Love Boat was playing this morning on one of the “classic” cable channels. (We have several of these playing anything from Perry Mason to Gilligan’s Island to CHiPs.) I don’t normally turn the TV on in the minutes before we are getting ready to leave the house for the day, but we had a little bit of down time.
This particular episode from 1980 featured Shelley Hack as Carol Ketay, an introverted nuclear physicist and friend of Julie McCoy, the ship’s recreation director. Julie asked the doctor and Gopher to talk to her and keep her company, but Carol’s smarts scared them off. First by doing a crossword puzzle and getting all of the answers quickly and correctly while Dr. Bricker struggled, and secondly because Gopher kept guessing the typical female jobs as her occupation and suddenly ran scared to learn that she worked as a nuclear physicist. It wasn’t even as though she threw down any real knowledge.
And we wonder why women feel discriminated against in the sciences.
Julie prompted her friend to “dress sexy and talk dumb.” I about fell out of my chair. “Mackie,” I told my daughter immediately, “no woman should ever have to play dumb to get a man. Be who you are, not who they want.” At this point, I changed the channel, so I have no idea how this actually ended. She was just kissing some man from the dance floor, but I decided I was done with it.
It isn’t the first time I’ve watched an old show and suddenly bristled up at the role of women. Screaming, fainting, acting completely worthless in an emergency, even if they are supposed to be portraying a stronger character.
I shudder at the old ways of thinking, indoctrination I somehow avoided while growing up in that period of time. Mom insisted that I get an education, travel, and have a life of my own before getting married and having kids. Thank you, Mom! I wish you were still here to tell my daughter the same thing. Hopefully I’ll do just as good a job.
Fortunately, some images are changing. A recent Home Depot commercial shows a mom and teenage daughter refurbishing a bathroom with a new vanity, faucets, and mirrors without any sign of a man helping them out. That’s an excellent message: women can be handy. I learned how to handle tools from my father, and I’m fairly capable of installing a number of fixtures or repairing a faucet or a chair.
Let’s continue to change the image of women in entertainment and marketing.