Thursday, April 15, 2010


On Monday of this week, Melissa Lopata of Momasphere and I had the honor of attending Shine On, Good Housekeeping's celebration of 125 Years of Women Making Their Mark. The evening was a fundraiser for the National Women's History Museum, a project in the making that needs all of our support.

The evening, which took place at City Center, featured videos dedicated to different categories of women in history, including Pioneers, Goddesses, and Hell Raisers. I loved how the folks in the audience, mostly women, cheered for all the different women featured in these pieces.

The show also featured a long litany of mostly blond celebrity presenters like Martha Stewart, Jessica Simpson, and Hillary Duff. The women who moved me the most were actress Marlee Matlin, who signed a performance piece about Helen Keller, and Sara Jones of Bridge & Tunnel fame. Sara took on the characters of an elderly Jewish grandma, a young woman from the Dominican Republic, and a human rights worker from India, all who expressed their delight in being there on that particular night. She had the audience roaring with laughter and I could tell she hit a note with the young women in the audience. (There were a bunch of teens and young adults there with groups like GEMS - the Girls Educational & Monitoring Services.)

First Lady Michelle Obama, who is featured on the cover of the May 2010 125th Anniversary Issue of Good Housekeeping, also made a pre-recorded appearance.

Thoughts About the Show and About Sexism

It was inspiring to have women of many ages in the same room cheering on women heroes and pioneers from the last 125 years. Sometimes I feel like there a huge divide between women from the 60s and 70s who worked so hard to raise awareness about sexism and racism, and young women now. There is an enormous amount of pretense that sexism is pretty much over, especially in the western world, now that a small percentage of women can hold prestigious corporate jobs and have endless choices of what to buy and how to look.

I think it is massively confusing to young women today who experience sexism on a daily basis but live in a society that pretends that sexism is over.

The young women celebrities who were chosen to appear at this event - e.g. Hillary Duff and Jessica Simpson - are emblematic of the type of sexism that is run at young women and how it affects them. The focus is mainly on their physical appearance rather than on their substance or what they stand for. They are basically used to sell consumer products and magazines. That's where their "power" lies. There is incredible pressure on these women, and on all young women, to be pleasing to people by looking right, being the right weight, wearing the right outfit.

Ironically, even though Shine On was about powerful women making change in the world, the only news coverage I could find about the event was in blogs and in the tv show Access Hollywood where the focus was on what the young women celebrities were wearing and how they looked in their outfits. Huh?

There are so many young women out there in the world working in their own way for change. No, they aren't celebrities, but they would have been better choices to show the power of women.

Still, I am glad that Shine On happened and am excited to see how the National Women's History Museum evolves over time.

By the way, do check out this month's 125th Anniversary Issue of Good Housekeeping. I recommend the list of 125 Women Who Changed Our World.
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