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The Week in Review: Comedic Progress and Political Regress

February 28, 2012

Elizabeth Mueller ’13

This week The Huffington Post published an article explaining the importance of female to female financial backing of leadership endeavors as a way to help close the gender gap in contemporary power positions. Megan Angelo of the New York Times wrote that “Saturday Night Live” has embraced female leadership by encouraging female hosts and focusing less on the sexual worth of women and more on their comedic worth. Yet, NPR reported that Carla Bruni Sarkozy, the first lady of France, is planning on entering the political campaign only to garner support for her husband.

The topic of women in leadership roles, or lack of women in leadership roles, is getting more popular attention. Jackie VanderBrug, director of Criterion Ventures, is one woman who understands how important female leadership is in today’s business-driven society. She assembled 60 prominent women from various careers in her Manhattan home to strategize on how to support one another, and other women in general, financially. Some of these powerhouse women included Nada Jain, an intellectual property lawyer with her own firm, CJ Juhasz, the Chief Investment Officer of Women’s World Banking’s Asset Management group, and Georgie Bernardete, a major player in global climate change solutions. Monika Mitchell, an author and also an attendee of this gathering, called this meeting a “shift in action,” in which women are standing up and exclaiming that this is their time and they are going to get to the top. She continues by drawing attention to the fact that many of the world’s economic and political issues have occurred under the leadership of men. Women’s most unique and vital contribution to the world, argues Mitchell, is the fact that women were made to create, foster, and protect life; they are the “life-givers” not “life-destroyers.” However, violence against women and general inequality still plagues the female population every single day. Thus, the only way women can overcome these global challenges and stereotypes is to support one another and to pool their resources and ideas in the hopes of changing the world.

Female leadership and empowerment is a serious topic, but does not always need to be manifested in a grave or serious way. For example, the television program “Saturday Night Live” is finding big stars in its female show hosts and comedians that have quickly become fan favorites. Actors including Anna Faris, Melissa McCarthy, and Zooey Deschanel are breaking into the traditionally male world of comedy, and with much success. The show has formerly placed women in sexualized, unintelligent roles fitting with the stereotypical image of women in the media, but as Seth Meyers, the head writer for “SNL” says, “There’s no one left here who holds any reservations about how funny women can be.” Since media today is such a prominent information resource for people, it is important to change the image of women as sexual objects into one that promotes all of the other qualities a woman possesses. Hopefully the leadership of these women on “SNL” will inspire other women to realize their full potential.

However, leadership is only valuable when pursued for the right reasons, regardless of gender. In the case of female leadership, it is even more important that one has good intentions and promotes a positive image of women because women still occupy such a fragile space within leadership positions today. France’s first lady, Carla Bruni Sarkozy would seem like a perfect model of women in politics—a woman in a position with great power to affect change. Recently, the first lady has announced that she will be hitting the campaign trail. Disappointingly, the reason behind this sudden decision is simply a way for her to garner more support for her husband and work toward his re-election. According to Eleanor Beardsley, NPR’s reporter on the issue, Sarkozy has not commented much on her recent decision, but more on how “she thinks her husband’s ideas are all fabulous.”  The first lady is described as an asset to her husband, a branch of his political self, completely undermining women’s long fight to express their own political opinions and support their own campaigns.

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