Former Today Show host Katie Couric made headlines when she became an anchor for the CBS Evening News. Entering a world of network news dominated by generally older, white men, Couric has often gotten flak for making fashion faux pas or showing off her legs.
She has publicly stated concern over possibly helping set a standard for how female anchors should look. “I sometimes worry that I started this thing, with my legs and everything,” Couric says in the film. She adds later, “I think it’s really hard for women today.”
Photo: Joe Kohen/WireImage
Nancy Pelosi: The Kids Are All Right
In the documentary Miss Representation, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says that when she first ran for office people would frequently ask, “Who’s going to be taking care of your children?” even though her youngest was already a senior in high school. “Of course it’s one of those questions that I don’t think a man has ever been asked when he is running for office,” the current House Minority Leader said.
The comments continued when Pelosi actually entered public office: Conservative news talk show hosts often made derogatory comments such as, “Get another facelift, lady!” and “She’s the Wicked Witch of the West.”
Photo: Getty Images
Hillary Clinton: A Woman for the Oval Office?
As a particularly powerful female politician, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has arguably faced the worst media criticism of any woman in public office. During the 2008 presidential campaign, hecklers followed her to campaign stops, shouting comments such as, “Iron my shirt!” It didn’t stop there. Detractors called her a bitch and questioned her job credentials.
In one clip from the film, Fox political commentator Bill O’Reilly says, “You get a woman in the Oval Office …what’s the downside?” Adds another man, “You mean, besides the PMS and the mood swings?”
Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Sarah Palin: Pornified and Ditzified
Alaska’s former governor Sarah Palin was “pornified and ditzified” when she became Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 race, Miss Representation maintains. Comments on news shows such as, “Sarah Palin looks really hot in that hat” put the focus on female politicians’ appearances instead of their issue positions or accomplishments.
Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Maria Bartiromo: On the Money
Maria Bartiromo, a well-established business news anchor, is part of two shows on CNBC. She is known for being the first reporter to broadcast live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Despite her accomplishments, the journalist was given the nickname “The Money Honey,” which she at first planned to monetize, but later soured on as sexist. The nickname still shows up in media coverage of her.
Photo: NY Daily News/Getty Images
Rachel Maddow: Openly True
Openly lesbian MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow has received much recognition and copious hate mail as her eponymous show has taken off. Speaking about the issue in the documentary film, Maddow says, “Almost all of the hate mail is about gender and sexuality.”
Photo: Getty Images
Daphne Zuniga: Mandatory Botox
Countless actresses have been told they’re not quite good enough the way they are—and we’re not talking about changing appearances to fit a role. In Miss Representation, Daphne Zuniga, (Melrose Place, One Tree Hill) tells of how her agent instructed her to get Botox injections before an upcoming role. “I remember lying in this chair and this fat bald man (was) injecting needles into my forehead, (and I was) bleeding and crying …I remember just thinking, ‘There’s something wrong here.’ ”
Photo: Getty Images
Catherine Hardwicke: Putting Women in the Lead
When Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke was just starting out in show business, she wrote some scripts with female leads. Hardwicke was told by studio executives, “There are no bankable actresses” and that her film (which turned out to be the award-winning Thirteen) would have to be “super low budget” since it did not have a strong male lead.
Years later, two major studios turned down the idea for Twilight—which includes a female lead and was directed by Hardwicke—before a new studio picked it up.