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Paris Hilton is good for kids - not!

By Melinda Tankard Reist - posted Friday, 25 May 2007

Role model is not a term that comes to mind when Paris Hilton’s name is mentioned. Vacuous. Narcissistic. Exhibitionist. Mobile phone addict. Too rich. Too skinny. Skanktron, even. But surely not a positive role model for young people?

Well, that’s the description being applied in efforts to get Hilton out of jail.

Earlier this month the socialite was sentenced to 45 days in jail (since halved) for violating her probation by driving on a suspended license following a drink-driving charge. An online petition calling for her pardon paints Hilton as a role model who "provides hope for young people all over the US and the world”.


Far from attracting social censure at a time when driving offences and binge drinking are responsible for a tragic number of teenage deaths, some commentators are espousing Hilton as a model for adolescent behaviour.

Only in America you may say. Well no, in Australia as well. “Paris is good for kids” declared the headline on The Australian’s opinion page May 18. Author Duncan Fine wasn’t talking about why kids should see Le Louvre, Mona Lisa, and La Tour Eiffel to develop a love for truth and beauty. Non. Fine was talking about Paris Hilton who, he says, represents the very essence of freedom and democracy.

She doesn’t care what people think; behaves like a playboy; probably does party drugs; forgets to wear underwear; and has lots of cool friends.

These include Nicole Ritchie - who appears to be preparing for a movie role as a stick-insect - and Britney Spears who has an intimate relationship with child protection.

No matter. It’s because of Paris that girls might become “Chief justice of the High Court” or “secretary-general of the UN”.

Yes, the same Paris who laughed as her then toy boy Stavros Niarchos tried to induce a homeless man to pour a drink over his head for money; the one who called two black friends "dumb niggers", relieved herself in a taxi, and is now facing jail, is “good for kids”.


Porno Paris, who features in a seedy video pleasuring another boyfriend orally, encourages girls to aspire to a higher calling. Giving good head apparently means you can be head of the UN.

Many young women today are in crisis. And the Parisification of the culture is much to blame. Drug taking, binge drinking, chronic dieting and self-harm mark the lives of increasing numbers of young women. Eight-years-olds are being treated for anorexia; one in eight Australian girls has bulimia.

Body image disorders are on the rise as girls try to attain unrealistic body types based on doctored images of models or starving celebrities.

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A shorter version of this article was first published in The Sydney Morning Herald on May 22, 2007.

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About the Author

Melinda Tankard Reist is a Canberra author, speaker, commentator and advocate with a special interest in issues affecting women and girls. Melinda is author of Giving Sorrow Words: Women's Stories of Grief after Abortion (Duffy & Snellgrove, 2000), Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics (Spinifex Press, 2006) and editor of Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls (Spinifex Press, 2009). Melinda is a founder of Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation ( Melinda blogs at

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