Monday, March 8, 2010

Is targeting your audience sexist or just good rhetoric?


Today is International Women's Day and coincidentally, I will be having dinner at the Delta Gamma sorority house. They have asked me to help them raise $100k for an invited lecture series on "ethics and values." My job tonight is to get the women of the sorority fired-up about their fund raising efforts by helping them better understand what ethics and values are. I have a half hour after dinner to engage them in exciting conversation about issues that relate to them. So, on the one hand, there is a whole list of questions that pop into mind: stuff related to Greek life, questions about things of "women's interest," in general. But suppose I choose the latter -- suppose as a whole the sisters are genuinely interested in meanings of beauty, or the nature of love, or philosophical assumptions about relationships -- and not interested in astrophysics, boxing, the Three Stooges and other things traditionally gendered as male. Do I cater to those interests? Do I assume those interests? Is doing so sexist even if it turns out to be true? (I think about a related scenario: what if you have a black friend who really loves watermelon and fried chicken, is it racist not to serve it because it's stereotypical? What if you have a Jewish friend who is a greedy banker who wants to control the world? Do you not call him or her on it because you might sound anti-Semitic?)

So, the question before us is whether or not assuming interest in a topic when you have demographic reasons to do so is sexist or just responding to the odds. What do you think?

An interesting side note:

When I googled the link for the article about NBC and the Black History Month menu, I was reluctant to link to the Huffington Post because I didn't want to suggest political partisanship on the blog. But why should I not post a relevant article if it serves my purpose?

Some reading suggestions:

If you are looking for some good reading for International Women's Day, might I recommend Martha Nussbaum's Women and Human Development and Amartya Sen's More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing. Both outstanding reads. Sen was on Why? a few months ago, and Nussbaum will be on in May.

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1 comment:

  1. Interesting how you chose a loosely related topic to one you intended on speaking about. The conversation was taken a step back, before the stereotypes and inferences were made on a group of sorority girls. By asking us "who we were" and how we lived, you got a sense of why we act the way we do, and where it stems from. When we're asked to reflect on why we make the choices we make, it gives you an idea of why you have the stereotypical gender-specific ideas of Greek women. It seems like a classic "chicken and egg" dilemma. Women act a certain way in order to be perceived a certain way. In turn, women are perceived a certain way, causing them to act accordingly to fit the mold they're seen in. Is it a true reflection of who we really are? Do we care if it isn't? Or is that the point?

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