Recently, I was talking to friends in the League of Women Voters about the place of women in elected office.
The League accepts men as well, but we just happened to be contemplating why women (young or older) are still not represented with parity in our government, especially compared to many others. Following the dry talk of election reform, conversation led to further speculation.
With that discussion in mind, I re-evaluated a piece of advertising somewhat differently.
Mail was accumulating in my junk basket to the point of spilling over. Incidentally, my rubbish mail used to accumulate on every nook and cranny. It’s still not perfect, but a basket dedicated to ads, flyers and questionable-mail has definitely improved the situation.
An oversized glossy mailer caught my eye. In the front picture, all lined up in a cozy row, were eight – yes eight! – bright smiling faces. The flyer was from a dental office located close to me – an area housing one of my favorite local independent coffee-roasters.
The sweet young faces all belonged to the ‘premier’ dentists. It drew my attention. I turned to my husband and asked, “Does anything strike you about this picture?” To his credit, he shook his head in dismay, gave a little snort and validated my annoyance. “Awh geez, they’re all men.” And so they were.
To make the impression worse, the flyer’s opposite side featured a teeny-weeny picture of their assistants. Now you have probably beaten me to the punch. Yes, they were all women – all 10 of the ‘little’ faces.
Frankly, I am looking for a local dentist, since I have put it off after our move almost three years ago. Want to guess if this office will get my business? As my dad used to say, “Fat chance in hell.”
When living in Arizona, I had visited two female dentists. As it happened, I was also represented well by my gender in the Arizona Legislature. You might want to protest that AZ is not exactly viewed as a ‘progressive’ state. True.
Conversely, where I live now, over the Northern California border in Southern Oregon, it is considered a rather “liberal” land.
Nevertheless, the eight owners of those single-sex smiles on that dental flyer, as well as their advertising partners, evidently never considered what responses might be evoked by highlighting the disparity at their office. No wonder my gasp as the ‘little women’ seemed to be all ‘in their place.’
Should I stop to contemplate that we have just ‘come so far’ already, and there is no need to have a negative knee-jerk reaction to this appearance of gender-bias – be it insensitive or not? Have we, and other minorities, come that far? Maybe.
Young girls don’t remember a time before Title-9 sports or talk of “equal pay for equal work.” I envy the assurance and optimism they display. Still, awareness shouldn’t take a back seat.
When my husband had a dental emergency and ended up picking a woman, even though a bit farther away, I admit I was pleased. He picked her for some services she offered, although I still wonder if he too has a biased belief – relying on a woman doctor to be a bit more thoughtful toward her patients. Or gentle.
I appreciate living with a man who understands gender biases and that our household ‘roles’ vacillate depending on our personal skills. I am glad that I know many men who would shirk from a relationship in which one partner was the ‘little woman.’ But still, we own the situation, right?
I won’t always vote for a woman just because she is a woman. Far from it. Whether a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ or anything in between, I want true representation.
And I won’t always pick services or professionals just because the provider is a woman. I want good quality service at a fair price. But a level playing field is something I strive for – what many women work for, and all that is asked.
The idea of ‘voting with your feet’ also includes how we spend our money and what services we pay for. It’s a good idea to live by where reasonable.
Like this blog, which doesn’t exclude men but concentrates on women, we might consider that approach as we act in other parts of our lives. Just consider the women in the mix and perhaps give them the first look.
Do it at least until the time we are sure that we have ‘come so far’ that it doesn’t matter – when the playing field is level. A time when eight smiling faces are as likely to be eight women as eight men.
A time when assistants may be men just as often as women, or that their equal work is equal in compensation as well.
Do you think that things have improved with regards to gender bias in politics and advertising? What have been your most recent experiences? Please share in the comments below!