Synopses & Reviews
A powerful and witty expose of how the media distorts news about women
A strange duality affects the news media today. The more that women advance in the worlds of business, academia, medicine, and law, the gloomier news about women and their achievements becomes. As statistics report the rise in the number of women obtaining college and advanced degrees, the media increasingly tells them that this is a terrible mistake and that only by returning to traditional roles of wife and mother can women find true happiness. The message is that if women do achieve, they will make themselves and their families miserable. This message, often based on specious scientific studies and reports, gets played over and over again in televised newscasts, print newspapers, the internet, and other media outlets purporting to be objective.
Rivers, a journalist who has written extensively in the behavioral sciences, exposes the many ways news media distort stories about women. According to Rivers, these stories sell because they play to the fears of affluent women, one of the most desirable consumer markets. Rivers's topics, literally pulled from the headlines, include negative representations of working mothers and latch-key kids, stories that exaggerate the perils of childcare and divorce, media treatment of powerful political figures like Elizabeth Dole, Teresa Heinz, and Hillary Clinton, and news as poli-porn (sex and death-obsessed tales of pretty, white girls and women like Jon-Benet Ramsay, Chandra Levy, and Natalee Holloway). Rivers also revisits ongoing debates about male and female brainpower and the claim that the attention paid to girls in schools is ruining boys' chances for achievement and success. She examines how the media has collaborated with George W. Bush and the political right to wage war on birth control and abortion. Her conclusion suggests what can and must be done to halt the news media's assault on women.