Can We Finally Change the Narrative?
This past week I sat in the audience listening to three brilliant women, Jessica Bennett, Susie Banikarim, and moderator Cindi Leive discuss the treatment of our culture’s events that shaped the narrative around women. Women are not the heroes; they are the bad girls. We should all ask ourselves why.
Monica Lewinsky was 21 when she worked in the Clinton White House. Just pause for a moment. She was 21, and Bill Clinton was 27 years her senior, making him 48. Suppose you are paying attention to the trial of Ghislaine Maxell and the parade of psychologists discussing how sexual predators work or reading about the countless Catholic Priests who abused young children. In that case, it is about slowly reeling in someone with trust. Do we really think it was Monica Lewinsky who reeled in Bill Clinton? Yet the narrative set is that it was all Lewinsky. Historically we refer to this time as the Monica Lewinsky trial, not the flawed impeachment of Bill Clinton.
When Britney Spears was being tortured by the press, hounded by paparazzi, and put on the cover of magazines as a “bad girl,” we all have to wonder, why not any of the boy stars of that time? How come Justin Timberlake was put on a pedestal?
They brought up General Hospital. Admittingly I was hooked during the height of Luke and Laura. Laura had been brutally raped by Luke two years before their fabulous wedding, which brought in more viewers for a soap opera. There are no words.
Whitney Houston was body-shamed by the one and only Diane Sawyer. The media loved it; more eyeballs! Women shaming women, even better.
There are so many more. Journalists Susie and Jessica are taking all of this on. In Retrospect, their podcast will launch in 2022, revisiting these flashpoints, hopefully pushing us to wonder why we haven’t portrayed so many iconic women as role models but bad rebels.
Of course, the answer to most of this is white men and money. Men run the most significant media companies, and the business model is eyeballs and advertising. Can we change what people are drawn to?
I believe that diversity from top to bottom in any organization will make a difference, and we are finally beginning to see those changes. What nobody has figured out, which is still the looming question, how do you change the business model?