Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Who'd run the best daycare?

As I was browsing the internet last night, all of a sudden, a poll on the U.S. News & World Report website caught my eye. "Who'd Run the Best Daycare?" The poll went on to ask, "If you had a choice of four daycare centers run separately by Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi, which would you choose for your kids?" http://www.usnews.com/polls/whod-run-the-best-daycare/results.html Had this poll not proceeded the 2008 Presidential Election, I would have been utterly shocked that a major news publisher would have the audacity to allow such a blatantly sexist question to be posted all over their website. Unfortunately, this election seemed to pave the way for the acceptance of sexism as a form of discrimination which was no longer seen as very offensive.

Rather than looking at these four women as serious politicians, the media is once again shedding light on the fact that they are just that, women, and more specifically, mothers. Although this poll may seem like a very minute example, almost a joke, it's small things like this one that are looked upon as the building blocks for the perception of gender roles in America. Setting the tone that women, even those in high positions such as the four in this poll, should be looked upon as women and caretakers, seems to overshadow all the accomplishments they may have in the political world. Throughout the election, this same perspective pervaded media articles around the nation. Rather than being looked at as politicians first and foremost, the media began focusing more attention on personal lives of the female candidates, and on various occasions, the women vying for office were looked down upon for leaving their families behind in order to pursue political recognition, especially in the cases of Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama.

But putting all the criticism and gender stereotyping aside, I fell into the trap that this poll was setting up. I gave in, and soon found myself clicking the "View Results" button. Ironically, and much to my surprise, after all the mocking and harsh words of disapproval, Sarah Palin was winning overwhelmingly.
  1. 36.38% First lady Michelle Obama's
  2. 58.83% Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's
  3. 2.58% Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's
  4. 2.21% House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's


Musiclover14 said...

This is just ridiculous. What are they going to put up next, "which one do you want to see nude?" The line has been crossed and you're right; sexism is now seemingly accepted. I wonder when we will see a day when working women are taken completely seriously. While motherhood is a very important part of our lives as the female gender, it is not our entirety. We do not just live to have children; we want to work and strive to do great things alongside our male counterparts.
Though the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is a step for gender equality, we need many more steps like this one before we can reach total equality. I plan to make it in the working world; I plan to have men as my employees and I plan to show those who are sexist that women can be even more serious and capable as men. We just need to continue to give those people reminders like that. I believe that if we continue to see women running for high offices, the sexism will be shaken out of our society. I guess we can only hope.

Phia! said...

Wow, this completely shocks me. As much as we want the idea of sexism to be gone, the media itself is posting it everywhere. A poll like this is unnecessary and does promote sexism more. You are completely correct in saying that society is accepting sexism and we shouldn’t. Pin pointing Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, etc. out as mothers and caretakers rather then politicians, makes us disregard all of the accomplishments they have done in life. I too am waiting for the day of sexism to be out of our society. We are slowly getting there, but unfortunately we are not there yet.

Anonymous said...

It’s really interesting that this slipped into such a widely distributed piece of media. I feel that these types of almost subliminal pieces reinforce existing perceptions and tug credibility from these female leaders. The poll was completely unrelated to the abilities of the women to handle the issues, and instead drew all of the attention away from the new grounds they are stepping on, and back to their status as mothers. It's so simple-minded and wrong to shift the focus to something conventional such as their motherhood to sort of compensate for the unconventional positions they hold. It’s really sad to see this sort of sexism getting coverage, and to see that few people are getting upset about it.

youre likable enough said...

I think that the US News and World Report poll was just for amusement and shouldn't be taken too seriously. I understand that few people find such polls sexist and offensive, but why? USNWR's poll reminds me of the media frenzy over the photo of our shirtless president. The Washington Post vividly described Obama's body “The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games” (Washington Post 12/25/08) Is such media portrayal of Obama sexist in that the media idolizes males by their bodies?

On the other hand I am extremely surprised that Palin is leading the poll. You would think that many Americans know that Palin is probably not the best person to run a daycare considering that she has so much trouble in her family. If I ever do have children, I think I would choose the daycare center run by Michelle Obama.

stephkasten said...

Although I agree that it is unlikely that the male candidates in the 2008 presidential election would have been entered in this kind of poll, I think that the comment posted above mine is also correct in highlighting the comedic factor of this story. I also think that this poll indicates something more about the changing nature of the media: with each passing election, we seem to know more and more about candidates as people rather than as politicians. As more and more forms of media become available and more widely circulated, coverage of politicians becomes more personal and more (in my opinion) irrelevant to their positions in office. It's unlikely that this poll would have been taken 25 years ago, or that the public would have been so interested in its subject matter.

mjwong89 said...

I have two points related to this poll.

I believe Sarah Palin won because the Republican Party is seen as more family-friendly. (The other individuals listed were all Democrats.) Labels matter and I think the conservative label is seen as more pro-family than a liberal label. Obama, Clinton, and Pelosi.

I also think US News and World Report published this poll in order to attract attention. This poll would be better published in a tabloid or comedic paper. We all know the newspaper industry is falling. Newspapers and magazines are suffering; therefore, there is probably a movement toward attracting viewers than publishing substantive information.

akclark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
akclark said...

This poll provides little information of any value to the public. The question of who would run the better day care is ridiculous and a waste of time, no matter how entertaining it may be. These women are successful politicians, not day care providers. On a side note, I wonder why the poll did not include any male figures. They might as well have added questions on what kind of ice cream they eat or what their favorite color is. Trivial information such as this U.S. News and World Report survey simply adds useless babble to the various undermining and demeaning articles in publication. Male candidates are parents as well and share an equal responsibility in the rearing of their children. By not including males in the poll, U.S. news and World Report are indirectly misogynistic. The undertones of sexism unintentionally or possibly intentionally portrayed by the poll undermine these women who are balancing work, life and motherhood, while their male counterparts who are fathers as well never receive this sort of judgment. This kind of news is sexist and offensive; I expect that reputable national magazines, such as U.S. News and World Report would provide the public with worthwhile information about what leaders like Hilary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi do in their political life. Asking who would make a better manager of a day care center seems like a topic one might read about in a tabloid. We have important matters such as the economy, healthcare, wars, financial institutions failing, and high unemployment. We should focus time and attention on solving more important issues like these.

swatsonucd said...

While this pole is definitely out of the normal spectrum, I think that it sheds some light on our media. It would seem that while many American citizens are moving away from former gender roles, our media continues to focus on outdated views and opinions. Perhaps the pole was proposed for entertainment purposes, or perhaps the authors were genuinely curious, but regardless, the editors allow it to be printed, and this speaks volume. If nothing else, this survey reminds us how important media literacy is in a country such as this, and we should act accordingly.

Also, I find it interesting that the younger women are those favored. Perhaps this is a new development, because as I remember, nannies and daycare centers tend to use an older women as an icon, but the poll was entirely focused on Palin and Obama. Significant? Perhaps, but who can really tell with news surveys these days anyways.