Fo­cus on their sub­stance, not style

The Washington Post - - FREE FOR ALL - Theresa Early, Fair­fax

The Oct. 2 Re­li­able Source in­cluded “Al­li­son Wil­liams says in­car­cer­ated stu­dents de­serve Pell Grants, too,” an item about the ac­tor speak­ing on a panel con­cern­ing help­ing pre­vi­ously in­car­cer­ated women gain ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Wil­liams was de­scribed as “don­ning a black bell sleeve dress” and hav­ing her hair in a braided updo. I was sur­prised to read that she took to the stage don­ning such a dress, as usu­ally peo­ple are al­ready dressed when they are walk­ing onto a stage.

More im­por­tant: Why did her out­fit and hair need to be men­tioned? For­mer sec­re­tary of ed­u­ca­tion John King, who in­tro­duced her, was not de­scribed in terms of his hair­cut or suit.

On a re­cent day, I sighed aloud when read­ing in Seung Min Kim’s De­brief col­umn that pro­fes­sor Chris­tine Blasey Ford spoke in a “girl­ish voice” while tes­ti­fy­ing be­fore a Se­nate panel [“Con­tra­dic­tory sto­ries, sharply con­trast­ing wit­nesses,” news, Sept. 28]. Yet then-Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett M. Ka­vanaugh’s voice was not de­scribed in a man­ner that made him ap­pear child­like.

Let’s have The Post think care­fully about choos­ing words that don’t fo­cus on a woman’s ap­pear­ance or voice and in­stead fo­cus on her ac­tions and the ac­tual words she chooses to use. That’s one step in the right di­rec­tion so that the fact that women hold up half the sky can be hon­ored in­stead of women be­ing marginal­ized.

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