Good Girl’s Revolt

I grew up in a household where chores were labeled “blue jobs” and “pink jobs.” Anything that involved outdoor work or heavy lifting was a blue job for boys, and anything indoors, which was mostly cleaning, was a pink job for girls. Growing up this way made me believe that women were the weaker sex. It trained me to think that my job was inside of the house, and my brother’s job was outside. These gender roles date way back to the earliest centuries.

In ancient Greece, women were not even allowed to leave the house while men left every day to work outside or go out with their male friends. This gender divide has formed a perception that women are less capable than men, and in ancient Greece, it left women far less educated than men because they never got to experience anything in the outside world.

In my household growing up, the “blue jobs” and “pink jobs”  made me believe that women’s primary role was inside of the house, doing the easier work, while men’s was outside doing the hard work.

The Good Girl’s Revolt, a book by Lynn Povich, is a true story about when men ran the field of journalism and oppressed women at publications like The Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, etc. Men wanted to take over the challenging, distinguished and well-paying jobs while they left women with fact-checking and research roles in journalism.

Povich graduated from Vassar College in New York and was hired as a secretary at Newsweek. She accepted the job as an entry level position, hoping to work her way up to becoming a reporter. What she did not know, however, was that she had no chance of achieving her goals because Newsweek simply did not hire female reporters.

Povich could not understand why, after all the time she had been at Newsweek, she could not seem to get promoted, no matter how much she had asked and tried. Povich said that it never occurred to her that it was an issue of sex discrimination, until she spoke with other female coworkers and realized that it was.

“It put a finger on what we were feeling – tremendous self-doubt. Once I understood that things aren’t just my problem, they’re a problem and it made me bolder, more willing to push for my stories and realize I am as smart as the dude sitting next to me,” said Jessie Ellison, writer and editor at Newsweek.

In 1970, the women at Newsweek hired an attorney and sued the publication for discrimination. The men at the publication were surprised and many tried to laugh it off, saying that women were simply not capable of doing the reporting jobs that men do. They had a preconceived image of women working as researchers and fact-checkers at the newspaper, until they ran off and got married and became stay-at-home housewives. The Editor-in-Chief of the publication, Oz Elliot, first said that the gender divide was “tradition,” and it should not change.

Several years and two lawsuits later, Lynn Povich and the women at Newsweek won their battle against sex discrimination. In 1975, Povich was promoted to senior editor at Newsweek and was the first female to hold that position.

As a woman in journalism, I am inspired by the group of women at Newsweek to reach higher than what society expects of me because of my gender. This liberation showed women in a different light, in comparison to their male coworkers and bosses. It surprises me that men really did not think women were as strong and capable as them.  As women rise up to get the power and equality we deserve, men need to support and help balance their gender roles accordingly.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook said, “We reward men every step of the way – for being leaders, for being assertive, for taking risks, for being competitive and we teach women as young as four – lay back, be communal. Until we change that at a personal level, we need to say there’s an ambition gap. We need our boys to be as ambitious and contribute in the home and we need our girls to be as ambitious in the workforce.”