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.