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81 cents: The worth of a woman’s dollar in media.

When I was in kindergarten in 1980, we were asked who we wanted to be when we grew up.  I looked around: of the twenty or so occupational posters on the wall, women represented exactly two: teacher or nurse.  My mom was a stay at home mom, and later a teacher.  So I thought hard and creatively answered: Avon Lady, which is the only women-owned and women-operated business I knew.  A year or two later, that answer didn’t go over well in private school.  Today I believe we earn approximately 81 cents for every dollar a male earns.

Is there a gap in spending power also ?  I ask this because there’s a lot of mixed messages in the Ad Lands these days.  Take for example the NFL and Cover Girl.  Apparently, women account for 45% of the viewership of the NFL, which prompted CoverGirl to sponsor the NFL.  Then came the infamous Ray Rice incident and the NFL’s slow as molasses they’re only 45% and they’ll keep watching because they’re dumb response. Cover girl is still sponsoring the Superbowl Get Your Gameface On Campaign?  In other words, it continues to funnel money to an organization that disregards brutality to a core audience, women.   Converting that into spending power, it means that as women our dollar is also worth 81 cents, or a man’s dollar is worth $1.22 for every one of ours.  I feel like Canada at the UN when dealing with the NFL.  Of course we’re the little guy at the table.

Does CoverGirl know who their bread is buttered by?  I’m not sure they do, because of their lack of response to women’s issues.   With CoverGirl, we have 100% purchasing power.  Fortunately, someone expressed the frustration and  irony by photo shopping  CoverGirl’s Ravens Look makeup into a domestic violence victim (here: Ravens CoverGirl Makeup Spoof “Get Your Game Face On.”)  This look freezes the dopey happiness of the model, by the way.  It doesn’t help that she’s posed into a defensive parry.

Here’s the hero of the day:  Alway’s  “Like a Girl” campaign.  The short version is that younger girls believe “like a girl” means trying hard and fierce, and only with adolescence does it mean to do something poorly and awkwardly. Flailing and failing.  This information is brought to you by P&E, the makers of “Always” Products, who sell to women.  If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here:  Like a Girl Campaign

In the mean time, in the Philippines there is this bit of awful:  the infamous “Snuggle with a Struggle” t-shirts marketed to young boys in the Philippines. 

So while women celebrate being strong, it’s an arms race.

 

Back to that kindergarten problem. A brief history in media, according to me:

When women became tough in the year two double ought, we left behind chick flicks for chick action flicks. In 2001, Laura Croft Tomb Raider showed us how a pair of DDs can save the world. Then Kill Bill in 2003, showed that motherhood – that exclusive female experience – could be fierce and vengeful, sociopathic even. Then Quentin Tarrantino moved on to the Grindhouse films: We had Jessica Alba in Machete, Sophia Vergara in Machete Kills, next Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo… And always in the plot somewhere, a man tried to take advantage of our hot-tomale chick, who threw down and put the hurt on him. For example: Kill Bill. Which I personally love and say nothing bad about. Except to remind you when Bringing the Popcorn that like sex in porn, It Isn’t Real. But we called it progress nonetheless. Kick ass, take names.

This progress was important to me because once upon a time, there were only two Hollywood roles reflecting a woman my age: single mother or district attorney. (As an attorney, I personally loathe the DA role.)  Sometimes they could be creatively combined into one whole person, as in Erin Brockovitch.  You could say Uma Thurman single handedly added serial killer to the list of women roles and occupations, but really that became the club no one wanted to join when Charlize Theron took the role of Aileen Wuornos.   Never mind, beautiful women could now be assassins.  And in fact, the role of Salt was re-written from Tom Cruise to Angelina Jolie.   So we evolved away from lawyer, when Angelina Jolie experimented as an undercover agent in Salt.  (!!)  The thing is, Jolie’s character as Salt was terrible.  She had no CIA Cry-Face.  Now Claire Danes as Carrie with her cry- face, that’s something new:  Vulnerable, effed-up, self-destructive, brilliant, a loose cannon: everything that makes her real.

Enter Outlander, the new STARZ series.

To enjoy this series you must first get past the fairy dust opening credits. Joanna Robinson of Vanity Faire called it “hardcore Ren-meets-Lilith Fair action right there.” And she’s right, it’s insipid music that doesn’t reflect the rawness of the series and is an insult to women, because the series is really about war.  And women in war.

For the uninitiated, just as World War II ends and Claire is about to return to normal life, she falls through time to another war. And sex, all marital for the sensitive, much of which takes place in plaid. But that soundtrack insults women, nailing them into the cats and knits and Celtic Woman cds. Already the critics are wondering if this could be a “cross-over phenomenon” to the world of men’s dollars. And I think: Do we have to be? Or isn’t my cable dollar, and all the women dollars who love these novels, placing them on the New York Times Best-Seller Lists, good enough just for once?

No.

In the mid-season finale Claire kills her would-be rapist and then goes into shock. There is nothing sexy about the scene, nothing nice, no one rescued by our hero (proof this isn’t a bodice ripper, as stupid as those comments are.)  Her reaction is a REAL response.  What the holy hell? A woman actually has a real response to an attempted rape and murder? Something more psychologically complex than a Batman “BAM”? Now, I don’t believe that men are as shallow as they’re portrayed in film and cinema either. They simply couldn’t be, or we wouldn’t have so many being treated for PTSD when they come back from war. But this was the first time I’ve ever seen emotional shock portrayed in response to an attempted rape, and vividly too. Because like it or not, rape is an act of war.

In the next evolution of chick lit, Reese Witherspoon is playing Cheryl Strayed in Wild. The best part of Wild, in my mind, is how Cheryl comes to terms and accepts her own past.  Instead of feeling bad for her ex-husband, she appreciates how those mistakes brought her to her present.   Instead of the scarlet-A of a “self-destructive” past, then deleted my typing, and that’s the point of writing here. “What if” you would do it all again to get where you are today? And I thought, what if women ceased to judge themselves and how they use their bodies, and were allowed to embrace themselves, mistakes and all? True frailty, trying and succeeding, and sometimes just making a mess of things?  A bit like Carrie, who slept with a terrorist, by the way.

I thought what a cool world this is.  I’ll bring my eighty one cent dollars to Wild and the next installment of Homeland.  And CoverGirl?  I didn’t need you anyway.

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