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Terese Mailhot against Role Models

The writer Terese Marie Mailhot, age 35, originally from Seabird Island, British Columbia, had a three-minute monologue on the NewsHour, Monday, July 23. She has an autobiography that made a New York Times bestseller list.

She worked her way up from abuse in a dysfunctional family on an Indian reservation and a single mother on welfare to a post-doctoral fellow at the English Department at Purdue University. She spoke of an interviewer who asked her if she felt like a role model for indigenous women, and she spoke of a woman who described her book as a manifesto for Native American girls.

Indigenous people, she said are not a monolith, and she trashed the idea of role model:

Invented by a sociologist in the '50s, the term role model feels antiquated. It's a slogan made for cereal boxes and self-help gurus who are selling success or reaching goals without compromise, things we know by now don't exist, not purely. I didn't want to be the voice of anyone but myself. I didn't want to be looked up to.

She spoke up for drawing from one's own mental resources and desires:

We don't need examples for what we aspire to be. We don't need to be inundated with possibilities. We should have original objectives that reach beyond comparisons.

This doesn't fit with pursuing the American Dream (Canadian Dream or whatever). Planning is better than being motivated by platitudinous fantasies.

She ended by saying that "Not having models to emulate gave me room to be."

Terese Mailhot on PBS delivering her monologue.


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