As the end of October beckons, Domestic Violence Awareness month comes to a close. This year there was little in the press that I saw raising consciousness and driving awareness. The world did not turn purple for DV awareness. Maybe that’s because it is competing with campaigns like “Save the Boobies” for breast cancer awareness and the world turns pink for a problem that will impact 1 in 8 women.
That’s the power of marketing and a good catchy phrase like “Save the TaTa’s”. There is no such thing for domestic violence (or prostate cancer either, which will impact 1 in 6 men). It’s just not sexy to talk about emotional abuse, physical abuse that leaves bruises, and the long term damage that is done to children when they are witness to parents attacking each other. No corporation like Campbell’s Soup Company is willing to get behind a non-profit that wants to stop DV but they will for breast cancer. Okay the NFL did, but only under extreme duress and only when one of their players was caught on video literally knocking his spouse out and dragging her. It was a token effort at best, with someone hired to be the face, and put out a report and recommendations.
But we can talk about breast cancer all day long. Heck the Susan G. Komen foundation walks are three days long and are sponsored by Bank of America, Amgen and Mohawk Flooring. See? A bank with a need for good PR that makes sense. A drug manufacturer – chemotherapy that makes sense. A FLOORING COMPANY?!!? Yes. That makes sense also. Women buy interior design products. A lot. It’s good marketing for Mohawk. Someone should get an AttaPerson for that decision.
Domestic violence though is just not attractive no matter what you do to dress it up, it’s still mean, ugly, painful, and every story hurts. In a nod to Sarah Palin, I’m going to say “You can’t even put lipstick on this pig.”
Which is why we need to still talk about it. It’s why I do this series every year, because it’s a much bigger problem than most people understand and no one wants to talk about it. If they are willing to discuss it, it’s in the most superficial and dismissive ways of “we have to end it” and then offer no solutions or understanding of the root causes. Much like the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, which similarly gets reactionary expressions of concern, and then little if any, actually meaningful discussion or change happens.
This past weekend TheWrap.com’s foundation WrapWomen hosted the Power Women Summit at the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica. Thursday night about 500 women gathered to discuss how to move the entertainment industry towards a 50/50 status of male and female staffers in the workplace. It was a lovely event that began with a cocktail reception and performance by Chrissy Metz who was then interviewed by Editor Sharon Waxman.
I thought the interview was very empowering and interesting – to a point. The story of Chrissy’s journey from smallish town Florida to Hollywood Agent to award winning actress was a study in how to make it in life and an industry that is wearing, cutthroat and brutal. Her success is definitely to be lauded. What I found disconcerting was the need to discuss Chrissy’s size. She’s a big woman. But so what? She’s a good actress. She’s a good performer. She’s a good cast member who shows up on time, ready to work, lines memorized and with a good attitude. These are the things that keep her employed. Maybe she got the job because there was a casting note that fit her, but that’s not what keeps her there. I could be wrong, but I think the emphasis of the Power Women Summit should be on things that actually empower women. Things like the skills and attitudes that will keep someone climbing that ladder.
I had the same reaction at the end of the event. The final reception was on Friday and there was the usual snack food of pizza slices, sliders and ice cream (all mini sized so you can eat three of them and not feel guilty). In the sponsor room were those companies that paid to be pressing the flesh with the attendees. There were about 6 artists selling paintings and sculptures, a jewelry maker with necklaces to be embossed with “your word of intention.” There was the ubiquitous candle seller. And then there was LinkedIn.
LinkedIn was there with an employee of Chad Hudson Events, the event planner, to help the guests take photos for their LinkedIn profiles. I thought this was genius, and a true benefit to those who attended. The three photo stands that LinkedIn had were being manned (yes I went there!) by Casey King, who was assisting people with getting well lit, properly focused photos with appropriate backgrounds for their LinkedIn profiles.
I think if the point of the Power Women Summit was to assist women be more professional, career capable and have greater representation in the workforce and upper management they need to have more companies like LinkedIn providing actual useful tools and get away from the art and candles crowd. But hey, I’m just a guy, what do I know?
I guess the point of this column is that we seem to avoid talking about the difficult subjects, and prefer to have feel good campaigns like “Save the Ta Ta’s” and buy a “confidence candle” than to confront the hard problems and needs. In my estimation, we haven’t discussed domestic violence in a meaningful way that addresses the problem from a holistic aspect that takes into consideration both men’s and women’s needs and perceptions. In the same way we haven’t discussed what makes women successful in the business world and emphasized the skills that break down barriers.
We need to have both those conversations and more.