Day Twenty Four: (How) Does Being A Woman Matter?

I couldn’t work any more. I’d been working for hours , and scuttling around- writing emails, creating presentations for clients, doing laundry, scheduling meetings, walking dogs, picking up dry cleaning, monitoring the guys fixing our basement leak, planning menus for our holiday party. I felt like a damned Gen Y housewife from a Fox sitcom. Watch the Manic Pixie Dream Girl try to balance zany friends, starting a business, eating a cupcake only to discover it’s a muffin, walking and talking at the same time, cuddling puppies, mistakenly flirting with the girl barista and then shrugging adorably, and wearing both stripes and plaid in the same outfit! Yikesies! (Cue cute shrug.)

At the end of this frenetic day, it was time to settle down with a glass of wine and enter the brainless vortex of Facebook, forgetting the world. But while doing so, I came across a link to this video about the ways women are represented in the media, and how it makes us feel ashamed of our bodies, doubtful about our intellect, and like housewives or adorkable faeries. Damn you, symmetry of the universe. Damn you.

Normally, in the past, I wouldn’t have been interested & clicked on the link. However, there’s one thing that has surprised me in writing this blog: how much I am intrigued – and disappointed – by female news anchors.

Maybe it’s because I have an insane HD television that lets me see inside people’s souls/pores. But seriously, all I can pay attention to when these anchorettes comes on is the glare flashing off their mega lip gloss. It’s enough to disorient a mugger, or blind a small child. Except for Rachel Maddow, I find them largely to be yippy, long-winded, and shrill. Or else silent – Mika on Morning Joe has the role of reading news headlines, interrupting guests, and rolling her eyes while mumbling whenever Joe Scarborough says something incendiary.

Seriously – look at this menagerie of “serious” women anchors on t.v.:

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When did the morning news become a Pussy Cat Dolls audition?

I mean, I feel like it’s normal to feel frumpy if you’re wearing leggings and a turtleneck to a bar and see stunning women in stilettos, sheaths, and great tans in the middle of the winter. But to be confronted by this when one is at the kitchen table, fresh out of bed, sans coffee, and looking for the news? I want news, people – not legs and lips. NEWS.

So this is certainly something I’ve found myself drawn to as I read and watch more news, but I didn’t really think about it until I watched that Miss Representation video. This got me thinking – how much does being a woman play into my need for Civicization?

I always get a little squeamish when I do things targeted for Women – I balk at the idea of being drawn to events because they involve a coven – but then again, I almost always do enjoy them. Off the top of my head I think about the Junior League, and workshops like the one I went to last week for Women Entrepreneurs.

For example – would Desiree, the workshop leader, have needed to focus the workshop around why we find it difficult to take ourselves seriously; why we’re uncomfortable asserting ourselves as a brand; why we recoil from putting ourselves at the front, even though we’ve done all the work; why we’re plagued by feelings that we don’t deserve power and wealth, even once we earn it – if the audience had been mixed, or comprised of men? The more I think about it, the less I’m sure.

I guess I try to be genderblind when thinking about work, self-image, professionalism. But it is different for women. I know well enough that trying to be “colorblind” discounts the serious differences people have to struggle with. I suppose I haven’t given much thought to how my being a woman has impacted me – professionally, intellectually. I don’t usually subscribe to the “wahwahwah, the media has brainwashed me to be a Barbie doll,” mentality, but you know what? The more I think about it, it is kind of true. Maybe not a Barbie doll, but at least a sexy anchor, a sexy librarian, a sexy teacher. It’s like we look at women representing our professions as Halloween costumes.

So, what is this Miss Representation project?

Looks like it’s primarily a film that did well at Sundance and is a baby of The Oprah. Beyond that, there’s a twitter hashtag to call out horrible depictions of women in the media; there are calls for YouTube videos speaking out against oppression of women; there’s a school curriculum.

All great – but kinda yawn.

However, there’s an interesting bit tucked away in a back corner . . . “ELECT WOMEN 2012.” As they explain:

Women make up 51 percent of the US population but only 17 percent of Congress. That puts the US at 94th in the world for the percentage of women in elected office.

The 2012 Project, a national, non-partisan campaign of Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics, is partnering with MissRepresentation.org to launch Elect Women 2012: Vote. Support. Run to encourage more women to get involved in the political process this year. Here’s how you can get involved in your community

They offer three options: 1.) Register to Vote, 2.) Support Women, and 3.) Run for Office

If you take a look under “Support Women,”  a map pops up. When you select a state, a new window appears that lists all the women in office for your state. Pretty neat.

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If you look under “Run for Office,” it takes you to a form to fill out and send, so that a “candidate coordiantor” will contact you. My curiosity sure is tempting me. While I have no plans to run for any office, what happens if you click that button? What does this candidate coordinator do? Why doesn’t it ask you anywhere on this form what office you’re running for?

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I closed the window before doing something crazy.

I see that this project is largely sponsored by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. I never knew that existed. With a quick click, I’m on my way to explore it.

There’s a great map that shows you women in elected office for the whole country. It’s pretty fascinating!

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Wow, and under Education and Training, they have some great sounding programs – Ready to RUn, and NEW Leadership. The former “offers comprehensive campaign trainings and resources to help women run and win elective office.” NEW Leadership is “committed to empowering and educating students through programs which teach about women’s participation in politics and policymaking, cultivate leadership skills, and build networks between participants and community leaders.”

Hmm. Me likes. Me likes a lot.

Stop! Step away from the computer! Quell your insane desires to apply for everything that has an active link, woman!

But I’m intrigued . . . 

Well, what do you think? Do these programs look interesting to you? Are there others you know about that look better?

And if you’re looking for further procrastination, check out this TED Talk from Vogue Model Cameron Russell on how she feels uncomfortable for being the beneficiary of centuries of racial and gender oppression. It’s actually kind of amazing – only in small part because she dresses like me from college/Anne Frank in order to dispel ideas that she is beautiful. Enjoy!

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6 thoughts on “Day Twenty Four: (How) Does Being A Woman Matter?

  1. I have been aware of the fact that I am a woman in a man’s field since college.

    When preparing for my med school interviews (and then my residency interviews) I was reminded that people were not allowed to ask me if I was married, had children or were planning to have children. It was as though to discuss these things would remind them that I am, in fact, a woman and that I may (at some point) want to gestate a fetus, which would obviously compromise my ability to be a doctor. Excuse me?!

    In medical school, while closing a patient during my surgery rotation, I was promptly yelled at by my attending who asked me if I had learned to hold my needle drivers in “lady school.” I was frequently asked how I was planning to “balance” my life. My male colleagues have never been asked this question.

    Many women choose their specialties based on how “woman friendly” they are. Pediatrics? Yes. Surgery? No. When my friend, who is an orthopedic surgery found out she was pregnant during her intern year she was terrified and had to keep it a secret for as long as possible for fear of being fired or forced to repeat her intern year.

    I’ve had many arguments with one of my dear friends from medical school about this issue. She believes that we should all be completely gender blind. I find this to be impossible because men and women are not the same. That is a biological fact. I believe that it is impossible to be genderblind because of this fact but that men and women should be provided with equal opportunities to pursue their dreams, whether that is having children, getting married, having a career, or not. The truth is that women must gestate a fetus for nine months, give birth to it, and then feed it. This cannot and should not be ignored but we also need to make sure that women are not punished for it and are allowed to pursue this choice without hesitation. If this were, indeed, supported then women would not have to wait until their late thirties to have children once they’ve been “established.”

    I could talk about this forever… it’s something I am aware of and think about constantly.

  2. Great blog post! I totally agree about female news anchors…they all look like models! There are some good looking male news anchors but a lot of them are much older and look like grandpas (wrinkles, white hair and all!) And I feel like people prefer their male news anchors to look like that…more ‘trustworthy’ and distinguished. You would NEVER see a visibly older woman news anchor (except for maybe Barbara Walters).

  3. It’s tricky. Of course it is indisputable that the issues of women being objectified (for lack of a better term) are real. However, when I see a montage video like the one you linked to, I have to be skeptical, as I think they can lean toward propaganda. What I mean is, I am sure I could make a montage with just as many images that make the opposite argument. It’s easy to make a point by cherry picking what to show. The line about a woman president having mood swings and PMS though – that one left me jaw-dropped. Disgusting.

    As for the second video, I am ashamed to say that my initial reaction is that she spoke very intelligently “especially for a model”. But now that I have berated myself for being so judgmental, I will tell you what I think. I commend her for going up there and giving a talk like that, for being honest about the industry that she then has to go and be a part of the next day in order to pay the rent. It was interesting to hear a perspective like that from someone so enmeshed in that world. It was refreshing to hear a model talk from a place that clearly recognizes her role in the advertising world – she does a job, bottom line, and her job is not something that kids can aspire to be when they grow up because there are many, many factors at play that are beyond their control. That woman is truly beautiful (physically speaking, I mean) – I found myself mesmerized by how gorgeous she is. I doubt anyone changed their opinion of her in 6 seconds just because she put on some baggy clothes. I get the point she was trying to make, but come on. I am, however, now a fan of hers and may be inclined to buy something she is selling 🙂

    As for my own opinion – I think it is important for women to stick together and support each other. I think that it starts there. Women are typically the ones in the family responsible for making big purchases, and I think that a good way to take a stand is via our dollars. If we buy from companies that treat women fairly and advance the cause, other companies will want a piece of the pie too, and they will follow suit. I know that the issue is verrrry complicated, but I think that making a statement with our dollars is a very good place to start. They say the answer to 9 out of 10 questions is money….

    I also think that it is very important to have women trailblazers and role models. I remember seeing some powerful woman (can’t remember who) speak when I was in college and she said she had been at a company way back when, but it was basically a boys club. Since there were no strong female role models, she left and went to another company that had more women as high-up execs. She felt more comfortable there and was able to advance. Someone in the audience raised her hand and asked, “How can you expect a company like the former to change if strong women leave like you did?” That statement always resonated with me. It’s hard to be the trailblazer and put yourself out there in an uncomfortable situation in order to make it more comfortable for the ones that follow you. But it must be done.

  4. Pingback: Women on the News | brandythedog

  5. I always wonder where the homely women are. Looks are the first qualification, and maybe brains come next. And youth! Are there any women as old as Jim Gardner of Action News?????? Except for Barbara Walters!

  6. What are you all watching? To those of us who were there when it was really tought for women, this just looks like nobody has quite taken on board what’s happening. You can’t look at a few women on TV, and say where are the old ones, the ones who look more like models.
    It’s been a long haul, and not to acknowledge progress is to impede more of it.
    I can remember when there were no network anchors because, it was said, “News form the mouth of a woman sounds like gossip.” I can remember when Columbia journalism school took only two women a year.
    Those who do not take note of the past are doomed to repeat it.
    I feel really upset that you have failed to also notice the strides female journalists have made, and at much greater cost than most people know. What about Candy Crowley on CNN? Gloria Borger? Judy Woodruff, and Gwen Iffil
    Donna Brazile among commentators, and though I can’t stand what she says, Mary Matlin is hardly a babe, or Hilary Rosen.
    Christiane Amanpour?
    What about Arwa Damon, who has been covering Syria in the bravest imaginable way, on the ground, in the line of dire, and if she’s young, she contradicts all of your ideas. And Lara Logan, who may be blond and pretty is one of CBS Sixty Minutes best and most daring reporters.
    On CBS, there’s Marha Techiner, who has done it better than most for many years.
    and thought she’s lovely looking, you wouldn’t say that Rachel Maddow is showing off her boobs, would you?
    You do a great disservice not to take note of the progress as well as the rest of it, and it’s very lazy, too.
    Would you like me to list all the BBC journalists who have fought the good fight? The doctors?
    This is a call not to keep fighting but to focus on what you’re fighting for as woman, to think about it.

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