Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Media portrayal of women too critical, says columnist

By Paula McFadden, Opinion Columnist

Recent controversies about the expectations of women show the media is not evolving in its treatment of women.

Ann Romney was criticized last week for “never working a day in her life,” a comment that is a reflection of how women are treated in the media.

Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, made the comment. Her point was that Romney is out of touch with what the U.S. needs.

Her reasoning: if Romney has never had a job, how can she be expected to relate to the issue of unemployment?

This statement is true, but many people who currently hold political positions are out of touch with the needs of the majority of the U.S.

So why criticize Ann Romney?

Many political analysts believe women will be the swing vote in the 2012 Presidential Election.

This is the beginning of what will likely be a stream of criticisms of both Romney and Michelle Obama because women are their own harshest critics.

In response to Rosen’s comment, Michelle Obama defended Romney in a tweet that said, “Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.”

Actress Ashley Judd was criticized recently for having a puffy face, and the immediate assumption was she had plastic surgery or gained weight. Judd said she had been taking steroid medication for a sinus infection, which caused her face to swell.

Judd’s main critics were women. She said in an interview with TV Guide, “We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.”

Images in the media and our ways of perceiving those images reinforce stereotypes and unrealistic expectations.

People like to categorize others to feel normal.

Even at Pacific Lutheran University, when the last three PLU presidential candidates were answering questions from the community, someone asked Patricia Krise about her plans for throwing parties at the Gonyea house.

Would that question have been asked if a woman had been picked as PLU’s next president, and her husband was the one throwing the hypothetical parties?

Ultimately, we are all individuals. What works for one person may not work for another.

If we let the media define who we are, then we are no better than genetically engineered robots that only fit into the box of what people expect us to be.

Paula McFadden is a junior at Pacific Lutheran University pursuing a degree in English with an emphasis in writing and minors in communication and publishing and printing arts. She lives on campus but calls Lakewood, Wash., home.