Posts Tagged ‘60 Minutes’

So today I thought I’d offer a quick riff about double standards.

Case number one, the most obvious:  Rep. John Boehner’s weepathon on “60 Minutes.”  The prospective Speaker of the House cries.  Don’t know why.  But as USC Professor Kathleen Reardon points out on HuffPo, it’s perfectly fine — if somewhat creepy — if a Republican male cries on TV, but can you imagine the outcry if Nancy Pelosi had done the same?  From Reardon’s post (Note:  videos from “60 Minutes” are embedded here):

Men get to cry with impunity lately, especially those considered tough, stiff, distant, difficult, demanding or dispassionate. The context matters; nowadays in politics talking about old friends, soldiers, children, harm done to one’s family, or personal challenges provide opportunities when a tear or two can do more good than harm.

Republican crying is more acceptable than Democratic crying because liberals are expected to be softer – “bleeding hearts.” Republicans are perceived as tougher, less sensitive, often more concerned with business priorities. So, crying works well for them. It’s the violation of expectations that makes conservative crying persuasive. It’s the beauty of not being predictable.

Women, whether in business or politics, are in a more difficult position with regard to any sort of emoting. Since it is expected of them, crying doesn’t serve as a balancing technique. It merely confirms that they are soft. Of course, if a woman like Margaret Thatcher were to shed a tear, it would violate expectations and in the right context might serve her well — once or twice.

Yet the tough Nancy Pelosi won’t take that risk. When asked about John Boehner’s tendency to cry, Pelosi responded:

“You know what? He is known to cry. He cries sometimes when we’re having a debate on bills. If I cry, it’s about the personal loss of a friend or something like that. But when it comes to politics — no, I don’t cry. I would never think of crying about any loss of an office, because that’s always a possibility, and if you’re professional, then you deal with it professionally.”

You can’t blame Pelosi. She remembers what happened to Hillary Clinton.

So do we.  She cried on the campaign trail.  And was roundly castigated for it:  How, you know, like a woman to be so emotional.  And so it goes.  Need we say more?

Case in point number two:  While reading the paper on Sunday, I came across a curious, dated expression not once but twice.  Family Man.  As an accolade.  Really, hadn’t that phrase had gone the way of the beehive hairdo?  Apparently not.  The first reference came via a column about our newly elected District Attorney and his newly appointed chief deputy, his best friend.  The columnist took pains to note that both were “dedicated family men”, each with two kids.  The subtext?  Well, it might have been to note that though the two men are close, they are decidedly hetero.  But that’s beside the point.  The implication is that, because they are fathers, well, you can trust them to get the job done.  More in a minute.

The second reference was to some movie star or other.  I think it was Matt Damon.  But again — and I’m embarrassed to admit that I read such stuff, but what the hell, it gave me meat for a riff — shortly after the nutgraf, he was described as a “family man.”  As in, what a guy!

Now, I like families as much as the next girl.  I have one of my own, which I guess means you could call my husband a dedicated family man.  But have you ever heard of a “family woman”?  Yeah, thought not.  And here’s where that double standard comes in.  As we discuss (okay, at length) in our book, studies have shown that women are held back in their careers because they have families, which is bad enough, but also because they might have families.  It’s called the maternal wall, and there’s an impenetrable bias there.  As one of our sources, University of Illinois business professor Jenny Hoobler, told us: “ If a man has a picture of a child in the office, it makes them look like they’re stable, like a good, solid trustworthy employee, but if a woman has pictures in the office, it looks like, uh-oh, she’s not really dedicated to the career.  Will she leave the workplace early to pick up her kids?  Will she take an extended maternity leave?  Will she even come back after the birth of her next child?”

Ugh, right?  Right?

And then, there’s this: A study on fathers out of the Boston College Center for Work and Family found that the dads confirmed that having a baby enhanced their self-image at work, in terms of reputation, credibility and even career options.

I’m sure there are a plenty more examples, but, frankly, I’m off to find my Kleenex.  And so, I leave the cries and whispers to you.  Anything to add?

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I suppose it should come as no surprise, what with the nasty brouhaha that erupted three years ago when Katie Couric was named anchor for CBS’ 60 Minutes, that the recent announcement about Diane Sawyer taking over Charlie Gibson’s anchor post on ABC World News upon Gibson’s retirement was met with a scathing round of… er, analysis.

While the Women’s Media Center dubbed it a “watershed moment,” the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Karen Heller took a less optimistic tone, all but calling nightly television news an endangered species, Sawyer’s appointment an overhyped boobie prize:

The nightly newscast is also the Metamucil half-hour, as the pharma ads reflect. The three newscasts collectively attract 20 million viewers, half the size of the audience 15 years ago, with a median age of 61.3, hence all the health coverage. Claiming Sawyer’s appointment “historic,” as many have, is misleading. It’s a job many men, including Gibson, no longer want.

So, while we all know the fate of the numbers Couric found upon assuming her position, from what Heller says, it seems like dwindling ratings should have been an all but foregone conclusion (and she may be right: I mean, how many people do you know who get their news at 5:30, on TV? Thought so). And Katie was a convenient scapegoat, made all the more convenient because she was a trailblazer, a first.

But that’s just the half of it.

I was surprised to find this dim assessment on from Courtney Martin, on the website Feministing:

Sawyer seems like a perfectly decent interviewer and a hardworking journalist, but I’m also struck that she fits into the “NewsMommy model” that Ann reported on back when Couric was chosen–essentially that the networks are choosing women who are non-threatening, aka maternal, for the top positions so as not to freak out viewers still not used to the idea that women can be assertive, independent, and–gasp–childless.

First, lest I forget, Diane Sawyer doesn’t even have children. As Amanda Fortini put it on Salon’s Broadsheet:

Sawyer is many things–smart, competent, often witty, exceedingly attractive–but “maternal” is not an adjective that springs to mind. You might even call her telepresence the opposite of maternal: glossy, self-contained, occasionally remote… So what, exactly, is it that qualified her as maternal? That she is a woman of a certain age? This is the sort of stereotyping feminists have long worked to combat.

In my opinion, Fortini hit the nail on the head, although I don’t think Martin’s post was quite as dismissive as Fortini took it to be. But really, aren’t we beyond all this? What’s with the use of the word “mommy” in that context–as if it’s a synonym for airhead or lightweight? I’ll concede that morning news shows like Good Morning America are to news as Pop-Tarts are to breakfast, but Diane Sawyer has a pretty impressive resume behind that pretty face (is it the pretty that’s the problem?): she has 30 years of network experience, was an aide to Nixon, she’s interviewed the last four presidents and their wives, as well as world leaders such as Ahmadinejad, Sadaam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Robert McNamara, and Manuel Noriega to name but a few. She’s covered the State Department, and was one of the first female correspondents on 60 Minutes. And, um, Charlie Gibson seems like a nice guy and everything, but a hard-hitter? Not so much.

While Sawyer’s new gig may indeed be a boobie prize, perceived as but a pit stop on the way to the Metamucil aisle, I’m struck by all the analysis. Because, had some guy been given the job, we’d all be on the same side: where are the women? Perhaps we’d be more focused on this sobering fact: according to the Women’s Media Center, “women hold only 3 percent of the ‘clout’ positions in media.” But now that she’s there, the best we can do is to consume rumors of catfights between she and Couric, pick apart the career choices she’s made, what she looks like, and each other.

What will it take for us to stop judging each other and get on the same team? To stop reaching for the shards of shattered glass from those ceilings our sisters have worked so hard to crack and using them as weapons against each other, rather than sweeping them up, admiring the fact that we might be able to make it through a little easier, and getting on with our own lives and the ceilings we’ll inevitably face? Equality? Yet another reason to keep working for it–and, frankly, as good as any.

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