“Celebrity culture and social networking sites risk spawning a generation of dumb and shallow girls, a leading headmistress warns.”

Those first lines in an article in The Times from last year.

Our headmistress warns that young women are under extreme pressure to shun intellectual interests and conform to images of women that lack depth, are raunchy and are obsessed with their looks.

As a father of a sixteen-year-old girl, I find this entirely disturbing.

The evidence is plain to see. You’ll only have to watch music videos, teenage magazines, adverts, movies and TV to see the highly negative influence on our children. The role models today are stereotypes: hunky men, sexy women. Most of them are celebrities. It doesn’t matter if they’re brain dead as long as they’re drop dead gorgeous!

Such images can change our children’s values

Such misgivings are echoed in Lisa Bloom’s book Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World. The author fears that women are in danger of spiraling into a nation of dumbed down, tabloid media obsessed, reality TV addicts.

It all comes to desire. Women, it seems, need to be wanted. And they believe that it is this skin-deep thing called “looks” that will create a desire for them.

Yet in the book Women and Desire by Polly Young-Eisendrath, the author retells the tale of Sir Gawain and Lady Ragnall (the full story is available here).

In the tale, we discover, is that what a woman truly wants is “sovereignty over herself.” To be able to make her own decisions, to be able to exercise her own free will.

Making your own decisions, is a mental activity.

No looks involved.

This means that the better educated you are (whether achieved in or out of school or university), the more you contemplate, the greater the introspection, will likely lead to you making better decisions.

Thus that sovereignty is exercised well.

But as Polly Young-Eisendrath says “ … personal sovereignty is different from assertiveness, individuality, independence, and getting your own way … [it] means feeling free to choose and to intend your actions. It requires practice and knowledge to make decisions in a way that is responsible, fulfilling, and satisfying.”

That is the key. The correct decisions will lead to a fulfilling and satisfying life. I think, for all of us, men and women, that is what we ultimately want.