Women, Politics, Television and Socialization…

Alia Roth

When reading the article News Gender and Journalism by Rosalind Gill, specifically the section on Gender, Politics and News – I could not help but think of this article that I came across in the fall:

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2013/11/leaning-out-michelle-obama-100244.html

Not only was I SO disappointed by Politico for publishing this (let alone putting it on their cover) but seriously WHAT is this article.  The way the Cottle defines feminism is extremely problematic and critiquing Michelle Obama for her post is not only poorly articulately with inaccurate criticisms.  Michelle is one of the only people in the entire administration to address one of the biggest public health crises of our time and fight for long-lasting policies and systematic food changes to end childhood obesity and diabetes.  She has been working on this issue for almost six years and for Cottle (another woman IN journalism) to nit pick at her dresses and criticize her for gardening (which by the way is a more challenging task than many people give it credit for – that is coming from someone who struggled through Botany) is petty and a clear depiction of what Gill was talking about in her section on women in senior positions or high public offices and how they are treated by the media.  What this kind of article (by Cottle) further demonstrates is how women are failing to acknowledge how we have accepted these constructed norms and how we have accepted shaming women in the media.

Let’s then move onto Reality Bites Back by Pozner It was so appropriate that I read these articles in this order because it only further demonstrated how much women shame women – specifically in the media (pg 98).  It then goes on to further quote dozens of women constantly fighting each other – over men, over clothes, over dates, over (beauty) competitions, over just about everything except for (jobs) intellect, OR the crazy idea that women could build each other up with kindness or encouragement – even when an accomplished, intellectual, (beautiful) woman of color enters reality TV – “Yaya was framed as ‘arrogant and snotty’.  This brings it all back to the double binds – women cannot ever seem to win.  Further, Pozner’s article also demonstrates how crazily white and heteronormative and rooted in ‘old fashioned’ ideologies reality TV shows are; with shows like Wife Swap, Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire, America’s Next Top Model, The Bachelor and Bachelorette, Supernanny, etc… it’s shocking how it is these shows that viewers are really drawn to – about women as wives (always to men), women as objects, women as nannies, etc.  The socialization of (straight) women goes on and on…

Beyond reality TV we have shows like: Pretty Little Liars, Army Wives, Secret Life of the American Teenager, Greek (about “college frat and sorority life”) Devious Maids (Professor Jafar I mentioned this to you during our event last week – trailer below), the list could go on…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R78XLhul64M

Even on one of my TV favorite shows, The West Wing – I have huge problems with how Aaron Sorkin writes women.  Further, the reviews for the male and female characters are COMPLETELY different.  This also happens with House of Cards.  The men are powerful and the women are bitchy and cold.  When will this shift…?

This is what adolescents are watching – and they show how to be “teens” “college aged students” and “adults” through reality TV, non-reality TV and the media… If this is what we are showing children that women are worth (clothes, bodies, age, motherhood)… how can we expect them to understand gender roles any differently?

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2 thoughts on “Women, Politics, Television and Socialization…

  1. As an avid watcher of House of Cards (although I’m only three episodes into the second season), I totally see where you are coming from there. I would also like to point out that men, specifically Frank, is painted to be untrustworthy, in a similar way that the women in Reality Bites Back are. I say similar to, because Frank is shown to be more manipulating than “catty” so, indeed clear line cannot be drawn. Many women in the show try to use strength of character to gain power or respect, but are denied it because men continuously deny them the privilege to gain it. There is one woman (I forget her name but she does something with the cabinet) is shown as a very powerful and trustworthy individual who has adopted a sort of stoicism to survive in White House Politics. This highlights how women feel the need to adopt masculine traits in order to gain power. This, I think, is where Leaning In seems to have strayed from a feminist path.

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