Sexism and Sex-role Stereotyping

In the 70s and 80s, women in Newfoundland and Labrador (and across North America) became concerned with the portrayal of women in the media and educational materials. Women often saw themselves portrayed as sexual objects, as the weaker sex, or only in traditional roles (homemaker/mother). To tackle these issues, individual women and Status of Women Councils wrote “Letters to the Editor” and waged public campaigns against the worst offenders. For instance, the Corner Brook Status of Women Council had a “media watch” and publicly protested a local beauty contest for girls.

The Status of Women Councils also tried to counteract some of the negative or stereotyped images women were seeing. These efforts included the publication of This is Our Work, which showed women in non-traditional jobs, by the Newfoundland Status of Women Council (later St. John’s Status of Women Council) and a program by the Gateway Status of Women Council to help train women for jobs in the oil industry.

We wanted girls to be encouraged to be engineers and doctors – not just shoved in to being a secretary, a nurse, or a teacher… All categories should be open. But in a lot of cases, if a girl went to a guidance counsellor, they’d say, “You know, we need nurses…” Not too often was it said, “How about being a structural fitter?”

– Phyllis Walters, a Founding Mother of the Gateway Status of Women Council