Women are more than half the population, but how much influence do we have in our society? Let's ask the media... The cover of Time Magazine's recent report on the "100 Most Influential People" features top entertainer Beyonce in her underwear. The chosen 100 features other women, like Janet Yellen, who steers the U.S. Economy, and Angela Merkel, who leads Germany, but it is Beyonce in her underwear who made the cover. What does this say to young women about their power? The most influence you can have as a woman is to be an entertainer and half naked? As a thought experiment, consider if the cover of Time's 100 Most Influential People featured a male entertainer, shirtless. Wouldn't that seem like a joke? Come on, men's power extends all the way to the White House. Apparently to Time Magazine, women's biggest influence is relegated to the realm of entertainment -- our bodies are part of the entertainment value, and what sells magazines.
Sadly, Time Magazine may not have it all wrong about women's influence in American society, but they certainly share blame as their choice of a cover image only perpetuates the stigma against women in power and keeps young women from seeing their full potential. Here are some facts, thanks to The Op-Ed Project:
The voices we hear from in the world come from a tiny fraction of society -- mostly western, white, privileged, and overwhelmingly male. Men are:
• 80-90% of contributers to key opinion forums
• 84% of T.V. pundits on Sunday morning talk shows
• 87% of Wikipedia contributers
• 85% of Hollywood producers
• 83% of Congress
In short, public debate all but excludes half the population.
The Op-Ed Project's "starting goal is to increase the number of women thought leaders contributing to key commentary forums -- which feed all other media, and drive thought leadership across all industries -- to a tipping point. We envision a world in which the best ideas -- regardless of where or whom they come from -- will have a chance to be heard and shape society and the world."
Mainstream Media, like Time Magazine, needs to be called out for how they continue to represent women, even as we enter the positions of greatest power. Media contributes to the undervaluing of women's current contributions and dissuades young women from envisioning their own power to influence society in important ways. So let's see Sonia Sotomayor on the cover next time, in her Supreme Court Robes, not in her underwear.