Luck, Journalism and Reality TV

Brittany Juliano

I want to start off discussing Rosalind Gill’s Gender and the Media. Just before I sat down to read this chapter, I attended an event on campus meant to inform English majors a little more about what fields they may enter into after college. This panel discussion consisted of four female alumna of Connecticut College, two of whom work as editors in publishing, one who is a full time writer and one who used her degree to go into marketing. Towards the end of the discussion, each woman had finished telling the group of eager students how they came to be in their positions, the lifestyle they lead and various other helpful tips. What I realized after hearing all of these details is that each of the women had also alluded to the fact—if not said out right—that they landed in their career position by sheer luck. After discussing this issue in a previous Sex, Gender and Society class, I realized that it really is true: more often than not, woman attribute their success to luck rather than their own qualified merit. In addition, each one of them declared that one or more of their English professors throughout their college experience were the reason they even had a shot at being successful. It was frustrating; I wanted them to say that they had worked their butts off to get where they are, I wanted the writer—whose first novel came out in April—to admit that she is simply a talented and hardworking writer. Instead however, each of these successful women awarded their success to luck and other people.
This experience just before reading Gill’s chapter changed how I read it. The section where she discusses the bias against women in regard to serious news reporting (especially as war correspondents), made me so frustrated. The issue, as she says, it that “part of journalist’ professional ideology requires them to be available twenty-four hours a day and to be able to travel anywhere at a moment’s notice—not something easily reconciled with family responsibilities for men or women” (122). Gill points out that the bias against serious female journalists exists because people assume that only women are struggling to balance work and family, when in fact the men struggle to do the same. And I think women sometimes assume this of themselves as well. They think that if they want children, they must give up their career, but I believe that this is not the case. I realize that it is difficult to balance family and work, no person can be everything all the time, but there is also the possibility for family responsibilities to be shared more with a partner.
Between Gill’s article, my seminar experience and Sheryl Sandburg, the biases women face in the workplace upsets me. And as I previously pointed out, it is not simply the men running corporations such as NBC that are to blame. The women are not giving themselves enough credit or confidence in order to push the stereotyped boundaries that we have seen are so prevalent in journalism of today.

Jennifer Pozner’s Reality Bites Back: the Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV was a pleasure to read. As someone who personally watches The Bachelor every week, I found this article extremely accurate. While I am not totally proud to say that, it is important to also examine how the audience receives the reality programming. Pozner’s writing looks at each version of woman that is portrayed within reality TV shows, but I think it would be interesting to examine how people react to the shows as they are watching them. Yes, audiences are absorbing sexist and demeaning images of woman, but there is more substance to their viewer ship than subconscious learning. Nowadays, reality shows have live Twitter feed comments or blogs that follow along with an episode as it airs. If viewers do not participate in this interactive style of commentating, then more often than not they are shouting at their TV screen or looking at their girlfriends in shock, saying, “Oh no she didn’t!” Reality TV has become a brand of television where the audience is so wrapped up in the fictitious drama that they actually want to involve their own opinions and comments. What does this say not about the content of shows that broadcast companies are putting on the air, but rather the viewers that watch the shows so intently?

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7 thoughts on “Luck, Journalism and Reality TV

  1. Gracie Hall:
    Brittany, I think one think that is interesting about your discussion of “luck” is that these women’s stories are subjective. As you mentioned, probably most of them did end up in these careers through luck (due to the discrimination that we read about this week). However, I think it is also important to note, that the way these women have been socialized may have also played a role in their narration of the story. For example, you stated how you wanted them to just come out and say that they were talented and that’s why they got there, but as women, we are socialized to not brag about our successes. I catch myself doing this all the time. If I get a good grade on a test I might say that it was because the questions/professors were easy–not because I studied hard. I think this might be an interesting point to take into consideration when thinking of these women’s stories.

  2. Brittany,

    I was also at that English major event and it’s funny because I didn’t even realize how much they accredited their success to luck until you pointed it out. I think Gracie also made a good point about how some people have a lot of trouble attributing their successes to their own hard work or just owning up to what they’ve accomplished in general. I remember I had a really hard time in college interviews because I hated talking about myself and things I did well in. I found it much easier to put myself down, something not entirely recommended in a college interview, which is pretty sad itself.

    Cassie Walter

    1. I completely agree with all that you guys have been saying. Brittany, your observation about luck is something that has definitely existed in the back of my mind, but I’ve never been able to verbalize it right. It’s definitely true though in many industries. In Hollywood, a woman might be working for 15 years before she gets her “big break” and she attributes a lot of her success to being available at the right time/place and a director taking a chance on her. For instance, the actress Viola Davis only really became known in the past years with her roles in “Doubt” and “The Help.” But she had been working for years. We learn to only acknowledge women when they get their “hit” or their “break,” but we don’t talk about all their talent and motivation that led them to this moment.

      Emma Weisberg

  3. I appreciated how you talked about the role that women placed themselves within their career or position. I am currently taking a class on History of women and often times this same topic comes up. I believe that it is very important for everyone to understand where these stereotypes or norms come from and why we place so much emphasis on them. As you said, none of the women in the panel really gave credit to themselves for earning the positions; rather, they believed it was luck or somebody else’s hard work. Before industrialization took affect, the production and consumption was solely in the homes. Men worked to earn money, and women did everything they could to make up the difference in order to survive. However, what many people didn’t realize was the amount of hours that went into the work that the women did. The men were given more credit as the “breadwinners” while the women did everything else including nurturing kids, cleaning the house, and saving money.

    Haris Kuljancic

  4. Luis Ramos:

    I found the whole “luck” situation to be impressive. I never realized people, especially women, referred to their success as “luck” due to stereotypes or norms that have been socially constructed by our society. Even as a man, I hate to talk about my success. I’m not the kind of person that loves to brag about his achievements. I will make sure to thank those who contributed to my success, but taking all of the credit or saying that it coincidentally happen through luck are not things I would do. People need to realize that everything women do has value. My dad might be busting his butt off at work to provide for the family, but I feel like whatever my mom did, as a housewife, was harder and more of a workload in order to maintain the family. I give props to her, and all the other mothers. Men don’t necessarily credit them enough for it all.

  5. I can’t really ever watch most of popular television unless it is educational or at least makes an attempt at being highly intellectual or political. Perhaps this is fairly just annoying of me, but I just find most of popular television shows are not representative of real life and puts a white, heterosexual, wealthy glaze over what real life looks like. I know that I have enough sociological knowledge to be aware of what is not shown, but I just get disgusted that this is popular and I can’t do it any more. I’ve stopped using the word “bitch” in my vocabulary because its definition is so closely associated with all these”bitchy”, “catty” women that you see on television. I just don’t think women are like that. The world is so much more complex than that. Women are so much more diverse than that.

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