Women still seen as objects not agents in 'powerful' list
Women's power is still measured by popularity instead of their ability to effect change, writes Julia Molony
How do we define what makes a powerful woman in today's world?
A recent list published by Forbes magazine listing the top 100 female power players of 2010 prompts the question. For men, it seems, the answer is self-evident. Captains of industry, world leaders, those who influence opinion and public policy. For men, power is measured in political, economic and military terms. But the definition seemingly differs when applied to women. Forbes names Michelle Obama as number one, while Oprah Winfrey is number three and Lady Gaga comes in at number seven. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, thankfully gets a look in at number four, having dropped from number one since last year, while Hilary Clinton, arguably the most powerful female in American politics, is ranked at number five.
Does Lady Gaga count as a captain of industry? Certainly, she represents a very powerful brand. An extremely smart and creative one. Of course, she has managed to tap the pocket money of an entire generation, which no doubt adds up to a power of sorts. But she's not the CEO of her brand, she's the commodity. Sure, she's parlayed a unique sort of creativity into significant personal wealth. But her ranking is not based on her being the seventh-most powerful woman in the world in fiscal terms. It relates to the extent of her fame. Which is a rather dubious measure of influence. She's dictated to not only by her record company, but, by her own admission, is also at the mercy of her mercurial fans. The last time she appeared in the news before the Forbes story, was under headlines describing how her record company had directed her to gain weight, having decided she was too thin. Which doesn't sound like power to me. What's more, the way she uses her popular appeal is not particularly meaningful. She is the object, not the agent, of her own success.