Funny the stuff you find on Facebook that you would never find on your own.
For example, I discovered that Beyonce has this new video for her song, “Run the World (Girls)”. Have you seen it? If not, what you see are a bunch of strong, in charge, kick ass girls who are, um, running the world. Lyrics?
Who run the world? Girls!
Who run this motha? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!
Powerful images of take-no-prisoners girls. Big hair, big heels, unabashedly sexy. Great images, right?
Or not so much. Because on Facebook, via Jemhu Greene — a political commentator, social justice organizer, and former president of the Women’s Media Center — we find the perfect counterpoint video from Nineteen Percent that explains exactly what’s wrong with such media images of powerful, dominant, got-it-together women. They’re lies. Take a watch below:
Her point? Such media images lull us into a fall sense of achievement, and distract us from “the work it takes to actually run the world.” Shall we count the way in which we don’t? Pay equity is one: seventy-seven cents on the dollar, anyone? Or how about workplace structures that have not yet shifted to accommodate the fact that the majority of the workplace is made up of women, many of them with kids, and almost always without a housewife at home to drive the carpool? Or there’s the maternal wall: the fact that women are often discriminated against in the workplace simply because of their gender. Kids? Uh-oh: flight risk. No kids yet? Yeah, but maybe someday… Or maybe not ever. In which case, um, outside the norm. And then there’s this: As Nineteen percent points out, women are the only American group classified as a minority — that makes up the majority of the population. Go figure.
Sure it’s nice to see female doctors and lawyers on TV, but as Nineteen Percent says on the video:
Lady humans can work outside the home – but a simple survey of reality will reveal we don’t run anything – and pretending we do will get us nowhere…
So true. The images won’t get us anywhere until there’s some actual change behind them. You know, the kind of change that will result in a shift in policy and values, and in workplace structures. Pretending otherwise, well, it just lulls us into a false sense of complacency. We’ve gone here before:
Tell everyone the problem’s been solved already, and maybe it’ll go away. Move along, nothing to see here… Nothing, of course, but those inequalities listed … below:
- A Girl Scouts study found that young women avoid leadership roles for fear they’ll be labeled ‘bossy’;
- women are four times less likely than men to negotiate a starting salary…
- which is probably for the best, as a Harvard study found that women who demand more money are perceived as “less nice” (=less likely to be hired).
As infuriating as all of that may be — and, duh, it is — even more so is the fact that no one seems to be pissed off about it. And, I’d venture to say, there are even some among us who read those stats, who are familiar with the surveys and the survey results, and yet, somehow, can’t quite bring ourselves to believe it.
Susan Douglas would diagnose that as a classic case of “Enlightened Sexism,” and her new book on the subject makes a compelling case that, because of all the advances that we have made — and because of a lopsided accentuating of the positives (so sugar and spiced and everything niced are we!), the stereotypes, inequities, and biases that would have once been called sexist go unnoticed. Turn on the TV, she says: there are women doctors, women lawyers, women detectives and DAs and Hillary Clinton and Oprah to show you: See? We have come a long way, baby! But all that rose-colored imagery doesn’t exactly reflect reality. For instance, here’s something you might not have realized:
The four most common female professions today are: secretary, registered nurse, teacher, and cashier–low-paying, “pink collar” jobs that employ 43 percent of all women. Swap “domestic help” for nurse, and you’d be looking at the top female jobs from 1960, back when want ads were segregated by gender.
Ahem. So sure, I like big hair and big shoes and the image of kick-ass girls as much as the next, well, kick-ass girl. And maybe I even like Beyonce. But let’s not kid ourselves. We’ve still got a way to go. And pretending that we don’t — well, that’s one sure way to keep us in our place.