Women’s eNews covered our story and NPR’s self-examination today, looking at recent media coverage of the issue through the lens Susan Douglas presents in Enlightened Sexism, namely that individual examples of high-profile female success create a false notion of equality, and open the door for ongoing sexism—especially the subtle kind.
Sarah Seltzer writes the following:
Douglas argues that young women live in a “Girl Power” bubble, where progressive policies in school and an upbeat youth culture shield them from the realities awaiting them in a workplace, where their salaries falter and subtle sexism abounds.
At this moment, she says, young women may experience an “aha” moment.
It got us thinking about Ms. Magazine’s famous “Click Moments,” a regular column that used to feature women’s stories about when they went “aha,” or “click” or “eureka!” The moment that they realized that sexism still exists and started to call themselves a feminist. For us, Douglas was right. It was at work, after we’d left the protective bubble of school, that we went, “Oh. Right. Sexism. DUH.”
So readers, what was your click moment? Tell us your story, no matter where it happened.
Our own Ms. Bennett was on NPR’s On Point program today discussing our story about the pay gap with the (in)famous Caitlin Flanagan. Listen to their lively conversation here.
And while you’re there, take a minute to look through the comments. It seems to us that the pay gap is one of the most straightforward and least controversial parts of this issue. But damn do people get riled up. Let us know what you think here!
We posted recently on the piece written by NPR Ombuds(woman) Alicia Shepard, about how few women make it onto NPR’s airwaves. On Saturday, On the Media host Brooke Gladstone took the story one step further, asking, well, why is that? And then, in an acknowledged irony, she asked NYU professor Clay Shirky, the author of the much-debated “Rant About Women” (in which he said that “not enough women have what it takes to behave like arrogant, self-aggrandizing jerks”) to come on the show and help answer that question.
Our first reaction to this, of course, was: really, NPR? You couldn’t have at least asked one woman to come on during the 8-minute segment, along with Shirky? (We would have happily volunteered!) But we’ll let that point rest for a moment to acknowledge that Shirky makes good points. The highlights:
Shirky: Women are not being aggressive enough … I think the concern for what other people think about you is one of the sources of paralysis in the workforce for women. One of the big skills that you need [to succeed] is being able to do what you do without caring what other people think.
Gladstone: You have to acknowledge that when women put themselves out there, they’re called ‘bitches,’ they’re not called ‘leaders,’ they’re not called ‘strong;’ they’re called ‘strident’ and ‘a pain in the butt.’
Shirky: It’s true. The reason I think women should get better at behaving like arrogant, self-aggrandizing jerks when the situation calls for it isn’t that it will work as well as it will work for men… it’s that they will get more of the kind of success they imagined than if they don’t do it, even with those [negative labels].
So, where does all of this leave us? Well, towards the end of the program, Shirky notes that the consequence of having so many men on the radio as “experts”—and this goes for television and print as well—is that listeners (and viewers and readers) come to unconsciously associate expertise with a male voice. Shirky makes a relatively radical proposition: we should focus on equalizing the numbers first, at the expense of relying on the voices of more prominent “experts,” because otherwise, we’ll never stop equating expertise with maleness. It’s sort of an affirmative action program for the mainstream media. But an interesting idea. What do y’all think?
Michel Martin became one of our heroes today. In “No, We’re Not Going to Sit Down and Shut Up,” she manages to satisfyingly shame Don Imus and Chris Wallace for sexist comments that, even for them, were particularly egregious; broaden the argument to make larger points about American culture, power, and the question of “entitlement;” and wrap up with a thrillingly bad-ass line. We dare you to read the final graph and not swell with solidarity:
It used to be, and often still is, that one set of values or perspectives dominates the way we look at issues and talk about them. You can see where the people who share that particular perspective begin to feel they are entitled to shape the conversation for all time. But things change — new voices rise, different people win elections, or dare we say it, get on the radio. Maybe some people have a problem with that. Tough. Because we’re not going anywhere.
Big-ups to NPR for this piece today, in which the org’s ombudsman (who is actually an ombudswoman) asks, Where Are All the Women Sources? NPR compiled a list of regular commentators over the past 15 months, who are not NPR employees but paid to appear on air, and found that only 26 percent of the 3,379 voices were female. Ombudsman Alicia Shepard writes:
NPR is often regarded — and certainly regards itself — as a leader in the diversity of voices and opinions it puts on air.
But when it comes to female voices from outside NPR, the network is not as diverse on air as it would like to think. NPR needs to try harder to find more female sources and commentators.