thumbnail of The First Amendment; Jean Rhenhardt
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
The First Amendment and a free people weekly examination of civil liberties in the media in the 1970s produced by WGBH radio Boston cooperation with the Institute for democratic communication at Boston University. The host of the program is the institute's director Dr. Bernard Rubin. How do the media depict or portray the almost 52 percent of the American population that is one of the largest minorities in our country I am of course referring to American women and very happy to have as my guest today is Jean C Reinhardt whose Reinhard has a master's degree in English literature from Trinity College and two master's degrees one from Catholic University in Speech and Drama and one from Boston University in communications. She's worked in production in the professional theatre in New York and Washington D.C. in New York City she was also an assistant to Audrey
wood to the office an artist representative who represents an elite group of Broadway playwright. She spent three years in Germany directing armed forces productions in the United States Army program and for a number of years taught speech and communication at colleges in New England and New York. GINA RINEHART I said that women are a minority group. Is that an accurate statement from the point of view of the research that you have just completed for the Institute on this subject. Well certainly I wouldn't have except as an accurate description of womankind up until quite recently because I had simply never thought of women as a minority group and I don't think very many other women would accept that sort of designation. I don't think women categorize themselves in that way in any respect. But if you approach it from a different point of view they are set apart physically.
You can distinguish a woman also. They are not always too happy about meeting women. And we at the Oscars are why is that. And I think that you you have to come to the conclusion that there is a little bit of self-hatred involved. The there is an image that is not as perfect in terms of what they are able to do in society as they would like. All right now if this is true in a number of women in part your thesis is that it is because of the imagery and depictions of women and that women have been a following the classic victimization patterns of minorities victimized and to a certain degree are still victimized by the mass media.
Well the central point is the victimization I think is the limitation of what a woman is expected to do. Girls are. Going through the same courses of education and training as boys are studying in high school taking more or less the same courses and everyone is urging them to achieve and to do the best they can for what kind of future. You know if if a girl is going to be a housewife and that's what she has made up her mind to or at least she usually comes to accept that future for herself when she's about high school age. What's the point of achieving any more. You know what is the point of being superior in math or in the sciences if you are not about to have a career. Now that in those areas that that's the central part of the great publicity given to
for example the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment with Phyllis Schlafly and people like that on one side and Betty Friedan and people like that on the other yes they are upholding the stereotype when they want more than anything else for women to be sure that their role as wives and mothers in the home is going to be protected. And unfortunately it is not as secure as it once was because more and more women are being forced into the market place more and more women are going to work. Now as I listen to the battle for the Equal Rights Amendment around the country and I mention Phyllis Schlafly who is one of the one of the leaders and Betty Friedan on the other side let's start with Phyllis Schlafly. What basically is the media message now to concert on the media messages that she is shown as espousing what what's the popularisation the one side of the the media generally
carry it. Well we have a nice old stereotype of the good woman the virtuous woman. It is been idealized throughout our history period of the Civil War and down through. The mass media of the popular ladies magazines of the day as they have come down to our own times they have the Ladies Home Journal all of the ladies homilies have reflected the image of the domestic woman and it was strongly reinforced during the 50s when women went back with a sort of renewed enthusiasm they left their jobs in industry and settled down to be watched as mothers media's strongly reinforced that and it is continued I mean the the image has not really changed all that much. And the housewife image so what.
The Phyllis Schlafly is of the world who want to protect the image of the woman as a housewife despite the fact that I think the latest statistics show that more than 60 percent of American women are doing so out of the home work outside the home with 42 percent women between 60 and 60 or labor force. I thought it was higher than I thought it was something in the 60s is 42 percent you say. Well now on the other side you have the Betty Friedan's and the Bella Abzug and people like that what. What is their message that is portrayed by the media. What gets through all the through the popularisation of this battle. Well the issue is it is a woman rightfully in this world to assume dominant or in an aggressive image is she to be something other than a housewife and play other roles to the hilt and
get approval from society for this. Now the problem with the media is that those in these roles haven't been reflected too well in the media. So if Sheriff Lee is doing pretty well she's getting a lot of media reinforcement. BELL Absolutely. Aggressive politicians women who assume leadership roles that require aggressive or dominate behavior have serious problems because they have to identify them so out against what culturally can only identify themselves. Well now if this is all more or less preface to some of your major inquiries as to women in the broadcast industries or as you put it women as broadcast news makers just generally what is the situation now. Women whether they're on one of the
two stereotypical size that we just talked about which really don't represent the the discussions that women are having from one person to another or with with man they represent only two points of view. Obviously women have to take an important position as news makers. How receptive are the media to their role and what is the role that is commonly held by the woman now in the in the media. Women have not been too visible as newsmakers the United States Commission on Civil Rights recently published a report titled window dressing on the set. In which they determine that only about seven percent of the broadcast newsmakers are women who appeared visually and were mentioned by name in television news broadcasts are 7 percent it is is a very small amount I mean you know how does this compare with reality.
I know that when they appear for example one charming woman who happens to be a black woman who appears on one of the networks Carol Simpson I think is possibly an outstanding reporter. I have no way of knowing that because so far as I am concerned you know her role is to make appearances rather than to be seen as a news maker. Yes I think that probably the role of women in broadcasting has a powerful effect on creating an image of women with the public. Because reporters and experts above all probably the anchor woman in the news broadcast is appearing in an authoritative position she's telling you what the situation is and you are called
upon to. At least recognize her position as purveyor of information as she is assuming the position of authority. So then therefore this is a good a good situation when more women take up the the wrong person to north already and are seen by millions of people. This is true then in your view on the local local scene as well as on the national scene. I think it certainly is and I wish that more women would win serious roles as reporters and we certainly have had a long series of battles over the anchor positions in the network broadcasts. Barbara Walters is certainly. Had a rather difficult time I think. Probably because we have trouble sorting
out women and show biz values and women as serious professionals. And in the case of an individual like Miss Walters who receives a very high salary to tend to get a little bit mixed up. Now if we are going to have new opportunities for women and again we're dealing here with a lot with a role model by implication we're going to have to have all the media seriously considered them for all the jobs on my merit basis. What's the significance of the New York Times decision and the women's protests at that newspaper on a little while ago. GINA RINEHART. The unique thing about the decision at the times or was that.
They made an across the board settlement that by which the management agreed to place women in senior positions in each department and at the most senior levels of management. There have been suits and settlements out of court in all three of the networks but none of them have reached conclusions that guaranteed the placement of women in such high management positions. I think probably this. Opportunity to get into really senior positions is going to be a significant factor in improving the situation of women in the news media broadcasting media as well. Now the New York Times has had for a number of years a distinguished correspondent Flora Lewis heading its European bureau.
And so your point then is that not only should there be women correspondents but a crucial crucial factor is whether women have executive positions in determining what the editorial policy should be what the layout of the newspaper is going to be the next day and what the editorial conference sounds and looks like by being represented is that is that the crucial thing. I think that women in policymaking positions are probably the only factor that will lead us to a thorough going changes that will allow more equal representation for women as it is now 10 percent. Broadcast TV correspondents are women. Well it should be more. And I think that probably the senior management positions in time will bring that about. Mostly you run into the other
problem of the visible woman at the top who dare not lean too far in favor of her own sex who you know involve the role right. There is no movement. In the world called networking. Understand that women who do achieve these positions keep in touch with one another and confirm is that is that a key element of moving the situation toward a better role for women as quickly as possible networking. Yes establishing the old girls network if we may use the phrase Yeah. It certainly should be a key to assisting women to find the jobs. I think a large part of the problem is that the ole boys system is just working too well. Many of our tendency to see themselves in senior
positions and it's a little more difficult to see women in that role and they have not done so frequently so that unless there is an information network operating girls don't really have that good a chance. Let me ask you picking up on your theme about what is portrayed. What do you find most salient about the dramatic portray women. When I say television. The dramatic portrayal or the portrayal of women in the news through commercials through drama. What is the what are the things that we see what do women see about themselves. I think that there were probably years seen in the last waning days of the women in you know
motherly housewife roles in the situation comedies because. And we're probably see going to see less women as housewives even in commercials because fewer women are identifying with them. Creasing Lee as they go to work seeing themselves as something other Their house was obviously commercials are set up to sell household products. Do you think some of them are condescending For example I saw one the other day which surprised me a little bit. It was for one of those one of those formulas that you take to be rejuvenated or to keep yourself as vigorous as possible. And this young man is talking to this young woman and he says something a little let's call her good true to a girl that wasn't her name. Good food is a good friend of mine. We live together imply that we live together. And I wanted to take good care of herself.
It was a condescending for for a Commercial Advertiser to jump on the women's lib bandwagon in that way. Yes I think so. There are more and more attempts to show us what women who say that they are working women. We have a lady welder for example but she's marketing a product which will take care of her permanent press. And we have the lady with the briefcase who was absolutely dumbfounded at the necessity of walking into a drugstore and asking for a breath freshener. It seems to me that she you know earlier versions of that commercial used to identify herself as a lawyer which made me tremble for her client. Well I'm always amused at the commercials and again I'm just taking off without being accurate as to the context where somebody walks and talks of the drug or sins and says I have Belgian
Congo disease or something and I've just been attacked by a leopard. And in a very quiet form the the druggist talks about one of the most personal kind of problems that you can have and said Won't take X Y Z all of my other customers do. More important though is some of your comments in your research that I read about glamour girls that the portrayal of women a glamour girls you use that expression is now on the wing. Is that going to help I don't know that I said that that was on the wane I really sort of think it will never be completely on the wane I possibly there is less of a tendency to approach women just as sex objects but on the grounds that might be offensive to a great many of them. But I I think that probably the woman as
enchanters and the woman is the doctor is one of the most ancient stereotypes of women will probably always be with us to some extent. But the women the woman the widow and the woman. The major work person in the family the woman who is left alone tending three children without much help. The woman on welfare the woman who has to visit her husband or friend in the hospital every single day and loosely that kind of woman is not a glamour girl and we almost never see her outside of a few rather almost area typical because they are presented so consciously. Public television programmes or occasionally from the the commercial stations locally International that they they show the other woman which whose ranks is legion. Well wouldn't it be wonderful if we could see a little more diversity.
And better reflexion. There are great numbers of healthy vigorous energetic active achieving women that we have and they are certainly many of them not working. Many of them are taking care of their families because taking care of families is very big and time consuming operation and it's a job that requires a lot of attention in the media though I'm not geared up to it especially the visual media not really geared up to present that's not entertaining. He doesn't meet some of the standard to entertain my age has been one of their or cherished ideas that housewives were not interesting. I think possibly they have not consulted a woman writer who had some experience as a housewife. Perhaps there are some potentials there that they haven't explored. I don't know that they ever will. The repertoire of women's women's roles
is extremely narrow. Actresses who get to the age of 40 begin to think that unless they visit a plastic surgeon they will perhaps never work again. One of the most interesting forms of presenting the cause of women is not in the way in such a format as this program. Intellectual discussion or even in terms of the Davis house kind of thing or documentaries more graphic visuals are shown. But in the soap operas and I was wondering are we missing a boat here. The image of a woman in one of the most popular forms of entertainment that the world has ever seen the. What was the radio soap opera now the television soap opera. Shows a woman who often doesn't exist in real life except that everything shown has elements of truth in it. Can we make that more truthful if women were to patrol and portray themselves by writing scripts. Or would they just continue the Lampoon
notice Oprah. Well we've been almost in founded the soap opera form and they certainly dominated particularly in your early years so that the soap opera is sort of famine famine in creation. I think soap operas are very self-consciously presenting women with more glamorous perhaps more affluent image. Womanhood is appropriate for the average woman. They certainly have a great deal more activity in their lives a lot more things happen to the heroines of soap operas than. We would ever hope for her whole life. Collectively they represent all of the things that do happen to to women and to men. They're becoming more self-conscious. The authors and producers of soap operas are
presenting real problems that do affect people they have taken up such issues as the generation gap and mastectomies any number of serious problems that would never have been considered a few years ago it used to be that if someone had a disease in a soap opera it had to be a very mysterious disease because otherwise large numbers of the audience would catch it. But as they have become more relevant they get perhaps into a little bit more dangerous territory as well. I think it's probably a good thing to do present the problems and show people coping with them. Because there are a lot of people out there facing the same problems who think perhaps there isn't any way to cope with them in that way they probably are therapeutic.
But Jean Ron Howard when you look at the media as you have do you come away from your study with the feeling that we have made some substantial progress in presenting the cause of women or the depiction of women in the media or are we on a plateau. It seems to me that we're making rather steady progress. In the presentation of women in an active role through news broadcast simply because gradually they are achieving more active roles more women are being elected to public office. More women are being appointed to official offices. Gradually it's improving women are becoming more secure as practitioners in the media.
As far as the dramatic presentation of women is concerned I think we need new blood. I certainly would like to see more women writing and producing. We have a marvelous woman writer Joan Tewksbury. We have Joe darling who produced Mary Hart and we have lots of talent you know. The networks would make use of a little more of it I think we would all be grateful just for the variety of image and ending of the fluffy type of woman portrayed as a woman detective or police woman or that sort of light cartoon character perhaps. Well I'm not sure the policewoman was a good example of a cartoon character that was another show that tended to deal with some serious issues.
But there certainly is a general tendency toward a fluffy scape as a lightweight bubble headed migraine of sitcoms lately. My three angels I I think you make some contribution to the cause. Very self-reliant people and some people have even suggested that they have machismo. I just want a lot of that you know what you mean seen Reinhard I want to thank you for going into some of the some of the subtleties and a little less consternation on the polemics them usually floats around in discussions of this subject. And I'm looking forward to seeing your work in print shortly for this edition. Bernard Reuben. The First Amendment and a free people. A weekly examination of civil liberties in the media and 970 program is produced in cooperation with the Institute for democratic
The First Amendment
Jean Rhenhardt
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/15-257d866k).
"The First Amendment is a weekly talk show hosted by Dr. Bernard Rubin, the director of the Institute for Democratic Communication at Boston University. Each episode features a conversation that examines civil liberties in the media in the 1970s. "
Talk Show
Social Issues
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
Production Unit: Radio
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: 79-0165-06-28-001 (WGBH Item ID)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Generation: Master
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “The First Amendment; Jean Rhenhardt,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 21, 2019,
MLA: “The First Amendment; Jean Rhenhardt.” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 21, 2019. <>.
APA: The First Amendment; Jean Rhenhardt. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from