Damore You Know, The Less You Think

Damore You Know, The Less You Think

I don’t believe this to be a sexist rambling, nor the defence of a sexist rambling. This was rather intended to be an exploration of modern societal and political forces on free speech, decision making and potentially clever PR. I’d love to hear any thoughts on this one.

On 7th August 2017, James Damore was fired by Google for a “sexist memo” that he posted on an internal message board that depicted women as being “inferior”. I remember reading the headline. For me, it was another mundane day in a remedial office job where I thought – wow; prime-time idiocy. As if letting go of the dream job and become public enemy number one on the same day wasn’t bad enough – how could this sexist pig really believe such a thing? Disgraceful, I know.

But maybe I didn’t know. James Damore being sacked was percieved as a good move by an appalled public who couldn’t fathom what possessed him to post such a sexist memo. This was seen as a feat for equality and politically correct behaviour and thought. But at the core of the scandal-turned-viral, were Google really as moral, as progressive, as forward-thinking as it may seem?

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What Happened (as we know it):

This whole mess began with one simple meeting. Google, like they often do, held a diversity meeting which, amongst others, James Damore was invited to attend. Damore, in an interview with academic marmite Jordan Peterson (You either hate him or you love him), recalls that Google didn’t record this meeting – the only instance of this that he can rememeber during his time with the Lords of the ‘Net. Damore believed that Google’s methods of inclusive hiring which they were discussing that fateful day were arbitrary and possibly crossing the line into illegal, which would explain the lack of documentation.

They’ll listen to us all through our phones but won’t listen back to their own ideas? Proof that nobody likes the sound of their own voice on record!

Damore states that he felt uneasy at the mention of the secretive positive discrimination tactics of hiring. Once the meeting had wrapped up, Damore along with all other partcicpants were encouraged to give their feedback on an internal message board – a central convention in Google who strive for improvement wherever possible. Damore compiled a ten page memo explaining why he felt the proposed hiring methods may not be a good idea and posted it on the aforementioned message board. Big mistake, Jim.

What he Said (Well, not exactly. But the jist of it):

Damore’s core belief in his memo was that there is a biological difference between men and women that may impact a corporate reality. His musings were a review of existing modern personality and individual differences literature that found that, in its simplest form, men are more likely to be attracted to object related professions and women to people related professions (heavily linked to studies surrounding testosterone levels – don’t @ me). He even mentioned that he is an advocate of diversity and inclusion. However, he didn’t help himself in suggesting that these Biological differences “may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership”. This may be a review of exisiting literature, but he surely could have sugarcoated the bleak academic truth in this point. Manners cost nothing James (in fact, a lack of them may have cost you your job).

My Name is Sue (How Do You Do?):

Damore responded to his dismissal by choosing to sue Google, which further enraged an American public that viewed him as the biggest inidvdiual threat to feminism in the U.S. since the man who actually runs the country. Damore accused Google of intolerance of white male conservatives; three majority categories that we can assume recieve little sympathy from the “politically correct”.

Damore told the New York Times that he has “a legal right to express (his) concerns about the terms and conditions of (his) working environment and to bring up potentially illegal behavior, which is what the document does.” It must be highlighted that Google’s decision to fire Damore is perefectly legal. Even within Damore’s right to free speech, an employee can be lawfully fired for being seen to violate an organisational code of conduct, which Google believed they saw. While some forms of employee speech are protected by US Labour laws, the Constitutional right of free speech is not extrapolated to the workplace.

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Triggering Time:

I’m exploring this at the risk of coming across as sexist or non-progressive here which, as a young, caucasian, heterosexual, Catholic male in Northern Ireland, is quite politically and socially charged. As I play the role of the drawn-out, eye-rolling “Devils Advocate”, many of Damore’s arguments were grounded in scientific research up to this point. While this may change in future, many believe that we as a society must place our fundamental trust in the processes of science. The “feedback” from Damore suggested that Google’s attempts to neglect suitable candidates for an engineering role in favour of a less suitable candidate who fits into a particular race, religion, or particularly gender may ultimately impact upon job performance. The media picked up that Damore views women as “inferior” to men when really, from what I can decipher, he was merely highlighting that, statistically speaking, there are less women who interested in the field of engineering than there are men.

Personally, having worked in the recruitment division of a large technology firm, I have seen the process of hiring females with a less desirable skillset than their male counterparts purely based on their gender. The extent of Google’s actions compared to my own experience can’t quite be compared, as Google’s actions remain fairly secretive. While I fully advocate initiatives such as “women in tech” applied by my former employer and their industry competition, the gender-decisive hiring process was an aspect that I struggled to support fully. In this respect, I do agree with Damore. In writing this, I have been concerned with coming across as sexist in a hyper-sensitive era. But ultimately, I believe that people should be afforded an opportunity in a professional context based on their ability to perform the job role and all that it encompasses. From the technical elements of a role to the level of interpersonal skills required. These selections should not be made based solely on your gender and frankly, if you disagree, I don’t see how you aren’t supporting equal rights (@ me this time if you want).

Tin Foil Hat Time:

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist – is it possible that Google, amidst an initial attempt to play fair, were afraid of possible repercussions of their positive discrimination methods and were able to shift the focus to Damore’s comments through a tactically calculated bet on how biased journalism might pander to the overly-politically-correct online consumers of today who often fail to scrutinize the validity of anything they read despite copious accounts of fake news? As I catch my breath, my mind casts to Benoit’s theory of image repair. The 14-option response kit of crisis management (devised in 1997) remains popular in today’s corporate world. Google seem to have employed the tactic of transcendence; aspiring to reframe their actions by placing it in the context of Damore’s; a more publicly detestable set of thoughts and actions.

Social Justice Warrior’s would have picked the carcass of James Damore clean in a vulture-esque fashion, if they weren’t all stage 5 vegans.

Failure to question the legitimacy of sources or the potential partisan of individual journalism is a monstrous issue in the modern digital age. Nicholas Carr in his book “What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains” discusses that, while the modern consumer has a better skillset for scanning, we pay the price with a diminishing capacity for concentration, reflection and contemplation. This alteration in mental capacity and skillset is particularly relevant in a modern age where Fake News has become practically unextractable from online media. Hence, it’s plausible that a mixture of shallow-level reading and the unattainable expectations of modern political correctness shaped Damore as an international sexist villain.

Interestingly (yet nothing more than coincidentally), Carr’s book came as a result of a widely celebrated article he wrote for US magazine Atlantic Monthly, entitled; “Is Google making us stupid?” Nice one Google. You just don’t quit- Do you? You big untouchable B****rd” (cries the writer, as he types in his Google Keep notes, processing every shred of information in this salty article from Google Chrome).

Benoit’s Image Repair Theory may be the academic grounding I need to support my argument that the dismissal and public shaming of James Damore was both a tactic of crisis management and a case of good publicity for Google as a diverse, progressive organisation. But as the case of Damore Vs Google indicates, sometimes science won’t prevail.

As I conclude, I know I took the scenic route on this one. There are issues on media consumption, disproportionate journalism, sexism and political correctness that I simply can’t condense in to one rambling article. If you can take one thing away from this – question your sources. Consider, contemplate and reflect. Don’t simply skim and absorb. And don’t hate on the concept political correctness. Lets just aspire that Social Justice Warriors would stop moving the damn goalposts every time anyone attempts to hit the target.

Eamon Daly is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: Twitter – @EamonDaly5 ; LinkedIn – linkedin.com/in/eamon-daly-608780137

The evolution of Barbie: The brains behind the Blonde

The evolution of Barbie: The brains behind the Blonde

Like many young girls, growing up I was a typical ‘Barbie Girl’ (it’s almost impossible not to sing the famous line by Aqua in my head when writing that!). I loved everything pink and I proudly owned an army of Barbies, as well as all necessary accompanying accessories such as: the Barbie Dream House, the Barbie horse and carriage, the Barbie Beach Hut – the list is endless.

To my surprise, I discovered that this year on 9th March, Barbie will be turning 60 years old, with a not a wrinkle in sight. She really does live up to the saying: “Life in plastic, it’s fantastic!”. 

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Ruth and Elliot Handler co-founded Mattel Creations in 1945 and 14 years later in 1959, Ruth Handler created the Barbie doll. However, it’s no surprise that more than one billion Barbie dolls have been sold since she made her debut at the American Toy Fair in New York on 9th March 1959. The Economic Times commented that despite fierce competition in the toy industry, 58 million Barbie’s are sold each year in more than 150 countries. In a growing generation of children’s obsession with iPads and tablets, Barbie has cemented herself as a staple toy for children and come a long way since her first model, pictured above.

Despite her years of success, Barbie has found herself under scrutiny for negatively influencing girls and portraying negative body expectations. Since her creation, it has been debated that Barbie is an unrealistic image of what the ‘average’ girl should look like, as well as failing to represent differences in race and colour. There is no need to question whether Barbie’s body shape is unrealistic. Researchers have reminded us that her proportions would occur in less than 1 in 100,000 adult women and that her waist is 20cm smaller than a reference group of anorexic patients. Most shocking of all, research also argues that if Barbie’s measurements resembled an actual woman, she would not be able to menstruate or even hold up her head.

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Mattel claims that the proportions were created for ease of dressing and undressing the doll, not replicating an adult figure. However, there is no such rationale for the very thin representation of Barbie in her TV show, movies, books, and range of online games. In all forms, Barbie represents a completely unattainable figure for adult women; leading parent’s to debate Barbie’s credibility as a role model. Negative connotations of ‘blonde’, ‘bimbo’ and ‘air-head’ also are associated with Barbie. Teen Talk Barbie in 1992 said phrases such as “Math class is tough”, with many arguing that Barbie discouraging young girls from academic ventures.

Now ask yourself this: how can Barbie represent and be relatable to the twenty-first century girl? Since 2000, Mattel have worked to keep the Barbie brand as relevant as ever to represent woman and remain on-trend. Although the typical ‘Barbie’ style consisted of blonde hair, blue eyed dolls, the first black Barbie called Christie was created in 1969, with Mattel showing exclusivity and diversity. The Barbie franchise today represents more than 40 different nationalities.

One campaign in particular that stood out for me in the evolution of Barbie occurred back in 2010 with American PR agency Ketchum West and Mattel. Mattel, along with Ketchum West, harnessed Barbie’s brand power by having the public choose her 126th career, with her past occupations including president and princess. However, over a million people voted for Computer Engineer Barbie in a campaign mixing the public’s love for Barbie with the movement to empower girls. In an inspired touch, the Society of Women Engineers and National Academy of Engineering helped create the doll’s look.

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Michelle Chidoni, VP of global brand communications at Mattel, said the company knew giving consumers a voice and delivering a doll they requested would drive earned media and create a conversation around the lack of women in STEM. “The conversation was extremely positive and underscored the brand’s purpose,” she noted. “When a girl plays with Barbie she imagines everything she can become.”

This campaign broke down the negative stereotypes associated with Barbie, emphasising that Barbie was more than just a fashion doll, but more so a positive role model for young girls. Blonde or brunette, slender or curvy, black or white, princess or president, Barbie is a forever favourite for young girls, and this campaign has helped influence future PR campaigns for Barbie. This includes the most recent campaign, Dream Gap, in 2018 which taught young girls to believe in themselves, and not to buy into sexist gender stereotypes. It also helped to influence the unique range of dolls made for Barbie during International Woman’s Day in 2018, with the release of  15 new dolls which are “role model” dolls crafted in the likeness of real iconic women across the globe, for example Nicola Adams OBE Box Champion from the UK.

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With careers spanning from president to astronaut, Barbie can also add ‘Social Influencer’ to her long list of attributes. In the new era of social media, Barbie has remained on trend by having her voice established across a number of social platforms, allowing her to connect with her new digital fan base. The @BarbieStyle Instagram account has 1.5 million followers and looks more like an Instagram account for a celebrity than a doll. Through the success of this account, back in 2016 Barbie was photographed at an event for Dyson’s new supersonic hairdryer, and posted the picture to Instagram. This was the first sponsored post for Barbie, but with over 51,000 likes, it won’t be her last. This emphasises the dynamic nature of the Barbie brand, which refuses to be limited to the category of simply a toy.

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Barbie also stays connected with fans through her own YouTube channel, with an impressive 5.5. million followers. Her channel includes a ‘vlog’ style series, which is designed to mimic some of our favourite YouTube stars, yet tailored to provide Ted Talk style videos to young girls regarding a number of issues such as: ‘Feeling blue? You’re not alone’ to the importance of having your voice heard.

Barbie has exceeded her previous stereotype, and has paved the way for a generation of new Barbie lovers; it really is no surprise that she’s remained a universal brand for the past six decades. With talks of a live-action Barbie film starring Margot Robbie, there really is no stopping the Barbie brand.

All that’s left to say is: Come on Barbie let’s go party – here’s to the next 60 years!

 

Abigail Foran is a final year BSc in Communications, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @abigailforan ; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abigail-foran-755800118/

 

From the table to the top

When I think about what I want to be when I grow up (I say ‘when’, but it’s about time I admit – I am grown) I don’t exactly know what it is I want to be, but it’s safe to say that if I was as successful as Sophia Amoruso, I’d feel pretty good about myself. Or better yet, who’s seen the Devil Wears Prada? I’d settle for being Miranda Priestly. But at the moment my life is a lot more like Andy’s before she got the really good bangs and the jeans that made her go from a 2 to a 10.

When I snap myself back to reality, catch myself on and accept that bopping about New York in Louboutins is a bit farfetched… I can take some little bit of comfort in the fact that some of the most successful business women in the world, turned their kitchen tables into booming brands and became leaders in their industry.

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Huda Kattan: Founder of cosmetics line ‘Huda Beauty’

The Huda Beauty story began when Kattan followed her lifelong passion of beauty and enrolled in a makeup training course in LA, resulting in gaining a massive clientele including Eva Longoria, Nicole Richie and even members of the royal family. She then set up her blog, HUDABEAUTY.COM in 2010.

So how did blogging result in Huda producing some of the best make up in the industry? Basically, she never liked any of the eyelashes she was using on clients. She was constantly cutting them up or stacking different styles on top of each other to reach the desired look. It was then that her sister, Mona, who had the light bulb moment. Why not create your OWN lashes? So she did. They launched at a Sephora store in Dubai Mall in 2013 and sold out the same day.

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From that very day the Huda Beauty brand has grew and grew, resulting in Huda being approached by investors, having been offered $1.5m for a 60% share in the firm in 2014 – which was turned down as Huda had her own vision for the company that she didn’t want anyone or anything to interfere with,

“I was so afraid of losing the magic of Huda Beauty if we took investment,”

During an explosive growth period, Huda Beauty literally couldn’t keep up with demand. Orders grew and grew, so much so that they didn’t have enough products to distribute, and they couldn’t even increase production as they didn’t have enough money to hire more staff. So it was in 2017 that Huda Beauty partnered with TSG Consumer Partners investment firm,

“It was truly a long process in finding the right partner for us because we wanted to partner with a company that really understood our company’s vision… but it has honestly been such an amazing partnership and they’ve allowed the brand to flourish.”

Huda Beauty is now the number one Beauty Instagram account with over 26 million followers, the 61st most followed person on Instagram.

Ella Mills: Food Author and Entrepreneur under the brand ‘Deliciously Ella’

The Deliciously Ella story began in 2012 whilst Ella was in University and had just been diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome. In the simplest of terms, she had digestive issues and chronic fatigue and was fed up with her medication not having any positive effects. This resulted in her hitting rock bottom both mentally and physically. Not really what any university student needs.

So she took it upon herself to find other ways to manage her condition and soon realized it heavily depended on her diet and lifestyle, in which she had to massively change. Although there were a few problems:

“1. I couldn’t cook.

2. I had no idea about plant-based food

3. I had lost all of my sense of drive and passion”

(honestly Ella, SAME)

So… she decided to combat this and used a blog as a way to keep track of her culinary efforts and people LOVED IT. Hits began to grow and her audience wanted more. She soon began hosting cookery classes and “supper parties”. Her blog successes resulted in publishing opportunities, with the first Deliciously Ella cookery book being published in 2015, becoming the best-selling debut cookbook ever in the UK.

She then met her husband Matt and it was a true culinary love story. They joined forces by using her creativity and his business mind to open the first Deliciously Ella Deli in Seymour Place, London. This lead to the launch of the Deliciously Ella food range including energy balls, granolas and frozen meals that are sold in over 6,000 stores in the UK including popular food stores Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Holland & Barrett

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Sophia Christina Amoruso: Founder of ‘Nasty gal’

From an online eBay store to the CEO of one of the fastest growing companies, Sophia Christina Amoruso has had her fair share of success… so much so that she was named one of the richest self-made women in the world by Forbes in 2016. Sophia’s success story started at the age 22, when she started an online eBay store selling vintage clothing and other items, which she named “Nasty Gal Vintage”. She handled the whole thing herself, from buying the products, writing product descriptions and taking pictures of the products to share with her customers. Two years later she moved the store off eBay onto its very own website, rebranding as “Nasty Gal”

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This was just the beginning of Nasty Gal’s growth. Each year it grew and grew from opening its headquarters in LA in 2010, reaching $24 million revenue in 2011 (11,200% three-year growth rate) to opening their first brick and mortar store in 2014 in the famous LA Melrose Avenue.

Despite her evident success, Sophia’s journey was not smooth sailing as she called herself a “young, naïve founder.” Sophia stepped down as CEO of Nasty Gal in 2015, after admitting “she felt incompatible with the demands of being a CEO”. Soon after, Nasty Gal filed for bankruptcy, resulting in Boohoo Group purchasing the brand for a whopping $20m.

Although it was the end of Sophia’s Nasty Gal journey, it was not the end of her. After stepping down as CEO, Sophia had time to reflect and wants to pass on the wisdom and hard-learned lessons. You gotta learn from your mistake, am I right? She used her own experience to help others and founded GirlBoss Media in 2017, named after her best selling memoir #GirlBoss.

“Girlboss is a community of strong, curious, and ambitious women redefining success on our own terms. We are here to inform, entertain, and inspire action through the content and experiences we create. We are unapologetic in our beliefs and values of supporting girls and women who are chasing dreams both big and small.”

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So yeah, as much as our biggest career goals may seem totally out of reach – if there’s anything that the twenty-first century constantly teaches us, it’s that business opportunities are literally at our fingertips. It only takes a blog or vlog to build a public persona, Instagram to forge a brand, and eBay to have a proper business from home. It’s not impossible and our idols prove that. I wouldn’t suggest giving up the day job…  but don’t give up on the dream either. After all, the expert at anything was once a beginner.

Catherine Maguire is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn: Catherine Maguire

The Real Housewives of Kensington

The Real Housewives of Kensington

When the recent news that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would be moving out of Kensington Palace to live at Frogmore Cottage broke, speculation around the move also broke with it. Was this really such a shocking announcement for someone who (with every royal baby birth) has moved further and further down the line of succession? Was this really out of nature for a couple who have been known to break royal protocol? Was this unreasonable given that Harry and Meghan are about to start their own family? Or was there trouble brewing between the brothers?

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Unsurprisingly, the first point of call for the media was to point fingers at Prince Harry’s new wife Meghan as the reason behind the move. Anonymous sources from within Kensington Palace claimed that there ‘had been some tension’ between Meghan and her sister-in-law, Kate Middleton, claiming that there was a clashing between the ladies at a dress fitting prior to the royal wedding, in which Meghan reduced Kate to tears. Another source also claimed that Kate was said to have complained about Meghan being needlessly nasty to a royal member of staff, which had left both Meghan and Harry less than pleased.

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Whether these allegations are true or not, they were the golden nuggets of information that the press have been waiting for for months. Despite the Daily Mail reporting back in July that the Duchesses were ‘best friends’ as they enjoyed a day at Wimbledon together, as the narrative surrounding Meghan began to change it seemed only fitting that they throw in a classic girl on girl cat-fight. It’s almost as if these two beautiful, intelligent and stylish women couldn’t possibly be friends – they must be in competition with each other?! With magazines and newspapers running features that ask us ‘who wore it best?’ the desire to create a competition between the two Duchesses has always been there. The Sun have even recently reported on this rumoured conflict between the two with the headline: “Why it’s no surprise sexual Meghan Markle and introvert Kate Middleton are having a royal rift”.

Whilst I am under no illusion that these two spend evenings in Kensington braiding each other’s hair and watching chick-flicks, I do take issue in the way in which the media can only accept women being the best of friends or mortal enemies. There is apparently no room for the in-between. Ask yourself- how many times have you read a news story that depicts a potential feud between two men? Or a feature that asks you whether Prince Charles or Prince Andrew ‘wore it better’?

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It seems that seeing two women go head to head has been one of society’s oldest and most voyeuristic past-times, which has become even more popular in the modern world, with reports of spats between The Spice Girls (the very ones who coined the phrase ‘girl power’), shade being thrown between Nicki Minaj and Cardi B and the entire Real Housewives franchise running on the occurrence of female feuds.

But these aren’t two popstars throwing shoes at an awards show. These are women from two very different backgrounds who have both found themselves center-stage in one of the most famous families in the world. Most people struggle to get through Christmas with their in-laws, yet the slightest hint of tension between sister-in-laws who live and work together seems out of the ordinary?

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Understandably, stories like these sell. I for one, have probably generated most of the clicks on each website’s version of events regarding Kate and Meghan. But the underlying issue remains that reporting on alleged feuds between women breeds a culture of resentment and competition rather than what women today everywhere actually need from eachother; empowerment and support.  As readers, we can do better than falling for the same, tired-out trap of assuming that women are nothing but evil, jealous individuals who all want to be Queen Bee and are willing to tear each other down in the process. We can do so much better.

Lucy Sempey is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @LucySempey ; LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucy-sempey-482ab9130/

Shonda Rhimes, Thank You For Using Your Platform To Raise Feminist Issues

It is impossible in today’s society to not use TV as a form of escapism during this current political climate, where some argue that instead of taking steps forward for equality for all we are taking steps back. I believe therefore it is important that we are aware of social issues that are happening in the world around us and, instead of choosing to ignore them, that we should educate ourselves about them. One of the main problems we face at the moment is the inequality of how women are treated. Most recently we saw Brett Kavanaugh being appointed to The Supreme Court, even though he has multiple sexual assault allegations and, also, how Dr. Betsy Ford was treated in court when she testified against him.

Last year for placement year I studied abroad in America at East Stroudsberg University.  Living in America it was impossible to escape politics. After being able to ask many of my class mates and just listing to conversations, I found out that a lot of people felt that their voice was not heard. It became clear that women’s voices were not being heard. However, seeing the me-too movement taking off in America, with women coming forward with their stories of how they had been sexually assaulted, we saw women marching as a way to raise their voices to call out the inequality that they face.

What does this have to do with TV and even more Shonda Rhimes you might ask? Being away from home I had a lot more free time on my hands, so I found myself binge watching a lot of Netflix. One of the series I found myself totally addicted to was Greys Anatomy. Well luckily enough after a quick Google, I was able to find out that the creator of Greys Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes, also had an other amazing show called Scandal. I soon realised how Shonda Rhimes has used her platform as the creator of these shows to raise issues that are faced with women every day.

 

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Greys Anatomy

In Greys Anatomy a show about the daily lives of surgeons at Seattle Grace Hospital, you can easily see how Shonda Rhimes has used this series to give people a voice on social issues that women face. One of the main things is how it has helped raise awareness for these issues. This includes how they showed the pressure that was put on the women on the show to be great surgeons, but also the pressure they felt to be a mother. The main character Meredith Grey had to chose whether to perform surgery on a sick patient or sit with her daughter while she got stitches.MH2

In one of the most recent episodes where Arizona Robbins is fighting for custody of her daughter, it is brought up in court how she is unfit to have full custody of her daughter due to the fact she has a demanding job as a paediatric surgeon. It is soon pointed out by Arizona’s boss in the court room if you would be asking that same question if Arizona was a man.

We have Cristiana Yang who didn’t want kids and and even having an abortion throughout the series, showing women how it is okay to not want to have a family if you would rather focus on your career. We have women also being represented from the LBGTQ community such as the marriage between Callie and Arizona.

There is Miranda Baily who was nicknamed the “Nazi” due to how she bosses her team. We learn that at the start of her medical career she wasn’t taken seriously, so she had to become loud and bossy to be taken seriously. She isn’t afraid to use her voice to make seriously important medical decisions for the hospital leading to her to becoming chief of the whole hospital.

We see women not being taken seriously due to their gender being mistaken for a nurse instead of surgeon or being called “honey” – would you call a male doctor a pet name or mistake him for a

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Scandal

Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington, is a crisis manager who owns her own crisis management firm. Let’s look at how she is breaking barriers on TV when it comes to women as main characters. Shonda Rhimes made it clear that this part was to be played by an African American woman as that who she wrote the part and more so the character was based on Judy Smith who served as George W Bush’s deputy press secretary. Straight away with Scandal, Shonda Rhimes wanted the show to have a diverse cast and have a smart African American woman as the main character who is using her position of power and political connections to stand up for what she believes in. This I believe has lead to a change in how many TV shows have casted their characters – now we can see a rise in women from different ethnic backgrounds getting cast as the main part.

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Throughout Scandal there are many examples of how Shonda Rhimes used it as a voice for women. Vice President Susan Ross spots that a young female officer’s wrist has been bruised – we soon find out that this young woman has been sexually assaulted by a military Admiral. Olivia Pope soon takes on the case and makes sure that the admiral will be caught for his actions. Olivia was able to leak footage of the admiral dragging the young navy officer into his office, forcing the admiral to confess.

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Throughout Scandal we also see how women face many forms of assault, even in their own homes.  We learnt that one of Olivia Pope’s friends Abbey was a victim of domestic assault from her abusive husband.  Later on in the series we find that Abby’s ex husband could be running for senator of Virginia, leading Olivia Pope to convince Abby to come forward and share her story of domestic violence so this man wont be allowed to take up an important political position.

Another important story line in Scandal which is one of my favourites. Mellie Grant, the ex wife of the president, decides to run for office as she wanted to be so much more than just a first lady. We are surprised to see her and Olivia Pope becoming friends due to the fact that it was Olivia Pope who had an affair with Mellie’s ex-husband the President. Both women realised they had both one shared goal, in making sure that their political voices where heard. During the election race we hear one of the best feminist lines from Scandal that echoes into the environment today. When asked by her political opponent in a debate how Mellie will just be the same president as her husband, we see Mellie Grant turn round and say in the 21st century you can’t look at man and assume that his wife will share the same views – women are not their husband’s keepers and they are their own women, with their own beliefs.

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I hope you can see the importance of having Shonda Rhimes as a show runner  to help raise awareness for social issues that we are facing today. To show young girls that you can be in charge, not afraid to use your voice to stand up for something you believe in. Someone who knows even you could be president one day no matter what your race or gender is. She has been so successful in her portrayal of strong women that she, along with her three main characters, were used as a campaign ad for Hilary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

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So thank you Shonda Rhimes.

Muriosa Houston is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @MuriosaHouston ; Linkedin – http://www.linkedin.com/in/muriosa-houston-32b41413b