Emotional Women

Ehrbar, Ned. “Ellen DeGeneres’ Emotional Medal of Freedom Moment,” CBS News, 23 Nov 2016, accessed 2 Dec 2016. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ellen-degeneres-emotional-medal-of-freedom-moment/

Ellen DeGeneres being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive, was a hot topic when it happened in November of 2016. Openly lesbian since the 1990’s, DeGeneres has managed to become a wildly popular pop icon, and many media outlets were thrilled to hear of her receiving this honor. This particular article discusses her reaction to receiving the medal in the hours directly following the ceremony, in order to inform the nation of the details of DeGeneres’ life, as has become customary for celebrities. Ehrbar, the author of the article, is in charge of entertainment stories at CBS News, yet he has no particular qualifications to write about women’s issues or political issues, two other categories this event falls under.

Women are often shown in the media in a way that enforces and perpetuates stereotypes. Even nontraditional women who are clearly outside of the norm are often shown in a light that makes them more acceptable to the public at large. Such is the case with this article, which quotes Obama’s brief speech about DeGeneres when he awarded her the medal, and then zeroes in on her emotional response. Various other news sources follow this format, as well, focusing on how DeGeneres teared up when she was awarded the medal, rather than emphasizing the actions she took to qualify for such an honor. Although these source are on the surface positive about the role of women in politics, congratulating DeGeneres on her accomplishment, they all contain a subtle undertone of sexism, implying that her feminine response of tears is more important than her concrete actions to fight discrimination against the LGBT community. The desire to portray women as fitting a certain mold of emotional and teary undermines their strength and determination. Such was the case with Mamie Till Bradley, Emmett Till’s mother, who despite her iron resolve to publicize her boy’s death, was often portrayed in the media as weak and dependent on men. The same thing happened to Rosa Parks, who is often remembered as a sweet woman who was simply too tired to stand up on the bus one day because of her aching feet. This myth belies the truth, which is that Parks was active in the Civil Rights Movement for her entire life, and had been a member of the NAACP for long before the fateful day on the bus where she actively chose to not stand up. By softening the way women are portrayed, even nontraditional women such as African Americans and lesbians, the media makes them more acceptable to the public at large. However, articles such as this, which imply that women need to be feminine at least on some level in order to be accepted, also perpetuate that idea in society, and contribute to the problem of women needing to stay within their gendered roles, even in 2016, at least to some extent.

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7 thoughts on “Emotional Women

  1. Is it a social condition in which women need to be softened to be heard, or is it how they naturally appear? Was Ellen more or less accepted after she softened her image? Because I do not feel like Emmit Tills mother was ever soft, instead she boldly declared that women had to fight for their children.

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  2. I never even considered the idea that women needed to appear softer. I thought it was interesting that Ellen’s physical emotions of crying were recognized but not all the service she has done for people.

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  3. I had heard about Ellen’s emotional response to her award, but I didn’t really think of it in that way. It is so true though that people often try to fit women into the traditional role that they expect women to fit into. The media should focus on all the work that Ellen has done to achieve this award.

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  4. Great connections to past discussions and readings in class! Rosa parks, Mamie Till Bradley, and other women have been great figures of history to study and find revealing elements of American culture. Great article.

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  5. This is interesting and I would be interested to see if any studies have been to determine whether women who show emotion get more credibility and/or likability. I remember wishing when I was a teenager that I could cry on demand because then I’d be able to convey a greater depth of feeling, sympathy, spirituality, etc. I feel pressure sometimes to show emotion. It’s like if you’re a woman and you don’t show emotion at something that should be emotional, you are cold, uncaring, apathetic. It’s a lot of pressure and I have to remind myself that tears are not the way to convey my true emotions.

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  6. It’s interesting to see the fine line women have to walk in order to be likable in the public eye. Showing emotions is seen as a positive thing, and reinforces traditional and comfortable ideas about women; but showing too much emotion discredits any logic or factual understanding a woman might have. But at the same time, I’m curious if there are any experiences of women being able to expand their sphere of influence because they were seen as soft, emotional, and caring.

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  7. It is interesting that Ellen’s response was mainly seen as emotional and that what she did to earn it was not heavily talked about. I remember reading about her acceptance speech and seeing pictures of her with tears on her cheeks. I think I did see some articles on what she had done but it came from pro LGBT groups and were shared only by my LGBT friends.

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