This week’s #FeministFriday comes to us from news headlines everywhere:
The media needs to define women by ability, not fertility.
I recently saw a story about Rona Fairhead, a woman who was named the preferred candidate for the role of trust chair at the BBC. I always love hearing about women moving into powerful corporate roles, but in this case I was a bit distracted by the title of the article:
“Mother of three poised to lead the BBC?”
When I saw the headline, my initial reaction was, “Oh, good for her!” However, this thought was followed closely by several others, including irritation that the focus seemed to be about Fairhead’s gender rather than the position, but also that I had absolutely no idea why she might be right for the job. Rather than referencing anything from her more than likely extensive set of credentials, the only qualification I knew she had was that she wasn’t staying home with her three children.
“Oh, but maybe she’s really proud of her family!”
I’m sure Fairhead is an excellent parent and is very proud of her children, but the article isn’t about her family, so why define her by it? I have yet to see an article titled “Father of two attends leadership summit” because regardless of how much of a family man Barack Obama is, that headline would be considered ridiculous.
This isn’t an isolated incident, and no women seem to be immune. JK Rowling has been heralded as a single mother who rose out of poverty nearly more times than she’s been recognized for her actual work. Local newscasters name nameless victims as “new mother” or “mother of five” hoping to add just a bit more drama to a 30-second tragedy on the six o’clock news every night. While interviewing Hilary Clinton last year, Matt Lauer tried to bait a confirmation of a 2016 bid for the presidency, then skipped past any policy questions to ask if a job at the White House would hinder her job as a grandmother.
Considering that the overwhelming majority of Presidents this country has had thus far have been fathers and/or grandfathers while holding office, and not a single one was questioned as to how running a country would affect their familial relationships, this seemed like a wildly inappropriate question from Mr. Lauer.
It’s 2015. If the only way a reporter can think to refer to a woman is as a “mother of” that reporter should perhaps consider a different career, unless those words are followed by “dragons”.
Leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week!