her husband was serving  overseas as a Marine. She was later discovered by a photographer and pursued a career in modeling.  Her earlier images show how natural her poses, her smile and her clothes were, that typical for women in the 1940s .She got divorced from her first husband and  signed a movie contract on the same year, changing her name to Marilyn Monroe and dying her hair blonde.

Norma Jeane before

Natural beauty of Norma Jeane Baker , Later Marilyn Monroe.

LEO MCKINSTRY  of the Daily Mail described Marilyn Monroe as:  “.. almost always played the same shallow role, the ditsy helpless blonde craving masculine attention and protection. She had none of the impressive authority of other Hollywood actresses..”. He further says that “[Monroe] ..wailed about being a sex symbol”:

“A sex symbol becomes a thing. I just hate to be a thing.”

Marilyn Monroe

 However, she didn’t do anything to stop that. On the contrary, she encouraged that image by her super tight dresses, squeaky voice, and her erotic poses. She was desperate for attention, She’d probably do anything to gain media’s attention: Nude photographs, with tons of makeup and sleeping around to get what she had always dreamed of: fame, money and media attention.

In May 19th, 1962 Marilyn sung Happy Birthday to the American President JF Kennedy who was said she had an affair with. She had sung it breathlessly in a way that emanated desire publicly from Marilyn’s side.

She sexually objectified herself and the women of the generations later to come. She destroyed the view of a woman as a mindful person rather than a curvy object used to satisfy men’s lust. She was obviously all about her body. The first edition of Playboy featured Monroe on its cover. The actress had a long relationship with the magazine, featuring her first-ever nude images.

Sociologist R.W. Connell describes Marilyn as an unreal character. He argues that she showed Emphasized femininity, which is an important compliment to hegemonic masculinity. Emphasized femininity is orientated to accommodating the interests and desires of men and is characterized by ‘compliance, nurturance and empathy.’ She was an exaggerated image that almost became a character coming out of a comic book.


Andy Warhol’s prints of Marilyn might have just showed her exaggerated character.

She did not develop herself in different areas of life in order to grow as a person and so when she thought she started to lose her beauty due to her overuse of drugs, She threw responsibility of her personal development on others which might have led eventually to her suicide.

“Sometimes I feel my whole life has been one big rejection.”

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn is a product to men’s desire, and by being subservient to men, she achieved her dreams of becoming rich, popular and sought after by the media. Which is why she is not a good role model for other women and girls. Add to that her addiction to drugs and alcohol to control her high emotional instability and blaming others for any hardships she encountered. (to be continued.)

Syria (2)

Note: This is the second post in my Syria series. And a translation of my lastest post, originally written in Arabic.


I thought I knew the way.

But all the streets look the same. No difference between a square and a street, a bridge and a tunnel, everything became leveled with the ground.

This city which was torn apart, its citadels, buildings and bridges brought down to rubble. In this city, the rich became poor, the healthy became ill and the children became old.

This city which is considered one of the first humans settlements, they built its citadels and farmed its land. This land on which the very first human civilization flourished with the discovery of agriculture.

In this city, I grew up.

But I can’t recognized it today.

I lost hope, so I asked one of the Free Syrian Army soldiers standing in a checkpoint the way home.

He asked me who I would be, I replied that I used to live here and showed him my ID. He pointed the way home.

Or what used to be my home.

The street is full of debris of  the destroyed buildings. Here my grandfather’s shop stood. There, I  played  with my friends football. My father used to sit in that coffee shop opposite to our building.

Now, nothing is left. Only ruins. Everywhere. I recognized my building from a burnt sign of a pastry shop that was once jammed with customers from all over Aleppo. It was famous for its unique Levantine baqlawah, something which my friends envied me on.

My building was one of a few still standing high, which turns it into a strategic point for the FSA’s snipers which control this part of the city.

I climbed what’s left of the stairs.

I remember when the stairs were crowded with neighbors, everyone rushing to greet the others in feasts and weddings. I saw myself playing with my bike with the other kids of the building on the stair landings, I heard one neighbor shout at us because our loud voice. Especially that old man in the first floor.

I entered our apartment, or what’s left of it.

I remembered that last day, when we left some of our loved ones behind.

That last day when we left ourselves behind.

Today, the walls trigger my memories. Pain rushes into my existence, or what is left of it.

From a never-ending war.


Photos from Google.