Like many of you, I’m an “Apprentice” addict. I love the tasks at which the contestants compete, I love listening to Trump’s corny voice-over advice bits at the beginning of each segment, and most of all, I love watching the interplay of personalities as each competition unfolds. I watch the show every week with my best friend, who is a psychology professor, and we talk endlessly about whether we’ve seen particular behaviors before in people we’ve worked with, what situations bring out particular neuroses in different kinds of people, and whether a particular social interaction between contestants could have gone better if only the people involved had said this instead of that…
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most is that (sexualized sales tactics of the women in the first several episodes aside) the judging of the contestants on the show has seemed to truly be based either on their performance during the tasks, or in how well they defend themselves verbally in the boardroom. Gender stereotyping hasn’t seemed to come into the picture when Trump makes his weekly pronouncement: “You’re Fired!”
I have relished seeing men and women duke it out in this corporate obstacle course, on seemingly equal terms — while I don’t always agree with some contestants’ personal ethical decisions, I do love knowing that young girls tuning in will see just as many female as male faces on the screen. In Linda Tischler’s recent cover story we asked the powerful and, for some, painful question: Where Are the Women? Apparently, a solid handful are on “The Apprentice.”
So it absolutely infuriated me to open my March 1 Newsweek, which features The Donald himself on the cover, and find a decidedly sexist and gender-stereotyped sidebar inside the article, handicapping the outcome of the show. For each woman profiled in the sidebar (which is called “Hire Me! Hire Me!”), there was either a reference to her sex or a female-specific stereotyping phrase:
- Ereka: “Sure she’s hot, but…”
- Omarosa: “The diva to end all divas…”
- Heidi: “…Trump likes strong women.”
- Katrina: “Get this woman a chill pill!”
- Not even the ultra-cool, ultra-professional Amy escaped: “Plus, she’s got Nick wrapped around her little finger.”
And for the men? Not a gender-based reference among them.
They made fun of Troy’s accent, but no commentary on his masculinity as a result. Bill gets only commentary about his hard work, Kwame gets kudos for being a smooth negotiator, and Nick is mentioned for ‘dressing for success’ and failing to be much of a team player.
To me, this says that women are still viewed differently than men in the workplace. For too many employers, colleagues, and yes, magazine commentators, we are still viewed as women first — sexualized and gender-stereotyped beings — and equal competitors second. No wonder so many opt out of such an environment.