Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Beyond Cindy v. Michelle

In an article in yesterday's Newsday, Lisa Witter issues a rousing plea to the media to unfetter our potential first ladies' intellect on the campaign trail. Excerpts:
The new focus on Obama's hair and hemlines comes right on the heels of the gender-biased way the media covered Clinton's campaign. If we let this go on, we risk losing an important opportunity to have a national dialogue about sexism. We should be holding the media accountable for perpetuating stereotypes. If a white woman is strong, she's considered cold - as the coverage of Cindy McCain has shown. If a black woman is strong, she's obviously angry - so go the accusations about Michelle Obama....
While America's women and girls lost the opportunity to see themselves reflected in the top job this round, what we can't do is lose the opportunity to change the way women - and first ladies - are portrayed. It's a tough line, no doubt. For the most part, we want to feel and look beautiful. We love our families and feel proud about our personal and professional accomplishments. But if we let the conversation about the first ladies focus mostly on the role and status of the conventional "Mrs.," we've lost a huge opportunity to reframe gender and marriage dynamics in our country. We all need to take it upon ourselves to strike up a conversation about how we can end sexism in America. Contact the press when they get it right - and not so right. And I'm going to write Michelle Obama to let her know that when she portrays herself as strong, I feel strong, too.
Well said, Lisa. For more from Lisa, do check out the just-released book she coauthored, titled The She Spot: Why Women Are the Secret to Changing the World and How to Reach Them. Lisa is chief operating officer of Fenton Communications, and an inspiration to many. I definitely recommend her book!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine how different it would be if Hillary were the nominee? Maybe I am dreaming, but I still think it would be better. I think the sexism dialague we are desiring would be more in front if a woman were the nominee. The fact that the professional accomplishments of these women are being completely ignored in the media is aggravating. All I hear is the reinforcement of what a great mother Michelle is to her two daughters and her supportiveness of her husband. She is being manufactured to represent more than dressing like Jackie O. I wasn't around in the 1950s and certainly don't want to live in it. I also find it disconcerting how this powerful and successful woman is being marketed like Laura Bush.