A Woman's Place.

by Meredith O’Brien


The past week as I read various magazines, I noticed something: Women’s lives were being dissected, placed into historical context, their “real” bodies – not just pencils with heads – were prominently showcased and women’s “midlife” was called “the new seventh grade” and an opportunity in which to reinvent themselves. This, I felt, was a welcome change from the way women’s lives are usually portrayed in magazines, as being told how to create the “perfect” (fill in the blank, meal, homemade Halloween costume, etc.), how to utilize sex tips from experts with their guys and what outrageously expensive clothing (which only comes in size sub-zero) is considered the “next big thing.”


It was hard to miss the collaboration between NBC, MSNBC and Time Magazine where the news organizations examined the socio-economic status of American women on the home front and in the workplace. While former NBC correspondent Maria Shriver has been all over NBC and MSNBC programs talking about her report which started all of this contemplation -- with The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything, -- Time Magazine dedicated an issue to what it called, “The State of the American Woman: A new poll shows why they are more powerful – but less happy.”


Time’s main story, “What Women Want Now,” written by columnist Nancy Gibbs, started thusly:


“If you were a woman reading this magazine 40 years ago, the odds were good that your husband provided the money to buy it. That you voted the same way he did. That if you got breast cancer, he might be asked to sign the form authorizing a mastectomy. That your son was heading to college, but not your daughter. That your boss, if you had a job, could explain that he was paying you less because, after all, you were probably working just for pocket money . . . It’s funny how things change slowly, until the day we realize they’ve changed completely.”


The magazine also ran loads of charts and graphs comparing the status of women from the early 1970s to now. While some demonstrated definitive, positive progress in the workplace and home – with sexual harassment and discrimination laws, the presidential and vice presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin campaigns -- others don’t show much: