LONDON — Young women should look to Shakespeare’s heroines rather than reality stars like Kim Kardashian West, a top UK headteacher has argued.
Speaking at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), Jane Lunnon — head of Wimbledon High School in London — said she wants girls to look up to characters like Cleopatra “who wield power and influence in a man’s world”.
“I think Shakespeare was saying with Cleopatra that you are allowed to be flawed and powerful and brilliant and still have enormous influence,” Lunnon said at the conference held in Shakespeare’s hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon.
“The thing about Cleopatra is it’s about image and how she sells the myth of Cleopatra. Kim Kardashian is selling the myth about Kim Kardashian,” Lunnon continued.
“It’s not so much that she’s a role model but I worry if she is the dominant role model out there.”
However, Lunnon stated that the difference between the reality star and the Queen of Egypt — and eponymous heroine of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra — is the power Cleopatra embodies as Queen of Egypt.
“She remains this incredible, strong icon, beyond her love for a man,” Lunnon continued, conceding that Kardashian West is a “fantastic businesswoman”.
“It’s not so much that she’s a role model but I worry if she is the dominant role model out there,” she said.
This comes as the headteacher launches a project at her school — called Women of Will — in which pupils learn about Shakespearean characters and reimagine them in modern-day surroundings. The project intends to position Shakespeare’s characters as role models for young women.
“Look at Rosalind, look at Beatrice, look at Viola, the capacity in challenge and dilemma and pain, to love, to be vivacious, to be resourceful, to be resilient — they embody it so vividly, and that is a really powerful message,” Lunnon continued.