Even if you don’t watch reality television, or television at all for that matter, you’d be hard-pressed to avoid the recent controversy over Kate and Jon Gosselin, and their eight children. The stars of the beloved reality spectacle, Jon and Kate, Plus Eight, are divorcing. Despite salacious rumors about infidelity, they claim that it is just a gradual growing apart and, they add, the media spotlight certainly did help matters. It’s hard to feel much empathy for a couple complaining of overexposure when they signed the contract that would expose their entire family, eight little children included, to 24 hour cameras.
But perhaps it’s not just the media, or Jon and Kate, that are to blame. Kiri Blakeley, of Forbes.com, argues that female consumers are also culprits in this family dissolution. We’re the ones hungrily scavenging for every last juicy morsel about the couple’s demise, particularly the stories about what Kate did wrong, Blakeley argues. We’re feeding the sexist media beast. She writes:
It’s obvious who is devouring the Monster Mom headlines: Women. Research firm Mediamark estimates 73% of US Weekly’s, 83% of In Touch’s, and 77% of Star magazine’s audience are female.
It’s complicated. One of the most powerful ways in which we can practice our feminism is in our consumption choices. This can mean everything from where we buy our food to what kind of tampons we use to, yes, what magazines we read. The editors of feministing aren’t afraid to admit that we’ve got some of our own guilty pleasures (All My Children, horror movies, reggaeton etc.), but they induce guilt for a reason–we know that our consumption of these things contradicts our values on some level.
No one’s perfect. At the same time, I get incredibly sick of hearing everyone complain about the quality (or lack thereof) in the magazines marketed at women, and then turn around and support these same magazines by buying them at the airport kiosk. If we really want television programming or print media that speaks to our issues, then we need to tune into shows that reflect our desires, write letters to the magazines that don’t.
It takes some self-discipline to avoid some of the more salacious crap on television and in print, that’s for sure. But if we really want the media world to change, then we’re going to have to start taking responsibility for our consumption choices. A guilty pleasure here or there makes us human. Blindly consuming “monster mom” stories about Kate Gosselin, celebrity weight loss exposes, or the latest Real Housewives series threatens to keep the sexist status quo very much in place.
I’m wondering how the feministing community draws the lines when it comes to television and media consumption. Do you allow yourself People magazine at the airport? Do you watch reality television that degrades women? Have you ever written a letter to the editor when a magazine did something you either loved or hated? Why or why not?
See community blogger crazyface8d on the topic.