Yesterday, sharing my Top 7 Reasons Smart Women Should Speak Up with a group of scholars at Carleton University in Ottawa, the conversation turned – as it often does – to the potential aftermath of gaining media profile. Many women worry about the fall-out from this, not wanting to be slagged – either by colleagues who disagree with their analysis, or by mean-spirited internet trolls who insult their appearance, intelligence or right to an opinion.
(Yes, it happens, but you’re the one with the informed insights whose views were deemed of sufficient value to publish or broadcast, not theirs, so let’s be clear about the resentment that’s often behind such critiques. And think about how little sense it makes to lose sleep over attacks coming from anonymous on-line time-wasters too cowardly to even own their identity!)
When I’m moved to write commentary, I never think about such consequences – partly because I’m not an academic and don’t deal with the petty jealousies and power jockeying that often takes place in universities, and partly because being called a feminazi or dog-faced slut hasn’t killed me yet.
Other women are concerned about being seen as promoting themselves. But that’s not what it’s about. By speaking up about something you believe is important and happen to know more about than the average person, you’re sharing information that may help others better understand an issue or make a decision in their – or society’s – best interests. It has nothing to do with self-promotion.
I have a piece in today’s Globe and Mail about the FDA’s recent update on the “relative safety” of breast implants. Whenever I write on this topic, there are probably a few people who wonder about the status of my breasts and/or psyche: why does she care? what does she know? is she bitter because they didn’t work for her? is she trying to deprive guys from enjoying Hooters? does she have any idea of the havoc pregnancy and breast feeding can wreak on beautiful breasts?
The truth is much simpler: in researching a previous book, In Your Face – The Culture of Beauty and You, I learned all sorts of things about the problematic impacts of breast implants that are not commonly understood. It made me incensed that we live in a culture that encourages kids as young as 7 years old to become self conscious about their “breasts” and wonder if they need implants. (True story told to me by a TV reporter about her young niece.) Discovering that implants were becoming a graduation gift of choice in many affluent communities, I collaborated with two amazing media artists to create an online media literacy intervention that would draw attention to the health and financial consequences of implants. Our site, plasticassets.com, won a Huffington Post Contagious Media award for its demonstrated effectiveness at spreading the word.
Which is what it’s all about, for me.