Opinion

The uneven playing field for women | Amy Johnson

I used to laugh at blonde jokes. Really, I did. But lately, I’ve been looking through a different lens, and have begun to wonder why we think it’s OK to stereotype any set of women and girls as stupid and ditzy, and why anyone would think that’s funny.

In a video produced by Global Girl Media, girls talk about why their voices are important. I am struck by the fact that there were people who knew it was important for girls to own this truth — that their voices are important — and that there are so many girls who need to be reminded that is true.

One visual in the clip proclaims, “Don’t see only the physical. What we carry within is far more precious than the eye could see.”

We live in a culture that, for all its progress, still provides an uneven playing field in regards to gender. Women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn in our country. U.S women are more likely to live in poverty than men. And in fully 92 percent of all domestic violence incidents, crimes are committed by men against women.

Unhealthy gender roles for both men and women are exacerbated by media. Two of my biggest pet peeves are: 1) sitcoms that portray men as well-meaning oafs, and women as long-suffering superwomen; and 2) reality TV.

The latter was recently the subject of research by the Girl Scout Research Institute, with thought-provoking findings. For instance, in a report titled “Real to Me,” findings show that girls who watch reality television on a regular basis think gossiping is a normal part of a relationship between girls. In addition, about 38 percent of regular viewers think that a girl’s value is based on how she looks, and that being mean earns you more respect than being nice.

To be fair, this research also showed that 75 percent of girls said that watching reality television inspired conversation with parents or friends, and that diverse populations were depicted in the shows. So, if your daughter — or son — is watching this stuff, be sure to have conversations, especially about what is real and what is not. (See the “Real to Me Tip Sheet for Parents” at girlscouts.org)

And remember, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder and so much more than skin deep. Keep your attention on those attributes that make people who they are on the inside, regardless of gender or hair color.

Pay attention to the conversations you are having with your children. Make certain to counter media messages you don’t agree with by questioning superficial, staged performances. Encourage them to think critically about personalities and choices they see portrayed in the media. Make your voice more than the background music in the soundtrack of their learning about who they need to be in the world. Using your parent power to set a great example and have great conversations sets your child up for more success in relationships — and that’s no joke.

 

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