I've been studying and reporting on the media industry for decades and I have never seen advertisers react as quickly, vocally and definitively as they have to Rush Limbaugh's attack on Sandra Fluke specifically and women in general. The reason is less a protest against Limbaugh's politics than it is a clear understanding of the importance of women to their business. For almost every product or service, female customers are a priority. Sensitivity to their interests is far more important than supporting Limbaugh. One major national advertiser, who has never placed an ad in Limbaugh's program, was the subject of a Tweet accusing them of being a Limbaugh advertiser. Within hours, the marketer was targeted with thousands of e-mails demanding they cancel advertising they had never even placed. Every e-mail required a personal response and explanation of the company's position on women's rights. It's a position every marketer should be prepared to share, not just because of the current politics around women's issues, but because support for women – and by extension women's rights -- will be important to marketers for the next several decades and beyond.
My soon-to-be-published book reports on the surprising approaches of a new generation to sex, politics and changing the world. Extensive research among Internet Pioneers, the 17 to 21 year olds who are the first generation to grow up online, provides an important perspective on the women who are in college today and are voters and will soon be entering the workforce. Following is an exclusive excerpt.
Exclusive Excerpt from
Hooked Up: This Generation's Surprising Approach to Sex, Politics, and Changing the World by Jack Myers (subject to revision) ©Copyright 2012, Jack Myers. All references require credit.
Internet Pioneers are bombarded by conflicting information about gender roles, women's rights and sexism from a range of sources. Carolyn Sumner, a former professor at Southern Methodist University believes "As far as we've come, as a nation and as a sex, we still have so far to go."
Over years women like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Nickelodeon's Geraldine Laybourne, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and many others have shattered the glass ceiling, but it takes just minutes of the Internet or TV to see that women are still sexualized and that women's rights are still politicized. Sumner believes "The stereotypes that are perpetuated through more subtle avenues such as beer commercials and sports are more powerful weapons than overt sexism. Soft sexism is the new enemy".
A report in the June 2011 Psychology of Women Quarterly concluded that men don't realize the effects of such innate sexism; but this is changing as females challenge men when they express inappropriate sexist comments or actions. This is reinforced by the uprising of women against Limbaugh and those who supported his outbursts against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke.
Although "soft sexism" still exists and women's rights still debated, Internet Pioneers are the first generation that is entering college recognizing sexism as inappropriate behavior. The Internet and television have provided much information about sexism and its implications to both men and women. With female college enrollment approaching 60%, women are a powerful force for assuring both equal rights and imposing a zero tolerance for sexist behavior. These attitudes are likely to extend into the workforce, into marketing campaigns and into post-graduation relationships.
"Home is woman's world, as well as her empire. Man lives more in society. The busy marts of trade, the bustling exchange, the activity of artisan life are his spheres….What is the sphere of women? Home. The social circle. What is her mission? To mould character, to fashion herself and others after the model character of Christ."
Daniel Wise, 1851 -- "The Young Lady's Counsellor"
With this paragraph, Wise neatly relegated women to a life of domesticity. He summarized the feelings of many of his contemporaries: a woman's job involves taking care of the home, safeguarding morality -- and staying far, far away from the man's world of business, economics and politics. A woman's life was at home, with a focus on bearing and rearing children. Without reliable sources of contraception, most women had little choice: They were born to be mothers.
Known as the "cult of true womanhood," this paradigm dominated popular thought for generations with its claim on women's inherent:
- Sexual purity
- Religious piety
- Submissive demeanor
- Inferior intellect
- Reproductive imperative
As blatantly sexist and archaic as they seem now for most people, these ideas about the role of women were deeply ingrained in society -- in the minds of both men and women. However, a few brave "suffragettes" in the mid-1800s held revolutionary views that contributed to changes in the political and public position of women in society.
In 2012, Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke's views toward women's rights should have been considered far from revolutionary. Yet media commentator Rush Limbaugh and others sought to brand her with a "Scarlett Letter" for her views on contraception. Limbaugh and Republican primary presidential candidates renewed the public discourse on the "cult of true womanhood" and the role of women in American society. America has served as a role model for leaders of women's rights movements in countries where women are being denied basic rights. Some fear politically charged debates over these issues will set-back not only America's leadership position but the fundamental right gained by women throughout the 20th century. Among Internet Pioneers, both male and female, these rights are unquestioned.
Although "soft sexism" still exists and women's rights still debated, Internet Pioneers are the first generation that is entering and graduating college recognizing sexism as inappropriate behavior. The Internet and television have provided much information about sexism and its implications to both men and women. With female college enrollment approaching 60%, women are a powerful force for assuring both equal rights and imposing a zero tolerance for sexist behavior. These attitudes will extend into the workforce, into marketing campaigns and into post-graduation relationships.
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