Posted by: maddiewellman | February 13, 2018

Setting the Agenda

Our readings for class this week focused on female leaders and the media. For class on Wednesday, we read Chapter 3 of Marie Wilson’s Closing the Leadership Gap. This chapter describes the significant role that the media plays on the development and authority of female leaders.

Wilson says that the media has the ability to both set the agenda and set the ideal of authority. When the media focuses on the physical appearance, including what a woman is wearing, or family status, like whether she is married or has kids, the media erodes her authority. This also doesn’t just happen in the media. We see it in the media, but also in everyday life. My mom is a self-proclaimed feminist with her own governmental leadership position, but she comments on the physical appearance of female journalists and politicians, just like news anchors do. This is just one example of the media setting the agenda for understanding female leadership.

When the media does focus on these superficial issues, people don’t have the opportunity to see women as leaders or construct a schema that defines female leadership. However, when female leaders attempt to direct conversation or commentary back to the issues at hand, they are seen as cold, not relationally-oriented enough, and too task-oriented. Even here we see the double bind in action. In addition, women feel like they have to  be over-prepared for any situation, because they will only get one chance to speak, while men feel more able to ad-lib and go back and correct later. These are all problems that the media has the ability to change, according to Wilson, because the media sets the agenda.

With that being said, these reading assignments focused on political leaders, but with the Winter Olympics in full swing, how do you think the media impacts female athletes? Can you think of another field in which the media may play a role on female leaders? Are there any fields in which the media plays a positive role on female leaders?


  1. Hi Maddie! I really liked what you said about eroding women’s authority in real life as well as in the media. I think we’re ingrained with some pretty mean stereotypes that cause us to lash out at people because of a certain appearance. Whether someone doesn’t match out schema, or whether we find someone’s clothes visually unappealing, we’re pretty quick to judge. One of the women in the documentary was wearing purple lipstick- I remember thinking it was weird for her to wear bold lipstick and no other forms of makeup, then I realized she can do whatever the heck she wants with her makeup. For a half second, it compromised how I understood her authority. If I hadn’t realized my own misogynistic thoughts, it could have prevented me from hearing some pretty important points that she was making.
    I thought the part of the reading that said men are more likely to ad-lib when they don’t know real data was interesting. I hadn’t thought of that before, but it makes sense. Women can’t afford to give the wrong number, because they would never be seen as authoritative again. Men, however, get as many chances as they need. Additionally, I think I remember that men tend to speak more often in conversations that they have with women, and they also establish nonverbal dominance through the use of This isn’t to say that the fault should go to the men of today; this is a problem that started long before they were born.
    I really like that you brought the Olympics into the discussion! Women athletes are often subjected to some pretty sexist remarks. Often, if a woman is very good at her sport, her gender will be questioned because obviously a woman couldn’t be that strong so it must be a man pretending to be a woman. Also, women athletes are often posed very suggestively for photo shoots to assure the world of their femininity. I think this has got to be damaging to young female athletes, but I think things are improving for them. It’s been more than forty years since the passage of Title IX, and more young girls are growing up playing sports. It’s beneficial to their confidence, health, and strength. The media is becoming increasingly supportive of female athletes, and there are some pitfalls still, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.

  2. I think it is really interesting and refreshing how you have brought the Olympics into this conversation. Just the other day, I say an article that ranked the 30 best ice skating outfits (both female and male). No doubt, the people writng this article have no background in the sport, yet comment on the apperence of these athletes. This media draws attention to the clothing of the athletes instead of using the space and time to comment on the difficulty of their routines or how they performed. Young ice skating athletes (male and females) will see this article and begin to frame their own wardrobe to ‘fit in’ with the fashions the media deemed the best. However, ice skating outfits are chosen for their areodynamic abilities to help the ice skater, not for the color or how it makes the skater look.

    This weekend, I watch the Simone Biles documentry. Similarly, there was a part in the film where she grew self-conscious about the size of her arms and chose to wear a jacket to avoid scrutiny. Athletes are affected by the media and this can do damage to the mental psyche of their performance. This leaves them vulnerable to other outside attacks, like the Title IX issues Maddie mentioned in her comment. The more women that come forward with this issues, the more the media begins to support women. However, I find it sad that these tradgedies are the only way the media will paint women as powerful, independent, and leave their clothing and apperance. We are slowly moving forward, but we still have a long way to go.

  3. Interesting topic! It’s sad to admit that the media makes our agenda toward women. It gives us a negative view of any female who strays away from the norm. But, I even think it would be bad if the media gave us a positive view of women. The media shouldn’t be what defines our worldview. How we see women in leadership should be based on our own experiences, not on what other people want us to believe. In class we talked about how we as a society shape the media too. This is crazy to me because I always feel like I’m succumbing to the lies in movies and TV, not the other way around. Anyway, it is sad to see women leaders get treated as sexual objects instead of the individuals they are.

    I think the media portrays female athletes in a positive light. At least the commercials I’ve seen on females in the Olympics have not been over sexualized. They seem to capture the true goals of the athletes. The media also presents documentaries of their lives and how they got to the Olympics. This allows viewers to connect to the people they are watching perform in the Olympics. I can’t wait to see how we continue to study women and the media in class!

  4. The Olympics is an interesting topic that I have not thought of. These women are essentially the world leaders for their sport, and its interesting how the media does depict these women with more equality compared to other forms of competitions or award ceremonies. I wonder how this has changed over time, as well as, if men are given an unnoticeable amount of extra screen time. I wonder what the differences are when advertisers choose a certain athlete to support their brand. We do see both genders in these advertisements, but Im curious as to the company’s decision making process on male or female or if gender doesn’t play a role.

  5. Do we view women wrong or are women being portrayed wrong? I wonder if media focuses on certain areas, like clothing and designers, because they are required to or because they believe the people watching care about it? They may think that such high reviews for a show is because of the content, but viewers’ actions and intentions differ.

    I think in regards do your question about the Olympics, the female athletes are represented well during the competition. It is the commentary and assurance that occurs after the events that misrepresent the female athletes. Like Maddie commented, I also notice how female athletes are required to post during photoshoots to remind the viewers of their femininity. Some female athletes struggle with the decision of showing off or hiding their muscles because of how people will judge them. When men are competing, is there any emphasis on their muscle size, or does the media recognize it about females more because it goes against norms?

Leave a Reply to amandadegs Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: