Never Dumb Down

This week I was struck by a reality that I was frustrated to find still existed. It’s a reality that I choose to combat every day opposed to letting it defeat me. Women submitting to sexism.

I realized this during a discussion in one of my classes after watching this video. Take a moment to view the Huffington Post’s conglomeration of cable news embarrassment.

To anyone who respects women, this video is utterly appalling. We all know the backlash towards women happens, but for women to be put on the spot on live, national television like that, unbelievable.

As journalists, these women can’t take a major stance defending themselves or their race or they’re seen as being biased. But for a woman to stay silent and not say anything at all, it can come across as weak as she lets the commenter walk over her.

The class discussion was one of disgust as no one could come up with a reason why such comments could have a benefit on anyone. The question was then posed as to whether any of the women in the room have experienced as sexist attitude while reporting thus far in our careers. Hands shot up.

One girl spoke about her internship from the previous summer saying she and a male intern were on a team and seen as equals within the company. She explained all summer was a battle with him because their supervisor would always offer him the big breaks first. She would never be given a choice but rather assigned to whatever the boy didn’t want to work on. She added when she was on a larger project, she felt her supervisors were breathing over her shoulder to make sure she was doing everything correctly (even though they didn’t double check when her male co-worker was on the task).

Stories like that are frustrating. But there is nothing worse than when one chain link from a bound strand breaks and therefore breaks the chain in half. That might sound like a simple analogy but it’s exactly what unfolded moments later.

A girl in the room who is, to her credit, a very dedicated and successful journalist, explained when trying to have someone she’s interviewing explain something in a way that an audience would understand, she just “dumbs herself down.” She proceeded to say she does this to make it appear she does not understand what the person is talking about so they will explain it in a simpler format.

When she said this, she spoke in an airy, Barbie like voice. She said this strategy worked almost always when she interviewed men.

When she finished, my inner self could hardly believe my ears. WHY would she be willing to compromise her own reputation making it look like she couldn’t comprehend a straight forward topic? Why would she be okay with putting herself in that light when she could simply reformat her question so the person gave a more straight forward answer by saying something to the effect of, “Thank you for explaining that.  Would you mind explaining that again in a few sentences so a kindergardener would understand?” 9/10 times, this works to get a quote in a conducive format for a sound bite. This gets the job done without compromising the reputation of the journalist!

I am of the thought that young women need to combat this issue together or it doesn’t have a shot of changing. Women journalists need to walk into their job confident in who they are and knowing the respect they deserve and prepared to stand up for themselves!

I must have assumed that the women in my class who seem so passionate about doing good journalism would stand up for themselves in the event they were looked down upon. But apparently, some of them are okay with getting walked over at a price of making the female race look submissive, yet again.

My concern lies in the future.

If incredible students like those in my reporting classes now at one of the best journalism schools aren’t 100% ready to stand their ground, that can only mean the next batch of women journalists will have not just one, but many weak links who are not prepared to stand up for the nonsense woman are faced with on live TV and in any interview setting.

It will take women demanding the respect they deserve before American culture knocks the sexist comments.   But without a consistent, confident voice, males will continue to walk all over the female race in the media limelight which transcends down to forming the opinions of the next generation who watch TV and begin to think sexist comments are okay.

Why can’t this generation be the one who sets the record straight?


Photo Credits: Fox News

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