After decades of women complaining that men were paid better and obtained better jobs, the high heel shoe is finally on the other foot.
ABC, the network that brought LGBT personalities to the air in shows such as Modern Family, Brother & Sisters and the heavily promoted Chaz Bono on Dancing with the Stars, most recently televised a new program Work It, a comedy similar to the 1980s Bosom Buddies with Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari. Work It is the story of two men who dress up as women because women have stolen all of the jobs from men to enter the pharmaceutical industry, which is largely populated by brainless women who talk about clothes, diets and dating. These women acknowledge that their success is that the doctors they pitch to want to sleep with them. This is what Lee and Angel (Work It characters) have been pushed aside for and when two women join the team with deep voices, linebacker physics and the flop mop wigs, they are all too dumb or self involved to notice.
Characters who oppose the traditional gender norms have the potential to influence an audience thinking about itself. Work It has missed the mark so far; especially in the scenes of these characters putting on makeup and feminine clothing. Work It makes similar implications about transgender women's identities and their ways of expressing them, while also reinforcing the erroneous notion that transgender women are not "real" women.The HRC stated "The premise of this show is repulsive, and ABC should know better than to air it."
By encouraging the audience to laugh at the characters' attempts at womanhood, the show condones similar treatment of transgender women. Unfortunately, such behavior needs no encouragement: 97 percent of self-identified transgender people reported being mistreated at work, and 26 percent -- that's one in four -- reported losing their jobs because they are transgender.
As a transgender person myself, I know the effects of work force discrimination, and the lack of rights in protecting against such actions. While the characters in the show are not presented as transgender but rather as "unrepentant guy's guys" in dresses who very much identify as men, audiences will nevertheless connect them with transgender women.
ABC's newest sitcom could be leveraged as a way to break the ice, and use the levity to initiate conversation about transgender people and the challenges they face every day. Winning the war is more important than winning every battle, and humor allows the uneducated to feel more comfortable discussing topics which in turn helps in cultivating change.
The major networks are not ready to air a program about a transgender personal fitness trainer who body builds, races sports cars, flies planes and generally leads an average american life. In time we will be to that point in our societal evolution but until then it will take steps, baby steps at times to develop the acceptance that transgender is just another characteristic of a person and not a comical punching bag.