The other day, I took a different route home from school and stopped to pet a cat that was outside before I carried on my way (I make a point of ‘making friends’ with any cat I see in my neighbourhood, or otherwise. I am not too selective or picky about where I make my cat friends). I didn’t realise the cat’s owner was also outside, so she came over to me and we started chatting. Naturally, I asked what the cat’s name was (Mama Cat it was, I believe), and we bonded over our love of cats.
It wasn’t long until she asked what I did. I told her I’m a journalism student, and she almost got defensive, saying something along the lines of how I was going down that path (whatever that means), and asked what I want to do when I’m done. I didn’t quite get a chance to respond before she said “well you’re cute enough to be in the media, just saying!”
The comment threw me off a little, but I didn’t think much more of it until I got home and tweeted about what had been said to me, and people chimed in and said that it was kind of an awkward thing to say to someone. And then I got kind of mad about it. Not necessarily at her for saying that to me, but because there’s a huge stigma, more so for women than for men, that to be in the media, we need to be attractive. It sort of made me feel like my ability as a journalist or a reporter won’t matter, but as long as I’m attractive, or cute, I’ll make it in the media.
It sucks because it’s sort of true. When you see women on the news delivering the five o’clock news, or on a celebrity gossip TV show (which I don’t watch — different strokes for different folks), or any other media outlet that women are on, they’re all attractive and fall into a certain formula designed for the media. It sucks because the first thing we do — generally speaking — is judge someone by their appearance, whether it’s for better or worse.
We judge women who are attractive by comparing ourselves to them, which results in judging ourselves and thinking we’re not as attractive and that means we’re not ‘good’ enough to do what they do. We judge women who we think aren’t attractive, for whatever reason, and maybe that makes us feel better about ourselves for a minute. Both these scenarios stem from self esteem issues, and that’s really sad to me, because it shouldn’t be a competition, and comparing ourselves to others literally gets us nowhere. Women in the media, and you, are more than appearances and we need to separate our looks from our self-worth. It’s okay to look at women in the media and think they’re attractive, I’m not saying we shouldn’t, but a woman in the media should be more than just what her looks are.
I’m also not saying that I don’t like being told that I’m ‘cute,’ but what I look like — whether I’m ‘cute’ or not — really has no effect on my abilities to do something that I (will) love doing. I also know that ‘being in the media’ and ‘being a journalist’ are two separate things, but the point stands.
When I got into the journalism program, it wasn’t because I was ‘cute.’ I don’t think I’ve ever worked as hard as I did to get into the program so I can follow something I’m incredibly passionate about. Whenever I’m told that I’m a good writer, it makes me feel like I’ve made the right choice and that I’m doing what I should be doing. Whatever happens in the end, I know that I want to make a difference with what I can do in my career field, and I truly believe I can. I don’t care how cliché that sounds.