Thursday, August 4, 2005

Sexism in the city

Am pretty embarrassed to admit this one but unfortunately it's true.

Just got home and turned the TV on to notice three beautiful women in their 30's - 50's talking about something. Couldn't see what channel it was, so I assumed it was Desperate Housewives or something.

After several seconds it seemed that the script was all wrong because they were taking turns describing something that sounded scientific. "Ah", I thought, "Must be CSI or some detective show".

As they continued it started to look like a documentary or real-life type of scenario so I thought "Oh - I know, it's one of thoses psychic detective things or gruesome murder recreations and they're talking about how it happened". Yet, as I continued to listen, the women didn't seem distressed, nor melodramatic.

"OK. It looks like they're talking about breast cancer - maybe they're sisters and talking about how it affected them". Nup.

They continued to defy my expectations and I just didn't feel comfortable. After a short while the narrator mentioned something about "Professor so-and-so" and the first woman's face was back on the screen. Unlike the previous discomfort, this threw me entirely. I looked at their faces again. They could have been Desperate Housewives. They could have been Mrs Trump the 5th. They just didn't look like professors. They looked like models. Or rich women.

How about that? Me - your local in-yer-face, don't-****-with me feminist, caught in my own sexist black spot. It seems I'm prepared to offer solidarity to weathered looking women or poor women or oppressed women but give me good looking doctors and professors and I don't even bloody recognise them because secretly I mustn't believe that it's a possibility or something. As you can imagine, this made me squirm bigtime.

Yet, as I reflected on it more and more I realised that we very rarely have representations in popular culture of beautiful women as anything other than models, desperate housewives, mistresses, lap dancers (why must every show nowadays have the obligatory scene in a strip joint??...), "yummy mummies", goddesses or pretend detectives and mini-skirted lawyers with a fast mouths and big hair. Why is that? (Serious question here, not rhetoric - why DON'T we have a more balanced range of stereotypes?)

The documentary continued. I continued to feel surprised. They weren't just scientists, they discovered a really important gene in cancer research. And they wore heaps of makeup and girly clothing. And were beautiful. Geez. Do I really think that women have to choose whether to be capable or beautiful??? It seems I do. Sheesh!

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