The lies the media tells us about successful women

The media seems intent on pitting women against each other.

The mummy wars – yawn. The way women are represented on reality TV – a confident male cook on a reality show is portrayed in a very different light to a confident female one. The online tabloid articles that seem written with the express intent to stir up hatred and have women fight it out in the comments area. Hey, any engagement is good engagement right? If we were to believe the hype, you’d think women are a bunch of harpies intent on destroying each other. That we are climbing over each other and stepping on each other’s toes in a desperate scramble to the top.

That’s not my reality. It’s not the reality of the women I know. I see support and love, not bickering and judgement. I see celebrations of success, not jealousy. Hey, maybe my glasses are tinted with rosé (cold and bubbly please) but I reckon we women have much bigger hearts and minds than what how we are presented in the mainstream media.

It’s women who bring food, support, a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on when people are in need. It’s something we are taught from girlhood — how to be nurturing and helpful. Celebrating success and helping others get there may not be something we have been given a blueprint for since birth. But I see women revelling in that role. There is genuine joy when another women succeeds. I see women freely giving each other advice and affirmation. I see women creating and building creative and wonderful things together. I don’t see it in the mainstream press. But I see it all around me.

The women I admire greatly – Lisa Messenger, Julia Gillard, Arianna Huffington and Elizabeth Gilbert to name just a few –  are incredibly open with what they have learned and the failures they encountered along the way. They are transparent, vulnerable and accessible in a way that I don’t see with many successful men. There is a palpable sense that these very successful women want to offer a hand up to those that aspire to follow in their footsteps. They are generous. Against the backdrop of what the media paints a successful woman to look like, they would seem exceptions to the rule. But I don’t believe that. I think these women are fairly representative.

The media works in shorthand – in our attention-poor world I suppose it’s quickest to get a point across when it’s tied to a familiar caricature. So we have the hard-nosed success and the kind and compassionate woman and very rarely are we shown someone who encompasses both. The media struggled with representing our first female Australian prime minister without clutching at one dimensional stereotypes. It wasn’t until I was actually lucky enough to hear Julia Gillard speak at a breakfast that I realised she was warm, funny and wise in ways the mainstream media never showed us.

Feminism itself has been the victim of bad press. I am proud to call myself a feminist but it’s telling that so many young women shy away from the term. As though it denotes them as an aggressive man hater rather than a person who believes that men and women should have equal access to opportunity. Which is the press caricature of what a feminist looks like. I love what Amy Poehler has to say about this in reaction to other celebrities saying they aren’t feminists – “But then they go on to explain what they support and live by — it’s feminism exactly… I don’t get it. That’s like someone being like, ‘I don’t really believe in cars, but I drive one every day and I love that it gets me places and makes life so much easier and faster and I don’t know what I would do without it.’”


I am grateful that my reality is being surrounded by supportive, amazing women I admire greatly. Complex, beautiful, intelligent, ambitious and awesome creatures capable of incredible things alone and even more incredible things together.  That’s the realistic world of women I live in and I am just wanting for the media to catch up.

Written By

A self-confessed geek and lover of all things digital, Robyna started her professional life as software developer before moving into IT management and consulting. Her excitement about technology has grown since the rise of social media and she now helps professionals and firms build a strong online presence. She also writes at the Mummy & the Minx about keeping your mojo during motherhood, drinks a lot of coffee and makes her own clothes.


  • I am so over the hype about women not supporting each other in the media, discussion forums, and people ‘creating’ issues to debate to pit women against women. Of course some of us are going to do things differently, have different goals and value systems – that’s the reality of life. Life is difficult enough as it is without creating unnecessary conflict and angst. Let’s call a moratorium on commenting on other women – “live and let live” – and get on with the business of being the best people we can be!

  • I really love women who support each other. I am finding myself gravitating more and more towards the type of women who talk to your face and not behind your back. Honesty means so much more to me now. Thanks for a great article. Bron x

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