Friday, February 19, 2021

Pearls, No Wisdom


I’m still rolling my eyes at this piece from Maryland Reporter:

Power Ladies and their Most Adored Pearl Sets, Hannah Madison

Oh my word. Who thought this was a good idea? “Power Ladies?” 

Maryland Reporter calls itself “the news site for government and politics in the Free State.” This piece of content is neither news, politics, nor relevant to the Free State. In short, it’s wildly sexist and embarrassingly out of place. If you have any doubts, ask yourself if have you ever read an article on a news, government and politics site called “Power Gentlemen and their Most Adored Tie Clips?” 

I thought not.

A closer inspection reveals that this piece is labeled “sponsored content”. Oh. It’s an advert? Well, not exactly.

Why would you use sponsored content? By publishing a helpful article, a brand positions themselves as an expert, or a major storytelling voice, in their field. The goal is to establish trust with customers so they can rely on a company’s information and products.  (Native Advertising vs. Sponsored Content: What’s the Difference?)

I’m not exactly sure who Maryland Reporter sees as their “customers” if they think this article is helpful. Quite frankly it plays into the view that physical appearance and calculated adornment are key components of a woman’s success. I find their willingness to promote this on a government and politics site extremely un-helpful. It’s exactly this frame of mind which makes someone like Delegate Rick Impallaria feel comfortable passing judgement on the physical appearance of his female colleagues during a public hearing in the Maryland General Assembly.

While we are at it, I would like to raise a particular objection to this sentence describing former First Michelle Obama:

Her most iconic look was at a White House gala where she teamed up a Tom Binns pearl necklace with her steely persona.  

No. No, no, no, no, no. Just no. Mrs. Obama is the only Black woman included in the article. In describing the other women the word “team” is used to connect clothing with jewelry, such as “... a Dolce & Gabbana gown with luscious layers of Mikimoto pearls.” But for Mrs. Obama the word is used to contrast beautiful jewelry and a tough personality. Why just for the Black woman, I wonder? Doesn’t this feed into the racist “angry Black woman” trope? 

There are so many avoidable errors here that it’s hard to see any reason that Maryland Reporter would voluntarily choose to be the purveyor of this content. It’s worth noting that the only reason I saw it is because Maryland Reporter promoted it on their Twitter feed. They are certainly not trying to hide it. 

What this particular piece tells me is that this site is willing to publish content that paints women as lesser than men. So it’s likely that the people in charge don’t find that view to be a deal-breaker. That, in turn, is sure to influence how they are coverering government and politics in the Free State. For me, that’s a huge drop in credibility. I’d be far less likely to trust things I read there after this.

I hope never to read the words “Power Ladies” again. I’m still trying to get rid of the ickiness factor. 

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