In this week’s Wednesday 5: The media-created smackdown between the  “wily temptress” and the “boring, betrayed wife” in the Petraeus scandal; is television annihilating women over 40?; men speak out on roles for women over 40 in Hollywood; the multiple jeopardy of being an African woman; and the Thanksgiving table as a work of art.

Behind the Headlines—Sharing the Spotlight with David Petraeus

Robin Morgan of the Women’s Media Center is taking a close look at the way the women in the Petraeus scandal are being framed in the media—essentially, their portrayals are polarized between the “wily temptress” and the “boring, betrayed wife.” The accomplished Lieutenant Colonel Paula Broadwell, who has “more than 15 years of military service in geopolitical analysis and counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations” is reduced to “having ‘expressive green eyes,’ ‘toned arms,’ and ‘seductively exposed armpits.’ ” And Hollister “Holly” Knowlton-Petraeus, the director of service-member affairs at the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is “too involved with her own work, and ‘frumpy,’ ergo she didn’t deserve such a godly man, and couldn’t hold on to him.” And then there are the predictable clichés: (1) it’s NOT Petraeus’s fault, (2) it’s the mistress’s fault, and (3) it’s the wife’s fault. But what if, asks Morgan, “we [could] dedicate just a fraction of the salacious coverage [of] this story . . . to  coverage of military sexual trauma, and of sexual assault inflicted on military women by their fellow soldiers or superiors?”

Read more at Women’s Media Center.


TV Doing a Great Job of  “Symbolically Annihilating” Women Over 40

Where are the women 40 and over on television shows? And when you do find them, what are their roles? Anna Breslaw at Jezebel argues that television is in fact “symbolically annihilating” women over 40. Of course, she says, it’s unfair to ask even shows with a female lead to reflect some aspect of a feminist consciousness, but “it does indicate a larger problem with the wide gap between the 47% of the population of women 40 or above versus the 27% of these women portrayed on television. (Compare this with the 20-30 female age group, which makes up 39% total and 71% of the women on TV.)”



The Men Speak Out on Roles for Women Over 40 in Hollywood

What do Hollywood’s top actors have to say about the roles for women in Hollywood? We thought the advice shared by Denzel Washington and Jaime Fox, who recently appeared on The Actors, was refreshing and candid. They both recognize the Hollywood formula that will pair the 70-year-old male lead with the 20-year-old female. Denzel relays the advice he gives his daughter about being an actress: “Forget about the little pretty girls; if you’re relying on that, when you hit 40 you’re out the door . . . You better have some chops.” 


The Multiple Jeopardy of Being an African Woman

In her blog, Afropolitan, Minna Salami writes poignantly about the historic and contemporary challenges African women face. Of Nigerian and Finnish descent, Salami considers the sexism, racism, and classism endured by many African women. She shares:

I think that many of our traditions are killing us. Literally. African women are dying from persecution, sexual violence, genital cutting, witch hunting, widow punishment, the act of giving birth. Traditions are also preventing us from psychologically fulfilling ourselves.

But, as more and more African women find themselves in unprecendented roles such as Nobel Prize winners and presidents, Salami questions how African women will emerge as they “find [themselves] at an exciting if delicate time of transformation.”

Read on at Afropolitan.


A Work of Art—The Thanksgiving Table

Yes, the Thanksgiving table can be a work of art. We loved the inspiration given, and tables of art curated, by Apartment Therapy. Just in time for the holiday, the editors culled the Web, decor magazines, Pinterest boards, design experts, worldwide readers, and Thanksgiving lovers themselves to put together a collection of beautifully set and uniquely designed Thanksgiving tables. So, be inspired and turn your dinner table into your canvas! And if you’re planning a potluck Thanksgiving, get some great advice from our Ro Howe on executing the mission with style!

Read more at Apartment Therapy.

Image via Real Simple

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  • Tobysgirl November 21, 2012 at 10:22 am

    I remember when feminism (not equal rights campaigns) would have noticed that Petraeus is a war criminal. Regarding the horrible things that happen to women in the military, we need to educate our young women that militarism = rape and pillage. There has never been a “nice” military in history and there never will be. Prior to women being in the military, soldiers raped other men in uniform. My concern is for the victims of Petraeus and his ilk, the victims who never donned a uniform, who died at OUR hands, whose children died at OUR hands. Women and children are always the greatest victims of war; no one is freed when you invade their country.

  • Diane Dettmann November 21, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Thanks for the post about the under representation of “women over 40” in lead roles on television. As usual, the topic stirs a sense of frustration and anger in me! Sending the message that a woman is only of value for a lead role if she’s young and sexually appealing does an injustice to all women young and over 40.