A few years ago there was a lot of criticism floating around regarding what appeared to be reluctance on the media’s part to interview women. The discussion has resurfaced every now and again, usually following some all too obvious example of this, like an article about bras where the people interviewed were be a man who had once worked in a factory that produced the hooks on the back, a male doctor working on breast augmentations and a transvestite. No woman provides comments and the female angle is totally left out.
Every fall on TV we have two series of weekly quiz shows that are immensely popular and run through to the spring. One has all of the junior colleges competing against each other, two at a time, until one comes out the winner. The teams are made of three contestants and these are predominantly boys, with the occasional team having one girl member. The other is a competition between Icelandic towns working the same way, two teams at a time, three members per team. Again men are in the majority although a little less obviously, as most teams consist of two men and one woman.
Every time this criticism regarding the blatant gender bias arises the media promise to do better but note that it is not completely their fault – women shy away from giving interviews or participating in media events. The same replies are heard when political parties dish out their electoral roosters which usually read like a list of invitees to a gathering at a Freemason Lodge. According to these sources the usual reply from a woman who is approached to obtain a comment or run for election is: Oh no not me, can´t you get someone else to do it?
Despite Iceland being pretty advanced when it comes to women's rights, for some reason women are more reluctant than men when it comes to giving their opinion, standing up for office or even tooting their own horn at job interviews. This shyness or form of reserve might be a social influence from early childhood, something genetic or merely a coincidence; I have seen various theories but none fully conclusive. Being a woman myself I have my own opinion on the matter and believe it has a lot to do with some female reluctance in appearing stupid or making a fool of oneself. Before going further I should point out that as always when generalizing about groups one should keep in mind that the variance between the individuals in the group is often much more that the variance between the groups themselves. That being said, men do not seem to place as much standing on how they are perceived for some reason. They don’t mind if someone reading the paper thinks they are a fool. Women do. When asked to participate on the quiz show the female brain will go into the fifth gear thinking something along the lines of: No I can’t , I can’t. I don’t know anything about animals, plants, history or geography, I am horrible at dates and suck at poets. A TV screen adds five pounds so I will look fat, my hair is too crummy and I don’t know anything about dead painters and less about the live ones. I will get my hometown/school kicked off the competition and have to hide, maybe even move. And I know nothing about the Olympics. Processed the answer comes out as: No thanks, I am sure you will find someone else.
If this is a genetic thing, try as I might I cannot see what in our prehistoric roots could have set our genes in such opposite directions. Unless. Maybe the men used goofiness as part of their hunting skills acting the idiot by jumping up and down, sticking their fingers in their ears, poking out their tongues or in some other less-than-cool manner diverting a mammoth’s attention while the rest of the posse sneaked up on it. Thus the less a man cared about looking stupid the better hunter he would have been and the better his chances of survival and reproduction. As the rare photo of an actual caveman here above shows, they obviously also cared little for appearances. The women on the other hand would probably have wanted to keep a low profile, remember how cavemen asked cavewomen out on dates? Clubbed them on the head and pulled them by the ponytail held in place by a bone behind the next bush. Not exactly the romantics our ancestors.
When I first heard the explanation regarding the reluctance of women to give reporters comments or provide specialized opinions, I decided that I would be different. I am not going to be part of some complex suppressed self esteem routine that has absolutely no merit whatsoever and nobody really understands. Who cares if the odd comment will get on someone’s nerves? If little girls grow up seeing only men interviewed in the papers, on the news and replying to trivia on the quiz shows this will never change. If they see a better mix they will come to perceive it as the norm and the lay low genes inherited from the hapless cavewomen with their cracked skulls will cease to have an effect.
This stance has gotten me into numerous situations I would love to have been without. But never as much as now. You see I have been asked to be on the TV quiz show for my town team. And said yes. The only problem is: I don’t know anything about animals, plants, history or geography, I am horrible at dates and suck at poets. A TV screen adds five pounds so I will look fat, my hair is too crummy and I don’t know anything about dead painters and less about the live ones. I will get my hometown kicked off the competition and have to hide, maybe even move. And I know nothing about the Olympics.