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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sexism?

A few days ago, I became aware of a... series of comments (because it wasn't actually a conversation or a debate) that revolved around the reasons someone would choose or hire someone else to be a spokesperson for them. I missed that conversation, entirely, so I'll just mention my thoughts about it here, and be done with it. Specifically, it pertained to whether a woman should be chosen for the job? and if so, should it be an attractive woman? and if so, should that be the deciding factor in hiring her? To be even more specific, they were looking to hire someone to be on-air talent... not on television, but on the internet. A host of a show. "The Face" of their broadcast.

Anyone could have been chosen to be the host of this show, yet they specifically requested an attractive female. This was called "sexism". Definition #2 of sexism, according to m-w.com/dictionary/sexism, is "behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex". Could choosing an attractive female to host a show foster stereotypes of a woman's social role? Could choosing a more attractive woman who knows nothing about the topic (but is going to be fed her lines anyway, via a script) over a less attractive woman who knows a lot about the topic imply things to the viewers or people that become aware of this situation about the role of a woman in this society or what's valued about her? I think it says more about the people looking to hire this attractive woman and their target demographic than it says about the woman herself or women in general. What could be the reason that an attractive woman was desired for the position? How about RATINGS? :D

How about if one of the reasons... if not the ONLY reason to put on the show was to get viewers? How about if they knew that they would get MORE viewers to tune in with an attractive female spokesperson than an unattractive female or a male? What's their incentive to go with decidedly less effective 'bait' when they're fishing for viewers? Where's the ROI?

On top of all that, it's not like they were trying to hire her for some kind of intellectual show
like "On The Record w/ Greta Van Susteren". :D



All this new spokesperson has to do is study some simple introductory lines or read them from a teleprompter. She's there to wave and smile and look good and ATTRACT viewers to watch the show, which benefits the guys that were looking to hire her in the first place. Mission accomplished. If you're trying to do a show about lawyers, and you hire a woman that looks good and is NOT and never WAS a lawyer, you're a fool. If you want someone to turn letters on a game show, there's no need to hire a lawyer. :)

What does that say for the _content_ of a show that needs eye-candy to get viewers? hehehehe... well...... :)

However, like I said... I think it says more about the show and the show's demographics than it says about women. If the show's topic is appealing to men, then putting an attractive woman in the spotlight is only going to benefit you. Look at Harlequin....




They're selling fantasies to women. Does Harlequin hire busted-looking, out-of-shape, unsuccessful-looking 'Joe Average's to model for the covers of their novels for women? NOPE! :D You know why? Because fewer women would BUY.THE.BOOK. They're better off using covers that don't imply anything about the guy's looks at all than they are using a cover that defines the protagonist as visually unattractive.

...

That's not to say that I don't see the other side of the 'argument'. Television's filled with uncommonly attractive people, percentage-wise. Most places you go, people don't actually look like that. :D I understand that a lot of girls and women feel pressure to attempt to make themselves look like models because they think models are the definition of good-looking, when, in fact, models are models because they fit the ONE.SIZE.OF.THE.DRESS that the designer made for the show. They hire models to fit clothes... they DON'T make the clothes to fit the models. I understand the reasons that women want to 'fight the power' and get more unattractive women into on-air-talent positions. However... what they're missing is that the woman wasn't being sought because she was a woman. They were looking for someone that would have been attractive to their target demographic... MEN. If you take away the desire to hire someone attractive, that doesn't mean that the unattractive woman has a chance at all. She's on the same level (if not lower) than a man now, because neither the man nor the unattractive woman is going to add to the show's ratings. Unfortunately, even fighting the power doesn't mean a win for the unattractive woman... it's merely a loss for the attractive woman. And, yes... I'm aware that I'm using terms that relate to _visual_ attractiveness, because that's the line that was drawn in this particular case.

Do I think this situation was sexist? No. It would have been sexist if what the new employee looked like wouldn't have mattered at all to their ratings. If they were hiring a video editor, who was never going to be seen on the broadcast, choosing a more attractive and less qualified woman would have been a sexist decision, benefitting the men in the company that would rather walk in the editing suite and see an attractive woman, and hurting the bottom line, since she would be less effective at getting the job done than the less attractive woman. In the case of hiring on-air talent for a mindless hostess position, go for the gusto. Get all the ratings you can, because that's where you're going to get viewers, fame, advertisers, more work... whatever. If you need the new hire to actually DO SOMETHING, go with the most qualified person in the best interests of your business.

...

Like I said, I missed the boat on this conversation, but it ended with ZERO resolution, whatsoever. Each camp rallied around their respective positions, and no solutions came up that might have gotten a less attractive, yet more qualified female the job. In this case, its absolutely right what the women were saying, that her personality wasn't being showcased and that she was chosen for her looks instead of her ideas and thoughts. "Someone" also said something that I found interesting and true. One of the arguments from the "good looks" side was that "sex sells". Her response was that it wasn't actually sex that was "selling"... it was how attractive the woman looked. I think she's absolutely right. I don't think a more sexual or sensual, yet visually unattractive woman would have stood a chance of being hired for this position, because she still wouldn't have helped the ratings.

What never came up in the conversation is Human nature. Regardless of the technology, it's still people on the other end of the line. Attractive people get more 'stuff' in this world. That's how it is. Every time there's a scientific study done, those are the results. All other things being equal, attractiveness wins the position. Even when things AREN'T equal, attractiveness wins the position. It's valiant and respectable to fight the good fight, but until the society changes to the point where the viewers don't care what the host / hostess / romance novel cover model looks like, their visual or physical attractiveness is going to be a tool to use to bait viewers into watching something they otherwise wouldn't even consider taking a FIRST look at.






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