“I wonder what it would be like if I were a male rock star? Maybe I just could be like ‘fuck it’ and keep someone hanging there. But, I don’t know… It just doesn’t feel right. And I definitely don’t have groupies. No, the evening always ends with me and my friend in my hotel room watching romantic comedies going, ‘We’re never getting married.’”
This was fun.
Check out Jesse’s profile of Florence Welch in this week’s Newsweek.
We were on a panel recently, and someone asked us how we would raise our daughters, knowing what we know now. We stumbled a little—we don’t have kids, and haven’t yet given it a whole lot of thought. Well, Geena Davis just clarified things for us.
Turns out five years ago she started the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (ed: who knew!?!?), which monitors the portrayal of gender in children’s movies and television shows. The group found that in G-rated films, there are three male characters for every female.
In an op-ed, Davis writes:
Our research also revealed that when female characters do exist in media, most are highly stereotyped and/or hyper-sexualized. Consider this: Female characters in G-rated films wear virtually the same amount of sexually revealing clothing as female characters in R-rated films.
With such disempowering images, then, what message are girls absorbing about themselves? And what message are boys taking in about the worth and importance of girls? In fact, studies show that the more television girls watch, the more limited they consider their options in life; the more boys watch, the more sexist their views become.
The knee-jerk reaction to all this would be, of course, not to let your kids anywhere near the television. But Davis is taking a different tack with her three children. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, she says:
We watch pretty much everything. When there’s a new G or PG or animated movie, we go to see it. What I do is talk about it with the kids. I point out the imbalance. That’s the advice I give for parents, to talk about (media) with your kids, educating them about it.
Again, it all comes down to communication, education, and opening up our eyes. Ms. Davis, we salute you!
Our perennial favorite girl-advocate Rachel Simmons has a fabulous piece up at the Huffington Post today about the ongoing conversation about workplace equality—and its connection to adolescent girls. She writes:
Women, and our struggle for workplace equality, seem to be having a moment. Seems like everywhere you look lately, there’s a story about how we don’t seek or win enough money for tech start-ups; how we still face sexism in the workplace; how there are not enough of us speaking as experts in national media; how we’re too nice to ask for lots of money; and how there are not enough of us willing to “behave like arrogant, self-aggrandizing jerks.”
Hand-wringing ensues. It’s sexism. It’s change that’s slow to come. It’s racism. It’s socialization. And yet one thing is very clear: almost no one is making more than a passing connection to girls.
Boys need help, too, Rachel continues. “But I can’t stand the argument that girls are flying high, powered by Title IX, mothers who boycotted Barbie and Girl Scout cookie sales. Because it’s just not true.”
In this week’s New York Times, columnist Nick Kristof reports on the latest trouble with young boys—who, according to the Center on Education Policy, have fallen behind girls in reading in every single state. “The most pressing issue related to gender gaps,” the report claims, “is the lagging performance of boys in reading.”
Before everyone starts freaking out about the boy crisis, a quick reality check:
Boys have been lagging behind girls in school for decades. As Peg Tyre wrote in her book, “The Trouble With Boys,” elementary-aged boys are two times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities; and the number of boys who said they didn’t like school rose 71 percent between 1980 and 2001, according to a University of Michigan study. Nowhere is the shift more evident than on college campuses: thirty years ago, men represented 58 percent of the undergraduate student body, today, at 40 percent, they’re a minority. As Margaret Spellings, the former U.S. secretary of Education, told Newsweek in 2006, this widening achievement gap “has profound implications for the economy, society, families and democracy.”
But here’s the rub: no matter how poorly boys do in school, there is no evidence to show that that those lags impede their later success. And in fact, young men still outpace women in the workforce to an astonishing degree. U.S. Department of Education data shows that despite earning lower college GPAs, men still earn some 20 percent more than women in their first jobs out of college. The wage gap widens as men accelerate into management positions more quickly—over a lifetime, male high school graduates will earn some $700,000 more than their wives or sisters; college graduates will earn $1.2 million more.
To be sure, academia is critical—but the workplace lasts the rest of your life. And while young women may thrive in a merit-based system, there is growing evidence to prove they don’t have the skills to excel in a professional setting. Young women are four times less likely to negotiate a first salary, and, according to a recent Girl Scouts study, afraid to take on leadership positions they fear will make them seem “bossy.” “The zeitgeist is that girls are excelling and boys are having trouble,” says Rachel Simmons, the author of The Curse of the Good Girl. But it all depends on what you’re measuring.” In other words, all those ribbons and medals don’t translate to the real world if women are too afraid to ask for what they deserve.
Kristof makes the point that this doesn’t need to be a zero-sum game: “We should be able to help struggling boys without imposing any cost on girls,” he writes. He’s right. But the reality remains: gender inequities still—as they have for centuries—damage many more women than men.