A Legacy Diminished

Have you heard about Nakano Takeko?  She was one of the last samurai who formed an all-female battalion to defend her shogun during the Boshin War. Yeah, this woman was a freakin’ badass. She even took a bullet to the chest and then had her sister behead her so that the enemy couldn’t take her head as a war trophy. Incredible. The stuff of legends, really.

But you know what’s not so impressive? The fact that a history site decided to lead with “she was good-looking, well-educated, and came from a powerful samurai family” in their post about her.

Now let me get this straight. She was a proficient fighter, led a group of warriors into battle as a female in one of the strictest male-dominated cultures of the time and they lead with “she was good-looking?” And then followed up with a shout out to her family. Want to bet on whether a man wrote this caption or not? You should just give me your money because we both know the answer.

Let me tell you about Dorothy Hodgkin, a brilliant chemist whose contributions to science, and specifically chemistry, were astounding and deservedly won her the Nobel Prize in 1964. But guess what the newspaper’s headline was? “Nobel Prize for British Wife.” Seriously? They couldn’t come up with something a little less sexist like “Nobel Prize for Deserving Chemist?” Nope, they had to go with the woman’s marital status. I mean, can you imagine if a man won the Nobel and the headline read “Nobel Prize for British Husband?” It just wouldn’t happen. Wouldn’t have happened then and wouldn’t happen now.

But that’s not all. In her Nobel Prize biography, they didn’t just talk about her accomplishments, oh no. They also devoted paragraphs to the accomplishments of her father, husband, and children. Meanwhile, male biographies just mentioned their family in a sentence or two, with their own accomplishments rightfully taking center stage. Women are routinely reduced to their family and relationship status rather than being recognized for who they are and what they’ve achieved. And sadly, this kind of bias still happens today.

Imagine a doctor who has worked their entire life on finding the cure for cancer, and they’ve finally done it! After many years of giving their blood, sweat, and tears to their work – all to make the world a better place, they’ve accomplished something no one else has ever done. Their work will change the face of humanity as we know it. They should be hailed as a hero. They’re a shoo-in for the Nobel Prize. However, the subsequent news headline reads, “Woman sacrifices having a family just to find cure for cancer.” Or “In finding a cure for cancer, woman’s biological clock has run out.” Or “Accomplished accordionist, John Doe, proud of wife’s scientific contribution.” Or “With her long-suffering husband by her side, this fresh-faced wife discusses contribution to cure for cancer.”

Can you imagine if these types of headlines were written about men? Here are a few rewrites to give you an idea.

Man Finding an American Lion Tooth Fossil in Shallow Mississippi is “the biggest of Deals” to Scientists

Rewrite: Breaking news: Man discovers ancient American Lion tooth, claims it’s the biggest accomplishment since he last found his car keys. Scientists impressed by his ability to find something in plain sight.

Jeff Bezos Just Gave $100 Million to Dolly Parton for Her Charity as the 3rd Winner of His “Courage and Civility Award” Prize

Rewrite: Clingy Much? Bezos Gifts Dolly Parton Huge Sum of Money to Be Friends

Obama Joins Republicans to Sign STOCK Act, Outlawing Congressional ‘Insider Trading’

Rewrite: Michelle’s Husband Does His Job

World’s Sexiest Doctor Raffles Himself for Date to Raise Money for Charity.

Rewrite: I’ve got nothing.  He IS sexy.

It’s time for us to shift our perspective and recognize women for their accomplishments rather than their relationships. Rather than headlines like “Mother of three wins Nobel Prize,” let’s focus on the achievement itself and celebrate the individual for their hard work and dedication. We need to move away from the outdated and limiting view that a woman’s worth is tied to her marital and maternal status, and instead celebrate their individual achievements and contributions to society.