I watched the first U.S. Presidential debate of the election last night and I noticed something interesting about the coverage at CNN.  Notice that the live viewer information along the bottom includes the degree to which female (yellow) and male (green) Colorado undecided voters like or dislike what each candidate is saying (measured by the middle bar).

By choosing to display data by gender, CNN gives us some idea of how men and women agree or disagree on their evaluations of the candidates, but it also makes gender seem like the most super-salient variable by which to measure support.  They didn’t, for example, offer data on how upper and middle class undecided voters in Colorado perceived the debate, nor did they offer data on immigrant vs. non-immigrant, White vs. non-white, gay vs. straight, or any number of demographic variables they could have chosen from.

Instead, by promoting gender as the relevant variable, they also gave the impression that gender was the relevant variable.  This makes it seem like men and women must be really different in their opinions (otherwise, why would they bother highlighting it), strengthening the idea that men and women are different and, even, at odds.  In fact, men and women seemed to track each other pretty well.

It’s not that I don’t think gender is an interesting variable, it’s just that I don’t think it’s the only interesting one and making it seem so is problematic.  I would have loved to have seen the data parsed in other ways too, perhaps by rotating what variables they highlighted.  This would have at least given us a more nuanced view of public opinion (among undecided voters in Colorado) instead of reifying the same old binary.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

This is the second part in a series about how girls and women can navigate a culture that treats them like sex objects (see also, part One)Cross-posted at Ms. and Caroline Heldman’s Blog.

The “sex wars”  of the 1980s pitted radical feminists, who claimed that female sexual objectification is dehumanizing, against feminists concerned about legal and social efforts to control and repress female sexuality.  Over a decade of research now shows that radical feminists were right to be highly concerned.

Getting back to the “sex wars” and how radical feminists were right, women who grow up in a culture with widespread sexual objectification tend to view themselves as objects of desire for others. This internalized sexual objectification has been linked to problems with mental health (e.g., clinical depression“habitual body monitoring”), eating disordersbody shameself-worth and life satisfactioncognitive functioningmotor functioningsexual dysfunctionaccess to leadership, and political efficacy.  Women of all ethnicities internalize objectification, as do men to a lesser extent.

Beyond the internal effects, sexually objectified women are dehumanized by others and seen as less competent and worthy of empathy by both men and women.  Furthermore, exposure to images of sexually objectified women causes male viewers to be more tolerant of sexual harassment and rape myths.  Add to this the countless hours that most girls/women spend primping and competing with one another to garner heterosexual male attention, and the erasure of middle-aged and elderly women who have little value in a society that places women’s primary value on their sexualized bodies.

Theorists have also contributed to understanding the harm of objectification culture by pointing out the difference between sexy and sexual.  If one thinks of the subject/object dichotomy that dominates thinking in Western culture, subjects act and objects are acted upon.  Subjects are sexual, while objects are sexy.

Pop culture sells women and girls a hurtful lie: that their value lies in how sexy they appear to others, and they learn at a very young age that their sexuality is for others.  At the same time, being sexual, is stigmatized in women but encouraged in men. We learn that men want and women want-to-be-wanted. The yard stick for women’s value (sexiness) automatically puts them in a subordinate societal position, regardless of how well they measure up.  Perfectly sexy women are perfectly subordinate.

The documentary Miss Representation has received considerable mainstream attention, one indicator that many are now recognizing the damaging effects of female sexual objectification.

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To sum up, widespread sexual objectification in U.S. popular culture creates a toxic environment for girls and women.  The following posts in this series provide ideas for navigating new objectification culture in personally and politically meaningful ways.

The Fourth Estate has found that the vast majority of people quoted in news coverage of the 2012 election are men.  The media research group collected a sample of election-related news stories from print newspapers and TV broadcasts, finding that 13% of print sources were women (79% were men and 8% were organizations) and 16% of TV sources were women (81% were men and 3% were organizations).

Male dominance was true in all outlets, though Meet the Press and Time Warner stand out as the least disproportionate:

This might be old (though still frustrating) news, except for the fact that the pattern held for issues traditionally considered “women’s”: abortion, birth control, Planned Parenthood, and women’s rights (blue is men, pink is women, grey is organizations):

This asymmetry is found across media.  See also our posts on gender and book reviewinggender and top billing at Paramount pictures, gender and top creatives for family movies, and women as news subjects.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Cross-posted at Work That Matters.

Barbie is running for President of The United States of America… again.  She even has a campaign Tumblr. But what is her platform?

Okay, so she’s not taking any strong stands on the GOP’s War on Women’s reproductive rights. But she did come up with a totally awesome nickname for her campaign (“Glam-paign”).

Apparently, however, candidate Barbie will do something no other candidate can: she will bridge the racial divide in America by morphing herself into four different ethnicities!
Yes, I get that this is a toy. And the Miss-America-style platitudes are to be expected from a company that wants to sell to both sides of the political divide. But it’s a shame that girls don’t get a chance to see that women really can change the world.

This week, Malawi swore in Southern Africa’s first female head of state. She wasn’t elected as such, but as Vice President took the position after President Bingu wa Mutharika died in office. (A scenario that could have happened with Sarah Palin, had John McCain won the Presidency.)

Other women currently heading countries are:

  • Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: President of Liberia
  • Doris Leuthard, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, Simonetta Sommaruga: Members of the Swiss Federal Council, Switzerland
  • Pratibha Patil: President of India
  • Cristina Fernández de Kirchner: President of Argentina
  • Dalia Grybauskaitė: President of Lithuania
  • Laura Chinchilla: President of Costa Rica
  • Dilma Rousseff: President of Brazil
  • Atifete Jahjaga: President of Kosovo
  • Monique Ohsan Bellepeau: Acting President of Mauritius
  • Slavica Đukić Dejanović: Acting President of Serbia
  • Angela Merkel – Chancellor of Germany
  • Julia Gillard – PM of Australia
  • Yingluck Shinawatra – PM of Thailand
  • Helle Thorning-Schmidt – PM of Denmark
  • Portia Simpson-Miller – PM of Jamaica
  • Kamla Persad-Bissessar – PM of Trinidad and Tobago
  • Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir – PM of Iceland (Appointed)
  • Hasina Wazed – PM of Bangladesh

The United States has yet to elect a woman to the position. And while Canada has had two appointed female Vice-Regents, we have yet to elect a woman to the Prime Minister’s Office. (Kim Campbell was nominated for the position directly by her party.)

So perhaps it’s time for Barbie, who has been in every federal election since 1992, to campaign a little harder. Or for North American countries to catch up with the rest of the world and nominate and elect a woman of substance who isn’t seen as just “another Barbie.”

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Tom Megginson is a Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Social Issues Marketing agency based in Ottawa, Canada.  Tom writes regularly about creative advertising and marketing ethics for the international social advertising blog, Osocio, as well as on his own, Work That Matters.

Behold, I present to you a video parody of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” rewritten as “Bad Romance: Women’s Suffrage,” an account of the fight to get voting rights for women in the U.S.:

I just wanted you to know that this exists.

Lyrics and info available here. Thanks to Kristina Killgrove for the tip!

Cross-posted at Compassionate Societies.

This week the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a series of new gender indicators, covering the presence of women in top corporate jobs and parliaments, the gender wage gap, and entrepreneurship.

Despite efforts in many countries to promote their participation on boards, women are still under-represented in top corporate jobs.  On average, women make up 10% of board members. The United States is only 2% higher at 12%. Quite a few countries do better. The highest is highest is Norway, at close to 40%, due to a mandatory quota introduced in 2006. In Sweden, France, Slovak Republic and Finland the proportion of women on boards is between 15% and 20%, while in Germany, Japan and the Netherlands, it is less than 5%.

The percent of women in the U.S. congress and senate is 17%, which is about 10% lower than the average of OCED countries parliaments.  In the past ten years, the average proportions have increased slightly, but significantly.

The overall wage gap in the U.S. has been declining, but at 19%, it is three times greater than it is in Hungary. And it is about twice as large as most European countries.  Overall, the gap has been declining:

Entrepreneurship is still highly gendered.  The percent of women has been rising, but this is largely due to an overall decline in male entrepreneurs during the past 11 years.

If one considers lack of participation in power positions of business as well as government to be indicators of injustice due to social processes like glass ceilings that prohibit advancement, then the U.S., as well as the rest of the OECD countries analyzed here, have a long way to go to reach gender justice, both informal and formal.

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Ron Anderson, PhD, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, has written many books and hundreds of articles, mostly on technology. In his retirement, he is doing research and writing on compassion and suffering and maintains the website CompassionateSocieties.org.

The vintage clipping below is a political advertisement from 1915 opposing women’s suffrage in Massachusetts. It claims that most women in the state do not want the vote, so if voting men gave women suffrage, they would be doing so against their will.  This, they claim, would be undemocratic.   This sounds ironic, but it makes sense in a world where men were suppose to be women’s political representatives.

The ad then goes on to try to demonize those women who do want the right to vote by associating them with other groups widely stigmatized at that time: feminists, of course, but also socialists, Mormons, and members of the I.W.W. The acronym stands for Industrial Workers of the World, an organization founded in 1905 as an alternative to the American Federation of Labor, reportedly consisting of anarchists, socialists, and union members (wiki).

Women in Massachusetts would be granted the right to vote on this day, August 18th, five years later, not by the residents of the state, but by Federal decree.

Via BoingBoing.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Cross-posted at Family Inequality.

I have criticized sloppy statistical work by some international feminist organizations, so I’m glad to have a chance to point out a useful new report and website.

The Progress of the World’s Women is from the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. The full-blown site has an executive summary, a long report, and a statistics index page with a download of the complete spreadsheet. I selected a few of the interesting graphics.

Skewed sex ratios (which I’ve written about here and here) are in the news, with the publication of Unnatural Selection, by Mara Hvistendahl. The report shows some of the countries with the most skewed sex ratios, reflecting the practice of parents aborting female fetuses (Vietnam and Taiwan should  be in there, too). With the exception of Korea, they’ve all gotten more skewed since the 1990s, when ultrasounds became more widely available, allowing parents to find out the sex of the fetus early in the pregnancy.

The most egregious inequality between women of the world is probably in maternal mortality. This chart shows, for example, that the chance of a woman dying during pregnancy or birth is about 100- 39-times higher in Africa than Europe. The chart also shows how many of those deaths are from unsafe abortions.

Finally, I made this one myself, showing women as a percentage of parliament in most of the world’s rich countries (the spreadsheet has the whole list). The USA, with 90 women out of 535 members of Congress, comes in at 17%.

The report focuses on law and justice issues, including rape and violence against women, as well as reparations, property rights, and judicial reform. They boil down their conclusions to: “Ten proven approaches to make justice systems work for women“:

1. Support women’s legal organizations

2. Support one-stop shops and specialized services to reduce attrition in the justice chain [that refers to rape cases, for example, not making their way from charge to conviction -pnc]

3. Implement gender-sensitive law reform

4. Use quotas to boost the number of women legislators

5. Put women on the front line of law enforcement

6. Train judges and monitor decisions

7. Increase women’s access to courts and truth commissions in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

8. Implement gender-responsive reparations programmes

9. Invest in women’s access to justice

10. Put gender equality at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals