Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Thoughts on Keynote Speaker Dr. Elizabeth Johnston

By: Soleil Griffin
At the Phi Theta Kappa New York Region Honors Conference, there were a variety of Keynote speakers who attended. One speaker in particular, Dr. Elizabeth Johnston, focused her speech on how beauty plays a major role when it comes to getting noticed; especially in politics. The title of her presentation was called “Have You Seen Her? ‘The Politics of Beauty and the Problem of (In)Visibility’”. This is where she focused on how the campaign election could affect Hillary Clinton and how ones beauty affects many women in our society today.
In her speech she noted that beauty could give us access to power; however, that power is always limited. When it comes to getting hired in the work place women tend to earn less than man even if they have the same educational background. That being said, women tend to make up only 4% of CEO’s for Fortune 500 companies. Regardless of whether they meet the qualifications for a job, women tend to be judged based on how they look; which leads to an unbreakable glass ceiling for a woman's career.
When it comes to politics, Dr. Johnston mentioned how, during a survey regarding the election, people expressed their views on why Hillary shouldn’t be our next president. She read off a top ten list that consists of unjust reasons for Clinton to not be in office. The tenth highest reason for her to not be elected was because she was viewed as being “too ugly”. The quote stated that “if nothing else, we want a face that reassures us, not one that scares us”. When she quoted the last reason, I was floored. I couldn’t fathom why people would have such negatively strong views about Clinton’s looks. I never really thought about how she looked as a woman but rather, what she claimed she could do for this country.
Not only did she mention the election, she also brought to our attention how women aren’t in powerful positions when it comes to Congress, Senate or the House of Representatives. She brought up the statistic that there are 19.4% of women in Congress, 20% in Senate, and another 19.3% serving for the House of Representatives. As we can see form those percentages, more women need to be a part of politics since men make up the majority of those in power. She then quoted Helene Cixous from her book ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’ who said, “Women must write herself: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies - for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put herself into the text - as into the world and into history - by her own movement.”

As a result, I felt as though Dr. Johnston’s speech enlightened me. I never sat down and thought about how women still didn’t have enough power in this country. I also never thought about how deodorant, health care, and clothes cost more for woman than men. We tend to appreciate the little power we have here since it’s better than not having power. She ended by quoting Naomi Wolfe, “Beauty is a currency system like the gold standard…and in the modern age in the West it is the last best belief system that keeps male dominance intact.” That’s why the conversation needs to be ongoing in order to see continuous growth and change. 

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