New York (December 8, 2003) -- Last week I admittedly “dumbed down,” as my daughters are fond of saying, and watched a ludicrous reality show titled “Simple Life.”
For those fortunate enough or unlike me, intelligent enough to have missed this classic, the show features two incredibly vacuous and spoiled young women — Hilton Hotels heiress Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie (daughter of performer Lionel Ritchie) — living and working on a genuine Arkansas farm.
This includes getting up at an hour when these two are usually chauffeured home from a frenzied night of clubbing, milk cows, feed livestock and perform other assorted agrarian duties.
Perhaps my favorite moment came when these dolts were given a $50 budget to go shopping and their total came to $65-plus. When they pleaded with an obviously unamused clerk to “just let it go,” they were told that it wasn’t a “soup kitchen.”
Later on, one of them (I can’t remember which, as they’re so incredibly stupid their conversation often fuses together) asked the other exactly what a soup kitchen was.
Conrad Hilton, the late patriarch of the famous lodging family, must have done several Immelman rolls in his grave when his lamebrained blood relation asked if they sell “wall stuff” at retailer Wal-Mart.
Tragically, this duo, who between them couldn’t take a cab to a Mensa meeting, is typical of the image portrayed to younger viewers, particularly impressionable pre-teen and teenage girls who are starting to formulate college, if not career plans.
I mention the Hilton-Ritchie meeting of the minds because the show’s debut coincided with a survey just released by CareerBank.com, which showed that women in the accounting, finance and banking arenas earn an average of 28 percent less than their male counterparts, or in real dollars, roughly $19,596 less.
That’s probably what Paris Hilton spends in one hour on Rodeo Drive. And the news is not much better for females in the boardroom, with 54 of the Fortune 500 companies surveyed by women’s workplace researcher Catalyst, having no female board members, and 208 other firms having only one female director.
Now you could argue indefinitely about the root causes of such inequality, like the padlocked door on the old boys network, gender discrimination et al. And to be sure there’s credence and historical evidence to more than adequately support such arguments.
But the fulcrum to the workplace gender see-saw will never be centered if young viewers both female and male are treated to the images of people such as Ms. Hilton, and others of her ilk like pop singer Jessica Simpson and let’s not forget another potential Ph.D. candidate, Anna Nicole Smith. Is it some bizarre coincidence that all of the above got their own reality TV shows? I think not.
Will ABC, FOX and NBC treat us to a reality show that features high-powered female executives as captains of industry? Maybe when the Cubs win the Series.
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