Celebrity Culture: Sexism aimed at public figures is holding back poor and black young women – my research proves it

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Celebrity Culture: Sexism aimed at public figures is holding back poor and black young women – my research proves it

Celebrity Culture:

Today’s teenage girls would like to become the leaders of the future and they are the leaders we need. They are inspired by social justice, climate change, and a diverse range of female role-models. They are also being put off pursuing these dreams by the vitriolic abuse they know they would suffer as women in the public eye.

These are the findings from research conducted for the Gender and Education Association and Oxford Brookes University. We interviewed 50 girls aged 13 to 16 around the country, asking which women they view as good leaders and whether they consider themselves potential future leaders.

Topping their list of leadership role-models was former first lady Michelle Obama, named by 58 percent of the girls. Next came Beyoncé, Ellen DeGeneres, Malala Yousafzai, and Emma Watson. Three out of five were women of colour, and one a lesbian. The common factor in the popularity of this diverse group was their commitment to social causes. Reason, we believe, these girls offer real hope for the future. The shortlist may seem disconcertingly celebrity-orientated.

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

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Celebrity Culture: 1/25 Coventry, United Kingdom

Cilene Connolly, 32, a Royal Mail postwoman, poses for a portrait during her postal round. “Fortunately, I haven’t been faced with gender inequalities in my role as a postwoman,” Connolly said. “I’ve had a great response from my customers for being a female delivering their post, women in particular are always pleasantly surprised to see a female face.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 2/25 Los Angeles, California

Tara McCannel, 44, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Ophthalmic Oncology Center at the UCLA Stein Eye Institute of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). “Knowledge, in abilities, in how the clinical practices go, in appearance,” McCannel said.”Women just can’t be themselves or just think: ‘Oh I’m just going to do my work,’ and focus on the job. There are these other things that need to be considered because it’s not completely equal even though things are getting better.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 3/25 Almaty, Kazakhstan

Julia Argunova, 36, a mountaineering instructor, poses at 3,200 meters (10,499 feet) above sea level in the Tien Shan mountains. “Physical strength benefits male colleagues in some situations on harder routes. But, women are more concentrated and meticulous. In general, women are better at teaching. My main professional task is to teach safe mountaineering.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 4/25 Moscow, Russia

Pilot Maria Uvarovskaya poses for a photograph in the A320 flight simulator at the Aeroflot training centre at Sheremetyevo airport. “Much more can be done by the women themselves to solve such problems (gender inequality),” said Uvarovskaya.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 5/25 Santiago, Chile

Claudia Concha Parraguez, 45, a pole dancing instructor, poses for a photograph in a gym. “Some students with low self-esteem smile more and feel beautiful after training. But because of the poor mentality of their husbands, who do not see this activity as a sport and associate it with something sexual, they stop attending classes,” Parraguez said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 6/25 Seoul, South Korea

Jeung Un, 27, a freelance photographer, poses for a portrait at a site which protesters have occupied. “Most news outlets prefer to employ male photographers. I feel strongly about gender inequality. When I cover violent scenes, sometimes I am harassed and hear sexually-biased remarks,”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 7/25 Nice, France

Merylee, 26, a soldier does her rounds on the sea-front. The parity in the army already exists, it is the uniform that takes precedence over gender,” Merylee said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 8/25 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Lina Maria da Silva, 62, a babysitter, poses for a photograph with the children she takes care of at her home in the Cantagalo slum. “I’ve never suffered mistreatment at work. I have always felt a lot of affection from the families I have worked with,” Silva said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 9/25 Nairobi, Kenya

Christine Akoth, 38, a metal painter: “I have experienced gender bias at my work where sometimes I’m denied contracts because of who I am and maybe my marital status. Some female colleagues have been treated unfairly because of their sex and even exploited,”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 10/25 London, United Kingdom

Dr Catherine Reynolds, 37, a scientific researcher at Imperial College: “Women are very well represented at junior levels in Biological Sciences research. At a senior level it is still true that there are fewer female professors in science, but the gap is slowly closing,” Reynolds said. “More policies that promote flexible working and that support staff in taking career breaks (both men and women) are an essential way in which it is possible for employees, especially those with young families, to realise their full potential in the workplace.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 11/25 Amman, Jordan

Khawla Sheikh, 54, a plumber and a certified trainer, poses at her home’s basement, where she gives plumbing training courses to other women. “Housewives are more comfortable to have a woman plumber in their house in the absence of their husbands,” said Sheikh. “To tackle gender inequality, I think that all operating sectors must provide equal opportunities for men and women in all fields and each woman must believe in her capabilities and skills that she has in order to convince the others.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 12/25 West London, United Kingdom

Sarah Hunter, 31, England women’s rugby captain and RFU University Rugby Development Officer for the South West, poses for a photograph at The Stoop rugby ground. “I think that if we¿ïre the right person for the right job in the workplace then so be it and the same for men,” Hunter said. “I¿ïve worked for the RFU, and being what is deemed as a male sport perhaps in the past, I was welcomed into that environment and I personally haven¿ït experienced gender inequality in the workplace, so I think that I¿ïve been very fortunate in the career that I¿ïve had and in the jobs that I¿ïve had that I¿ïve been seen for the person that I am and not for the gender that I am.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 13/25 Agusan del Sur, Philippines

Filipina Grace Ocol, 40, is a backhoe operator. Ocol, a mother of three, said, “There are a few female workers that can drive big trucks and backhoe. If men can do it, why can’t women do it? I’m better than the men, they can only drive trucks here but I can drive both.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 14/25 Hasaka, Syria

Laila Sterk, 22, is a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) female fighter: “Before becoming a fighter, I was suffering from inequality in society. But after joining the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), I didn’t encounter that anymore,” said Sterk. “This is due to the fact that when men want to join the SDF they attend educational courses about women fighting alongside them. Therefore the woman fighter leads the military campaigns just like any man.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 15/25 Andernos, France

Valerie Perron, 53, an oyster farmer, poses for a photograph on her boat. “It must not be forgotten that it is women, moms, who raise the boys. It is therefore up to us to change the mentalities by raising the boys at their youngest age, in a spirit of parity and equality with the woman. We must change the mentalities of early childhood education. A boy can play with dolls and a little girl with small cars,” Perron said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 16/25 Kathmandu, Nepal

Januka Shrestha, 25, a Tuk Tuk driver, poses for a picture. There is no difference in a vehicle driven by a woman and man. While driving on the road people sometimes try to dominate a vehicle especially when they see a woman driving it. People have even used foul language toward me. When this happens I keep quiet and work even harder to prove that we are as capable as men,” Shrestha said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 17/25 Hanoi, Vietnam

Phung Thi Hai, 54, carries bricks at a factory. Hai is among a group of 25 women working at a brick factory where she has to move 3,000 bricks a day to the kiln. “How unfair that a 54-year-old woman like me has to work and take care of the whole family. With the same work male labourers can get a better income. Not only me, all women in the village work very hard with no education, no insurance and no future,” Hai said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 18/25 Mexico City, Mexico

Jauna Diaz, 43, a street sweeper, poses for a photograph as she woks on the street. “In my previous job my boss gave preference to male colleagues and women always were paid later. Thats why I changed jobs,” Diaz said. “To tackle gender inequality I think there needs to be more communication and information about women’s rights in the work place.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 19/25 Istanbul, Turkey

Serpil Cigdem, 44, an engine driver, poses for a photograph at Yenikapi station. “When I applied for a job 23 years ago as an engine driver, I was told that it is a profession for men. I knew that during the written examination even if I got the same results with a male candidate, he would have been chosen. That¿ïs why I worked hard to pass the exam with a very good result ahead of the male candidates. In my opinion, gender inequality starts in our minds saying it¿ïs a male profession or it¿ïs a men job,” said Cigdem.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 20/25 Beijing, China

Deng Qiyan, 47, a mother of three and a decoration worker at contraction sites, poses for a photograph at an apartment building under construction. “Sometimes (gender inequality) happens. But we cannot do anything about that. After all, you have to digest all those unhappy things and carry on,” Qiyan said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 21/25 Lima, Peru

Rocio Larranaga, 53, a surfer and surf instructor, poses for a photograph at Redondo beach. “I am the first woman to represent my country in national and international competitions since 1977,” said Larranaga. “In 1995 I became a surf teacher. Lots of women surf and they are very good at it. I hope that in the future women have the same quota as men in professional competitions.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 22/25 Tunis, Tunisia

Chrifa Nimri, 69, a fisherwoman, arranges a net after returning from fishing at the seaport Sidi Bou Said. “At the beginning of my fishing career all the world told me that the trade was for men but now all my colleagues respect and call me captain,” Chrifa said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 23/25 La Paz, Bolivia

Elizabeth Mamani, 36, a reporter at Radio Union, poses inside Bolivia’s national congress building. “When I started in this job, I did feel discrimination (from officials who controlled the access of members of the press to events). To counter discrimination in this profession, we as women, must excel, we must prepare ourselves in every field,” Mamani said

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 24/25 Karachi, Pakistan

Mehwish Ekhlaque, 26, a bike rider and trainer, poses for a photograph with her bike. “When I planned a Pakistan Bike Tour many of my male colleagues gave me a piece of advice not to do it as it’s neither safe nor easy for a woman. But I did it,” Ekhlaque said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 25/25 Tokyo, Japan

Shinto priest Tomoe Ichino, 40, poses for a photograph at the Imado Shrine. In general, people think being a Shinto priest is a man’s profession. If you’re a woman, they think you’re a shrine maiden, or a supplementary priestess. People don’t know women Shinto priests exist, so they think we can’t perform rituals. Once, after I finished performing jiichinsai (ground-breaking ceremony), I was asked, ‘So, when is the priest coming?’,” Ichino said. “When I first began working as a Shinto priest, because I was young and female, some people felt the blessing was different. They thought: ‘I would have preferred your grandfather.’ At first, I wore my grandfather’s light green garment because I thought it’s better to look like a man. But after a while I decided to be proud of the fact that I am a female priest and I began wearing a pink robe, like today. I thought I can be more confident if I stop thinking too much (about my gender).”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 1/25 Coventry, United Kingdom

Cilene Connolly, 32, a Royal Mail postwoman, poses for a portrait during her postal round. “Fortunately, I haven’t been faced with gender inequalities in my role as a postwoman,” Connolly said. “I’ve had a great response from my customers for being a female delivering their post, women in particular are always pleasantly surprised to see a female face.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 2/25 Los Angeles, California

Tara McCannel, 44, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Ophthalmic Oncology Center at the UCLA Stein Eye Institute of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). “Knowledge, in abilities, in how the clinical practices go, in appearance,” McCannel said.”Women just can’t be themselves or just think: ‘Oh I’m just going to do my work,’ and focus on the job. There are these other things that need to be considered because it’s not completely equal even though things are getting better.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 3/25 Almaty, Kazakhstan

Julia Argunova, 36, a mountaineering instructor, poses at 3,200 meters (10,499 feet) above sea level in the Tien Shan mountains. “Physical strength benefits male colleagues in some situations on harder routes. But, women are more concentrated and meticulous. In general, women are better at teaching. My main professional task is to teach safe mountaineering.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 4/25 Moscow, Russia

Pilot Maria Uvarovskaya poses for a photograph in the A320 flight simulator at the Aeroflot training centre at Sheremetyevo airport. “Much more can be done by the women themselves to solve such problems (gender inequality),” said Uvarovskaya.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 5/25 Santiago, Chile

Claudia Concha Parraguez, 45, a pole dancing instructor, poses for a photograph in a gym. “Some students with low self-esteem smile more and feel beautiful after training. But because of the poor mentality of their husbands, who do not see this activity as a sport and associate it with something sexual, they stop attending classes,” Parraguez said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 6/25 Seoul, South Korea

Jeung Un, 27, a freelance photographer, poses for a portrait at a site which protesters have occupied. “Most news outlets prefer to employ male photographers. I feel strongly about gender inequality. When I cover violent scenes, sometimes I am harassed and hear sexually-biased remarks,”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 7/25 Nice, France

Merylee, 26, a soldier does her rounds on the sea-front. The parity in the army already exists, it is the uniform that takes precedence over gender,” Merylee said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 8/25 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Lina Maria da Silva, 62, a babysitter, poses for a photograph with the children she takes care of at her home in the Cantagalo slum. “I’ve never suffered mistreatment at work. I have always felt a lot of affection from the families I have worked with,” Silva said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 9/25 Nairobi, Kenya

Christine Akoth, 38, a metal painter: “I have experienced gender bias at my work where sometimes I’m denied contracts because of who I am and maybe my marital status. Some female colleagues have been treated unfairly because of their sex and even exploited,”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 10/25 London, United Kingdom

Dr Catherine Reynolds, 37, a scientific researcher at Imperial College: “Women are very well represented at junior levels in Biological Sciences research. At a senior level it is still true that there are fewer female professors in science, but the gap is slowly closing,” Reynolds said. “More policies that promote flexible working and that support staff in taking career breaks (both men and women) are an essential way in which it is possible for employees, especially those with young families, to realise their full potential in the workplace.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 11/25 Amman, Jordan

Khawla Sheikh, 54, a plumber and a certified trainer, poses at her home’s basement, where she gives plumbing training courses to other women. “Housewives are more comfortable to have a woman plumber in their house in the absence of their husbands,” said Sheikh. “To tackle gender inequality, I think that all operating sectors must provide equal opportunities for men and women in all fields and each woman must believe in her capabilities and skills that she has in order to convince the others.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 12/25 West London, United Kingdom

Sarah Hunter, 31, England women’s rugby captain and RFU University Rugby Development Officer for the South West, poses for a photograph at The Stoop rugby ground. “I think that if we¿ïre the right person for the right job in the workplace then so be it and the same for men,” Hunter said. “I¿ïve worked for the RFU, and being what is deemed as a male sport perhaps in the past, I was welcomed into that environment and I personally haven¿ït experienced gender inequality in the workplace, so I think that I¿ïve been very fortunate in the career that I¿ïve had and in the jobs that I¿ïve had that I¿ïve been seen for the person that I am and not for the gender that I am.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 13/25 Agusan del Sur, Philippines

Filipina Grace Ocol, 40, is a backhoe operator. Ocol, a mother of three, said, “There are a few female workers that can drive big trucks and backhoe. If men can do it, why can’t women do it? I’m better than the men, they can only drive trucks here but I can drive both.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 14/25 Hasaka, Syria

Laila Sterk, 22, is a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) female fighter: “Before becoming a fighter, I was suffering from inequality in society. But after joining the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), I didn’t encounter that anymore,” said Sterk. “This is due to the fact that when men want to join the SDF they attend educational courses about women fighting alongside them. Therefore the woman fighter leads the military campaigns just like any man.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 15/25 Andernos, France

Valerie Perron, 53, an oyster farmer, poses for a photograph on her boat. “It must not be forgotten that it is women, moms, who raise the boys. It is therefore up to us to change the mentalities by raising the boys at their youngest age, in a spirit of parity and equality with the woman. We must change the mentalities of early childhood education. A boy can play with dolls and a little girl with small cars,” Perron said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 16/25 Kathmandu, Nepal

Januka Shrestha, 25, a Tuk Tuk driver, poses for a picture. There is no difference in a vehicle driven by a woman and man. While driving on the road people sometimes try to dominate a vehicle especially when they see a woman driving it. People have even used foul language toward me. When this happens I keep quiet and work even harder to prove that we are as capable as men,” Shrestha said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 17/25 Hanoi, Vietnam

Phung Thi Hai, 54, carries bricks at a factory. Hai is among a group of 25 women working at a brick factory where she has to move 3,000 bricks a day to the kiln. “How unfair that a 54-year-old woman like me has to work and take care of the whole family. With the same work male labourers can get a better income. Not only me, all women in the village work very hard with no education, no insurance and no future,” Hai said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 18/25 Mexico City, Mexico

Jauna Diaz, 43, a street sweeper, poses for a photograph as she woks on the street. “In my previous job my boss gave preference to male colleagues and women always were paid later. Thats why I changed jobs,” Diaz said. “To tackle gender inequality I think there needs to be more communication and information about women’s rights in the work place.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 19/25 Istanbul, Turkey

Serpil Cigdem, 44, an engine driver, poses for a photograph at Yenikapi station. “When I applied for a job 23 years ago as an engine driver, I was told that it is a profession for men. I knew that during the written examination even if I got the same results with a male candidate, he would have been chosen. That¿ïs why I worked hard to pass the exam with a very good result ahead of the male candidates. In my opinion, gender inequality starts in our minds saying it¿ïs a male profession or it¿ïs a men job,” said Cigdem.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 20/25 Beijing, China

Deng Qiyan, 47, a mother of three and a decoration worker at contraction sites, poses for a photograph at an apartment building under construction. “Sometimes (gender inequality) happens. But we cannot do anything about that. After all, you have to digest all those unhappy things and carry on,” Qiyan said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 21/25 Lima, Peru

Rocio Larranaga, 53, a surfer and surf instructor, poses for a photograph at Redondo beach. “I am the first woman to represent my country in national and international competitions since 1977,” said Larranaga. “In 1995 I became a surf teacher. Lots of women surf and they are very good at it. I hope that in the future women have the same quota as men in professional competitions.”

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 22/25 Tunis, Tunisia

Chrifa Nimri, 69, a fisherwoman, arranges a net after returning from fishing at the seaport Sidi Bou Said. “At the beginning of my fishing career all the world told me that the trade was for men but now all my colleagues respect and call me captain,” Chrifa said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 23/25 La Paz, Bolivia

Elizabeth Mamani, 36, a reporter at Radio Union, poses inside Bolivia’s national congress building. “When I started in this job, I did feel discrimination (from officials who controlled the access of members of the press to events). To counter discrimination in this profession, we as women, must excel, we must prepare ourselves in every field,” Mamani said

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 24/25 Karachi, Pakistan

Mehwish Ekhlaque, 26, a bike rider and trainer, poses for a photograph with her bike. “When I planned a Pakistan Bike Tour many of my male colleagues gave me a piece of advice not to do it as it’s neither safe nor easy for a woman. But I did it,” Ekhlaque said.

Reuters

Celebrity Culture: 25/25 Tokyo, Japan

Shinto priest Tomoe Ichino, 40, poses for a photograph at the Imado Shrine. In general, people think being a Shinto priest is a man’s profession. If you’re a woman, they think you’re a shrine maiden, or a supplementary priestess. People don’t know women Shinto priests exist, so they think we can’t perform rituals. Once, after I finished performing jiichinsai (ground-breaking ceremony), I was asked, ‘So, when is the priest coming?’,” Ichino said. “When I first began working as a Shinto priest, because I was young and female, some people felt the blessing was different. They thought: ‘I would have preferred your grandfather.’ At first, I wore my grandfather’s light green garment because I thought it’s better to look like a man. But after a while I decided to be proud of the fact that I am a female priest and I began wearing a pink robe, like today. I thought I can be more confident if I stop thinking too much (about my gender).”

Reuters

However, the girls placed social justice work above a woman’s specific role. They saw these high-profile women as offering hope of a future in which sexual orientation and race do not impede access to power.

Such admiration does not cloud their vision of the challenges facing prominent women. Unrelenting focus on appearance, gender stereotypes that deny women authority, and online abuse were powerful disincentives. As one put it, “You could make a change, but you’re not acknowledged for what you do right, you’re acknowledged for what you do wrong”.

Alarmingly, poorer teens and girls of colour were particularly discouraged. Less privileged girls saw power as the preserve of “friends of people that already have it”. Another saw “Oxford” types in many public roles, but rarely people from her city (Bradford), so felt that “it’s not for us”.

Black girls were aware of being particularly under scrutiny – both as potential troublemakers and potential victims. One described the risks of being a changemaker in stark terms: “Every black person that’s done something good got shot in the head. Except Nelson Mandela. But Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Malala, Tupac…”

This matters. We have a gender leadership problem in the UK. Our average position since the World Economic Forum started ranking gender parity in political representation in 2006 is 21. Our research suggests that, without real cultural change, this won’t improve in the next generation. It also points to some solutions to the problem.

Firstly, we must remould our collective imagination of what a leader looks like in terms that do not preclude women. The tough, self-interested, white, male leader of popular imagination is as exclusionary for today’s girls as it is dangerous for our national culture. One need look no further than Trump and Putin for evidence of the threat masculinised models of leadership pose to international peace and prosperity.

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Legislation is being discussed to tackle online misogyny – one key way highly visible women are punished. But it is not the full media picture. Our second recommendation is that large-scale media outlets must get their houses in order. Certainly, the Daily Mail’s “Legsit” line deserved the scorn it received, but this is not solely a tabloid problem. On the BBC’s Today programme Nick Robinson’s description of Theresa May as heading to Brussels to “show a bit of leg” passed without comment.

Lastly, we need to show girls how women in leadership positions got there, and that it’s not all bad. As well as examples of women in power, how about we show our girls women enjoying power together.

Popular wisdom calls for more female role-models. But numbers alone are not enough. We can’t just teach girls the dangers for women in the public eye then expect them to want to enter this battlefield. We are working with the Jo Cox Foundation to implement these solutions. Only by changing the ways ideal leaders are imagined and real women leaders are treated will we get the generation of progressive, diverse, female leaders our country so badly needs.

Dr Hannah Yelin and Dr Michele Paule are senior lecturers at Oxford Brookes University and co-authored this piece.

Hannah also runs celebritycultureclub.com, and Michele has served as an Oxford City councillor and is Principle Investigator on the research project Girls, Leadership and Women in the Public Eye


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