Thursday, October 20, 2011

Notes on Pop Culture/Politics: The Fashion/Sexism Edition

Did Ya See That Lady in White (She Happens to be a Presidential Candidate)

Hey, Michele Bachmann wore white at the GOP debate the other night. Oh, and she had pretty, manicured nails. The other people on the panel, all men . . . who cares what they were wearing, right? Who cares what Bachmann was saying because her an interesting ensemble and nails spoke for her!

Based on media coverage of Bachmann’s appearance – and the conspicuous lack of similar attention to her male counterparts’ appearances – the anti-sexism advocacy group Name It Change It has called the media folks out on their treatment of the congresswoman:

“The fact that her clothing, face and nails continue to be called ‘distracting’ underscores a more insidious desire: for her to just stop distracting everyone with her problematic body and go away. That’s sexism.”

Amen sista.

Please Watch/Record ‘Miss Representation’ Documentary

Speaking of media sexism, the outstanding documentary Miss Representation will be premiering tonight on the OWN Network (Oprah Winfrey Network) at 9 p.m. DVR it. Watch it live. Whatever you do, just make some time to see it. It’s powerful and important, especially if you a) Are a woman and/or b) Are raising children in this media-saturated climate.

The collective power of all the statistics the film offers about women in media and politics, as well as the voices of the women interviewed in the documentary leaves a lasting impression. By the end, you'll see the way in which females are treated by the media quite differently than you did before. I waxed all things positive about this documentary and on the impact of culturally accepted media sexism on kids in my Pop Culture and Politics column here.

Dolled Up For School

As if on cue, an article in today’s Style section of the New York Times drives home points made by Miss Representation. The piece sends the message to mothers (pointedly not to fathers) that when they drop their kids off at school, they’d better be dressed to impress lest they prompt people to lament their obvious lack of fashion sense and self esteem.

The article profiled New York City mothers who show up to their children's schools in what appears to be mandatory high heels (or expensive ballet flats), pricey couture and fully done hair and makeup so that they won’t embarrass their offspring and, in the process, make a good impression on their peers. “Outside many of the schools’ buildings, parents wait in line to enter with their children,” the article said, “a configuration that lends itself to label-gazing.”

The article quoted a mother of two who writes a fashion blog as saying, “The first day of school, at drop-off, is the big sort of kickoff. Everyone looks amazing . . . [Later in the school year] it’s okay to look like an unmade bed at drop-off. But by pick-up, if that woman is still in her yoga pants, we keep counseling the woman to put something else on, at least for pick-up.” Because school is about a mommy fashion show, not children’s education, right?

It’s worth noting that it was in this same section of the newspaper that only two weeks ago advised women that if they want to climb the career ladder, they’d best don lipstick, mascara, blush, facial powder and eyeliner. “Want more respect, trust and affection from your co-workers?” an article asked. “Wearing makeup -- but not gobs of Gaga-conspicuous makeup – apparently can help. It increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability, her competence and (provided she does not overdo it) her trustworthiness, according to a new study, which also confirmed what is obvious: that cosmetics boost a woman’s attractiveness.”

I repeat: You should REALLY see (or record) Miss Representation about how women are indeed judged superficially and not by the content of their character.

Image credit: Huffington Post.

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