GIRLS CLUB-YET ANOTHER NEGATIVE
PORTRAYAL OF WOMEN IN THE MEDIA
by Megan Terrell
As if the depiction of women
lawyers in the media hasn't been bad enough, Fox recently introduced
a new series into the mix, Girls Club. This hour long
drama, although only one episode into its first season, which
is hopefully its last, is morally repulsive to say the least.
I was not only deeply offended by the show, but also extremely
disappointed. The executive producer/writer turned what could
have potentially been a great topic and television show into
a professional women's worst nightmare. The amount of respect
women attorneys get now, which is often times very little, has
been amazingly lessened in the mind of any male who happened
to watch the show.
Girls Club attempts to
tackle the trials and tribulations of three up-and-coming female
associates in what is perceived to be a medium-sized law firm.
Jeanne, Lynn, and Sarah, the three main characters, are roommates
who attended law school together and most recently work together.
The first episode tackles several hurdles that women professionals
often must jump during their careers, most of which are handled
inappropriately by the show.
First, Jeanne is sexually harassed by one of the male partners
in the firm. She is hugged, touched, fondled, asked out, and
treated in an altogether demeaning fashion. The partner's initial
advances are shrugged off by the character, who by the end of
the show is extremely distraught and in tears. The partner is
of course a married man. Although sexual harassment is an unfortunate
reality women must sometimes face, television shows have a tendency
to play down the seriousness of the crime. It will be interesting
to see how Girls Club deals with the situation during
the next few episodes. I can only hope it will be handled in
a more tasteful and serious manner than the encounters of the
first episode were; I personally won't know as I doubt I will
tune in to Girls Club next week.
Second, Lynn is portrayed as a somewhat incompetent lawyer who
lacks confidence in her professional abilities. For instance,
she is seen at the beginning of the show writing and rewriting
her opening statement, and then practicing repeatedly for her
roommates/colleagues. She appears nervous and unsure of herself.
Later, we see her practicing again in front of the bathroom
mirror, and again looking flustered and frustrated. I do recognize
that attorneys, both women and men, are often nervous before
courtroom appearances, especially their first courtroom experience,
and that these routines are commonplace. As a second year law
student myself, I can usually be found in front of a mirror the
day before I am due to give an oral argument. However, male
attorneys are rarely, if ever, shown second guessing themselves.
When is the last time a man is depicted as lacking in confidence
and questioning his abilities in his role as an attorney? I
personally cannot think of such a thing ever happening. Male
attorneys are instead depicted as having the utmost confidence
in their abilities; I might even go so far as to call it a "God-like"
complex, although this is usually seen as heroic. Lynn's goal
in the first episode is apparently to not let the men get the
best of her and is made clear by her dialogue with a male partner,
"If you want to make me cry, it won't work". She says
this on the verge of tears after getting lectured on her courtroom
Finally, and most appalling, the women are seen throughout the
show gossiping, bickering, and complaining about their fellow
employees. This is often done in an office or room with the
door wide open so that everyone can be made aware of their unprofessional
conduct as if it is expected. They refer to the male partners
as "dicks" and the female partner as a "praying
mantis". It is as if women cannot accept the hierarchy
of the workplace and must find a way to belittle others in a
higher position in order to make themselves feel better. In
fact, the women are supposed to be lower on the totem pole because
they are newly hired associates, fresh out of law school. Everyone
must start somewhere, but in order to climb the ladder of success
one must work hard and be professional, not bitch and complain.
And I should point out that most women are quite capable of
climbing that ladder, as capable as their male counterparts,
but one would not know this if their only encounter with women
attorneys was the portrayal of them on television and elsewhere
in the media spotlight.
In Girls Club Sarah is shown whining and squabbling with
another female associate, not one of the three main characters.
She is upset because the partner chose the other woman to take
the lead in handling a new case, a case that Sarah claims she
deserves because she brought in the client. The partners see
the other associates as the better attorney for the job; however,
Sarah is convinced she was tricked and swindled out of the job.
This portrays women as petty and unable to accept when others
have proved themselves to be more capable than they are.
In fact, the most disturbing part of the show comes when Sarah
confronts the other associate about her suspicions of being sabotaged
out of the job. She rants and raves for a minute or two and
then shockingly calls the associate a name-[a negative slang
which is unfortunately used by some when referring to a lesbian,
but which I have more respect than to use myself]. She quickly
apologizes, "I'm so sorry. I don't know where that came
from. I mean, I love homosexuals." This is a poor attempt
at a punch line and an extremely insensitive way to handle a
delicate topic. The use of this word during the show, which
has hateful and violent connotations in the real world, is used
in such a way to show that professional women are unable to accept
defeat. Although the writer may have intended other messages
from this dialogue, it was done in a much too disgusting way
that it portrayed nothing but stupidity and ignorance. In reality
and in spite of what some may think, women are not this immature.
But is does suit the media to portray us as such for ratings,
while at the same time portraying professional males as heroes
and people to be respected.
In sum, Girls Club portrays women as bickering, incompetent,
emotion-driven sex symbols who can't keep their personal attitudes
outside of the office. When defeated, women must resort to name
calling and "bitching". This, I hate to inform the
general public, is not the way most women handle themselves professionally.
We are every bit as capable as out male counterparts to function
civilly in a professional environment, despite how the media
likes to depict us. I would dare to challenge writers and producers
to create a show in which reality might actually become truthful
Posted November 26, 2002