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Elizabeth Vargas addressed the continuing double standards in media when addressing the annual Women in Entertainment Power Lunch, hosted by A+E Networks and The Hollywood Reporter.
It was apropos on the anniversary of the hashtag that shook the world, with Monday marking one year since #MeToo morphed into the movement urging women to speak up about sexual assault and harassment in the workplace.
“Men are allowed to go gray and get wrinkled and they have ‘gravitas,’ and women are ushered to the exit,” she said. “Women have a much shorter shelf life. We see this constantly where women are losing anchor jobs, in local news and in national network news, because they have reached a certain age, whereas men can anchor until they drop dead on the set,” she said.
“There’s an idealized vision of what women are supposed to be look like, especially in journalism,” she said, recalling once being called into an executive’s office to discuss her wardrobe. None of her male colleagues had ever been summoned for their sartorial mistakes.
And while things have changed a year on — the former ABC anchor cited the current upheaval in the media landscape with executives such as former CBS chair and CEO Les Moonves being ousted from their jobs for inappropriate conduct — there are still too few women in power positions. Fox News’ Suzanne Scott, who took over in the wake of the ouster of late chair Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, is the only woman running a major news division or network.
“There are still so few women in the important jobs that count, the powerful jobs. I’m not talking about in front of the cameras,” she said, though she noted that no woman currently sits at a national news anchor desk either. “The powerful jobs running these networks, running these news divisions, still belong to men.”
The double standard also applies to boardrooms, and Vargas referenced the combative behavior of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation hearings as an example. “If a woman had conducted herself like that, she would have been dismissed as hysterical or out of control, and yet, for a man to show anger is considered somehow admirable.”
However, she kept things in perspective. “It’s not going to happen in a moment. When we talk about the one-year anniversary of #MeToo — we are still going to be talking about some of these issues on the four, five, six-year anniversaries of #MeToo. You don’t fix this kind of enormous cultural issue in one year or with one event.
“It’s going to take a lot of conversations,” she added. “This isn’t turning a sailboat quickly in the wind; we are turning an oil tanker.”
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