Friday, October 14, 2011

Weekend Reading: The Sexism is Everywhere Edition

I have lots of good links this week, all with a feminist slant.

First, an opinion piece on CNN about the popularity of the new "retro" shows, which show women in outdated roles- and how young women today see these as period pieces, much like we view Jane Austen novels. (I doubt the writing in these shows measures up to Austen, though!) Personally, I don't think the shows are worth getting worked up about, but I doubt they are just benign period pieces, either. I suspect there is a fair amount of male nostalgia been pandered to (and perhaps amplified) by these shows.

But I don't watch much TV, so I can't speak about these shows from personal experience.

Sticking with pop culture, here is a very funny piece in the New Yorker about the unrealistic nature of the female roles in Hollywood movies.  My favorite is the career woman stereotype:

"And since when does holding a job necessitate that a woman pull her hair back in a severe, tight bun? Do screenwriters think that loose hair makes it hard to concentrate?"

Of course, sexism is not just found on TV and in movies. @Rambleginger led me to an excellent funny-but-sad-because-its-true Jezebel post about the unwritten rules for women in America. I agree with the last line in the post- I read the post, recognized it was true, and was so sad for my little girls, who will largely have to navigate the same crap as I did. Someone please convince me that it is actually getting better...?

Oh well. Failing that, here is an awesome post that showed up on several blogs I read (including Nicoleandmaggie's) about the phrase " a girl" and so much more. Go read it. It is good.

I've also come across two pieces about research that tries to correct the myths about why there aren't more women at the top in business and why there aren't more women in tech. Hint: it isn't because we have babies or because we don't want these things.

I found that last link via a new Women in Tech blog, which I found because Anandi (who comments as ARC here) had a guest post up about how she negotiated her ideal work schedule. The same blog has a great post up from a Microsoft general manager about how she found work-life balance. The blog is off to a good start- I hope they keep it up.

The research pieces got me thinking about the conventional wisdom that tech is somehow a "bad" career for women, because of the sexism in the field. I certainly agree that there is sexism in the tech world, but I also believe (and have argued) that tech careers are great careers for women.

How do I square those two things? I guess I just don't think that the tech field is unusual for being sexist. That other research piece indicates that there women will face sexism in business careers, too, but I've never heard anyone argue that business careers are "bad" for women. I can't think of a single career that you can pursue and be untouched by sexism. You could argue that the female dominated fields are less sexist but (1) that isn't always true (often men are over-represented in the top ranks relative to their prevalence in the overall field) and (2) often, the field itself has been devalued and therefore suffers from low pay or low respect. Given the choice, I'd rather keep my high pay and respect, and just work through the sexism I encounter, particularly since my chosen career offers a lot of other benefits, such as the potential for a lot of flexibility in my work.

(Of course, some sexism is so egregious that you can't work through it. But again, I don't think the tech field has a monopoly on that.)

So I think we should continue to study the reasons why women are underrepresented in some fields, and we should work to fix those problems. But we should also remember that sexism extends beyond any one field or career path, and the solution does, too.


  1. Anonymous10:24 PM

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  2. Anonymous4:09 AM

    Great set of links!

  3. Fantastic links!

  4. I'm a bit of an optimist, but I do think things are getting better for women. Currently the House that passed the "let women die" bill has a Republican majority, who have an average age of 55. I feel like the past 15 years of pop culture have celebrated femininity in all its forms, from Powerpuff Girls and My Little Pony Friendship is Magic to supergirl Sydney Bristow in Alias to the sharp wit of comediennes like Tina Fey, and I feel like the boys growing up in today's world are constantly exposed to the fact that their female counterparts are just as complex, intelligent, and wonderful as they are. I guess only time will tell, but I have a wellspring of hope for the future of American women.

  5. Thanks for the links, Cloud, and for the comment on my post.

  6. scantee10:25 AM

    The few times I thought about being a mom before getting unexpectedly pregnant with my first I always pictured having a girl so, of course, I have two boys. It makes me really sad that I sometimes feel relief about that fact. When I survey today's cultural landscape for girls it seems pretty bleak. Is that bleakness worse or better than when I was a child? Probably better in some ways, worse in others.

    Certainly the princessification of young girls' outward dress and behavior is worse. I think this can actually be attributed to improvement for women in others areas: as women approach or surpass men in higher education achievement, sports participation, taking on traditionally masculine professions, there's a corresponding greater anxiety over those things that seem still under cultural control, like dress and toys.*

    #likeagirl would be a good twitter theme for someone with a lot more followers than I to start.

    *(Can I tell you how annoyed I was when I went to buy gardening gloves and the only color options for women were pink and purple? Holy hell, I am a grown woman not a child, I don't need to feel pretty when I garden [in the dirt!]. Good thing I have big hands and could fit in a men's small size. Princessification isn't just for girls anymore. See also: running skirts.)

  7. OWN Network is airing a documentary called Miss Representation on Thursday at 9pm, which discusses media portrayal of women. I have a feeling it will be painting a more dismal picture than I imagine, but I'll be checking it out.

  8. @scantee- I know! The princess crap is like an overwhelming tide. We have given in.

    But I think there are some things about parenting a boy these days that are just as hard. They get a lot less latitude to follow all their interests, for instance. No one blinks at my little girls who like trucks and legos as well as dolls. Boys who like dolls still have a harder time. Basically, no one gets a free pass.

    @Autumn- you are right, it is getting better. Just too slowly. It is hard for me to look at my little girls, so unaware of the crap they are going to have to navigate, and not get mad about our slow progress. But at least there is progress.

  9. Anonymous4:35 AM

    DC gave dinosaur toys at the last little girl birthday party we were at. (Specifically one that tries to bite your finger off when you touch its mouth. Also a Geronimo Stilton book and another book about puppies and kittens.) Every one else gave pink princess or my little pony stuff. Girl toys are SO BORING. They don't do anything and you can't build with them (not without heavy duty glue, anyway... doll parts don't tend to stack well).

    Fighting the patriarchy one gift at a time. Even if parents say they can tell DS picked out the gifts.

    Btw, they make dolls for boys too-- they're called "action figures." We like the cars better.

  10. the milliner6:46 PM

    Haven't had time to click through the links yet, but I had to laugh at this quote in your post:

    "And since when does holding a job necessitate that a woman pull her hair back in a severe, tight bun? Do screenwriters think that loose hair makes it hard to concentrate?"

    I've been known to constantly pull my hair into a bun on the top of my head...especially while I'm at work, and, um, concentrating. This probably stems from sewing and working with my hands when hair in your face is a PITA at best and a hazard at worst. But I still do it for spreadsheets or computer work in my office job now. I'm actually trying to remember to leave my hair down now, but it's a hard habit to break!

  11. I've been looking for a good website/blog aimed at women in technology! Thanks for sharing that one!

    I'll have to read the links when I'm putting a kid to bed tonight. They look very interesting, and right up my alley of interest.


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