Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mother a Sexist Stereotype?

While most Europeans worry their heads off about what is happening to the euro and the economy, certain members of the European political bureaucracy are getting on with more important things. Like drafting long resolutions about how to combat gender stereotypes in the media and having even longer meetings to get their ideas endorsed.

Let me say, straight off, that there are media stereotypes that undermine women’s dignity and in some cases are downright insulting. Why, for example, does the weather girl -- I should say female weather person -- on my local television network always, always, summer and winter, appear with half her chest exposed, unless it is to add sex appeal to what is an intrinsically boring segment of the news hour? Since her male counterpart is always well covered up (and still more interesting to listen to) we have to conclude that the value of a woman announcer is her sexuality, not her personality, let alone her expertise.

But when Doris Stump, Swiss member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Third Vice-Chairperson of its Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, lumps the sexy announcer thing together with the portrayal of women as mothers, I’m afraid she has lost the plot, and the attention of most women.

That is what she does in a (long) draft resolution discussed at a meeting of the above committee on May 26. In her summary she says:

When they are not under-represented or invisible, women are often represented in the media in roles traditionally assigned by society, portrayed as passive and lesser beings, mothers or sexual objects. These sexist stereotypes in the media perpetuate a simplistic, immutable and caricatured image of women and men, legitimising everyday sexism and discriminatory practices and establishing a barrier to gender equality. (Emphasis added)

Read it all here.

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