By Doug Porter
While the words and actions of various (mostly Republican) politicians give plenty of credence to the underlying misogyny on the right, a couple of items in this week’s news feeds illustrate the big picture when it comes to the baked in sexism of our society and culture.
Actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson addressed the General assembly on September 21st on the subject of gender discrimination and how it harms both society and individuals. Now she’s facing threats, simply for daring to speak up.
HBO’s John Oliver took on the Miss America beauty pageant on the same day, blowing away their claims of philanthropic benevolence towards women; specially their claims about colleges scholarships. It was an excellent example of how corporate spinmeisters can take even the most base and degrading institution and present it as something wholesome and appealing.
As a rule I look askance at claims about war. Coming from any seat of government they’re usually best interpreted as a warning about an upcoming raid on your wallet. Certainly the Democrats have exploited the tendencies of Republican candidates to flaunt their ignorance about 51% of the population.
The problem here is the GOP has earned its reputation. Actions speak louder than words, and truth is a powerful motivator.
The best short summary I’ve found with links to the GOP’s actions appearing after googling the phrase “War on Women” comes from Wikipedia:
In the 2010 midterm elections, the Republican Party won the majority in the House of Representatives. On January 4, 2011, the day after Congress convened, Kaili Joy Gray of the liberal Daily Kos wrote an opinion piece titled “The Coming War on Women”. In the article, she outlined many of the measures that Republicans intended to push through the House of Representatives, including personhood laws, fetal pain laws, and the effort to defund Planned Parenthood. In February 2011, an AlterNet article by Sarah Seltzer and Lauren Kelley entitled “9 New laws in the GOP’s War on Women”  began to document state-level legislation restricting abortion access and rights.
As we’ve all-too-painfully learned here in San Diego, sexism and misogyny is a bi-partisan problem. I think electing a lot more women to office is a good start towards a bipartisan solution. Taking a decade-long break from nominating any new white males for political office wouldn’t hurt, either.
All this political artillery points to the much deeper problem plaguing our culture, which is why I’m calling attention to Ms. Watson and the Miss America pageant today.
Amanda Taub’s reporting at Vox.com says it well:
In her famous 1996 commencement address, writer Nora Ephron warned the new graduates of Wellesley college that they were entering a world that was hostile to women’s achievements and begged them to to “take it personally.”
“Understand,” she said, “every attack on Hillary Clinton for not knowing her place is an attack on you.” We must all take such attacks personally, she argued: “Underneath almost all those attacks are the words: Get back, get back to where you once belonged.”
The threats against Watson are an attack on me – and I take them personally. We all need to.
On September 21, actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson stood up at the UN Headquarters in New York City and delivered a powerful speech condemning the harm that gender discrimination causes to both men and women, and inviting men to become active participants in the global struggle for equality. The next day, anonymous individuals from the message board 4chan set up a website targeting Watson with sexual threats, counting down the five days until, presumably, her private nude images will be made public. The threats against Watson are an attack on me – and I take them personally. We all need to.
Here’s Emma Watson’s 12 minute speech. Come back later and watch it if you don’t have time now.
“I am reaching out to you before we need your help. We want to end gender inequality and to do this, we need everyone involved. This is the first campaign of its kind at the UN. We want to try to galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for change and we don’t just want to talk about it. We want to try and make sure that it’s tangible.”–Emma Watson
Corporate Math and Beauty Pageants
Former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver has been going where news reporting either misses the point or doesn’t go at all. This week on HBO’s Last Week Tonight he took on Miss America’s claim that it’s all about the $45 million in scholarships. Pffft.
… The Last Week Tonight host summed up everything that is wrong with the annual Miss America Pageant Sunday night—from the butt glue to the 20 second responses to the question of how the U.S. should deal with ISIS.
But Oliver’s team also dug into the Miss America Pageant’s assertion that they provide $45 million in scholarship funds every year. They found that the pageant winners doesn’t come even close to actually receiving that amount for complicated reasons that Oliver explains in his piece. And yet the claim that they are still the world’s largest provider of scholarships for women in the world is, sadly, true, even though women who compete for said scholarship must certify that they have never before been married or pregnant.
On Monday afternoon, the Miss America Organization defended its program in a statement, saying it was common practice to advertise the total figure offered in scholarships rather than what ended up being spent.
Lame. Really, really, lame. Here’s the video in question. Again, it’s long (15 mins), but worth it.
The News in the News
Proponents of the “just throw money at it” school of journalism suffered serious setback yesterday as two high profile attempts to draw the craft into the 21st century folded.
The Los Angeles Register, the less than six month old daily launched by Aaron Kushner and his Freedom Communications co-owner Eric Spitz, ceased publication yesterday.
After buying the Orange County Register in 2012, Kusner and Spitz went on a spending spree, beefing up the staffing around the premise that more reporting would build more readership. They bought the Riverside Press-Enterprise in November, and launched dailies in both Long Beach and Los Angeles.
The money began to run out back in January, after the aspiring media moguls were forced to turn to a high interest lender in Boston to complete the Riverside deal, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Atlantic Magazine’s attempt to enter the online market of breaking news and culture, known as The Wire, will be returning to the mothership less than a year after being launched, according to Inc.com:
The change in digital strategy comes as a surprise. The Wire had received lavish praise for the strength of its coverage–if not massive traffic nor the kinds of social share stats that would make the likes of BuzzFeed proud. The company launched financial news site Quartz in 2012, followed less than a year later by Defense One, which covers national security issues. Along with The Wire, those two websites represented Atlantic Media’s efforts in launching “digital first” publications that debuted on the web.
Our own local daily is back in the news this morning, as Voice of San Diego reporter Liam Dillon rounded up some more information regarding stories about the transfer of UT-San Diego to local philanthropist Malin Burnham.
One thing is for sure; this ain’t over ‘till it’s over:
Manchester told Voice of San Diego in an email that a lot of the discussions were premature. “Actually no comment as we have zero deal at this time!” Manchester wrote. “I have always admired and respected all that Malin has done for our community and continues to do. If Malin gets the necessary approvals then we will talk but we are a long way from any type of transaction if any will ever materialize.”
Last but not least, we have a cautionary tale from the LA Times’ Michael Hiltzik about one side-effect of the collapse of journalism as we know it: the corporate shill posing as a trusted news source.
From the Los Angeles Times:
If you happened to click Monday on the Richmond Standard, a community news site for that Bay Area locality, you would have come upon a fairly snarky piece about 170 activists (“some from Richmond”) who took a train cross-country to participate in the People’s Climate March in New York on Sunday.
“Talk about a disturbed climate,” the item began. It proceeded to describe how the activists were boisterous, rude, messy, and smelly — enough to “rankle” the other passengers and even the conductors. All in all, a pretty negative picture of some of the participants in a rally that brought together 400,000 people (“some from Richmond”) to demand action on climate.
You might think this was an objective news report, unless you recognized that the Richmond Standard isn’t just another site for “community-driven news,” as it declares on its banner. It’s entirely a creation of Chevron Corp., which operates a huge and controversial refinery in, yes, Richmond, and presumably doesn’t have the same view of climate change as the activists on the train.
Why We Need Better News Reporting in One Poll
On This Day: 1868 – The Workingman’s Advocate of Chicago published the first installment of The Other Side, by Martin A. Foran, president of the Coopers’ Int’l Union. Believed to be the first novel by a trade union leader and some say the first working-class novel ever published in the U.S. 1952 – Richard Nixon gave his “Checkers Speech”. At the time he was a candidate for vice-president. 1962 – “The Jetsons” premiered on ABC-TV. It was the first program on the network to be carried in color.
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