Monday, February 28, 2011

NPR Women Have A Right To Talk About..Everything

Band of Outsiders Fall 2011 RTW



Finally today, we are on the eve of Women's History Month, and just as we've been observing Black History Month and plan to observe the other heritage months later in the year, throughout the month of March we'll be making a special effort to showcase stories about women, mainly in the U.S. but also around the world, who've broken barriers in their fields of expertise, have had a particular impact, or who we just think people will find interesting.

Now, that won't be controversial to a lot of people, maybe even most, but I guarantee you it will be to some. My evidence, Exhibit A, an email I got from a regular listener of couple of weeks back informing us we should stop covering fashion. Now, this email came in after a show in which we devoted maybe six minutes to a story about the rise of fashion bloggers. The rest of the program was about the kind of the stuff you often see on the front page of a newspaper - analysis of a big presidential speech, an explanation of what India Republic Day is all about, and so on.

But this listener - in a nice way - told me that six minutes was six minutes too long. So I wrote back to say fashion is a big industry and a hobby for many people, men and women. But not to be stereotypical about it, fashion is to a lot of women what sports is to many men. And as I was writing that sentence, another thought occurred to me that I also tossed into the email, which is that we actually talk about sports quite often on this program, and I've never once had a woman write to me to complain about that. Wonder why that is, I wrote. You know what he wrote back to me? Sports is interesting. Fashion isn't.

Well, can I just tell you - some of us beg to differ, which is why we talked about fashion again today. Sorry, friend. But what he was really saying was in it that what he thinks is interesting the world should think is interesting. And to really go there, isn't he saying that what men think is important is important and what women think is important just, well, isn't?

Now, I certainly like and respect men. I'm married to one. I gave birth to someone who's going to be a man some day, and I would not for a minute pretend that the fashion versus sport smackdown is on par with honor killings, bride burning, rape as a tool of war, global sex trafficking, some of which we are going to hear about this month.

Not to mention ongoing issues of wage inequality and the fact that countries like Rwanda have a greater percentage of women in their legislative bodies then we do. All of those are ways that women and girls are deprived of the opportunity to fulfill their destiny as human beings. But what that good-natured but very pointed comment does say, I think, is that too many people, even nice people, really still assume that the kinds of things men do are all that really matter, and they don't think that what women want, like and think about matters very much.

Now, that's not to say that all women agree, because remember, this is the same country that produced both Sarah Palin and Nancy Pelosi, Condoleezza Rice and Maxine Waters, Gloria Steinem and Phyllis Schlafly, to name just a few. Women do not speak with one voice, but we shouldn't have to fight about whether we can talk about what they we - want to talk about and respectfully request that other people listen.

This month we will be speaking with women who have changed and are changing the way we think about poverty, the media, politics, the arts. And who knows, we might throw in a word or two about sports. Stay tuned.

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MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Let's talk more tomorrow.

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