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Friday, June 17, 2011

Are Women Being 'Dumbed Down'???

'Think' Author Says Celebrity Culture Is Scrambling Women's Brains

Psst -- put down that copy of Us Weekly you're reading, pronto. It may be turning your brain into soup.

In her book "Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World," CBS legal analyst Lisa Bloom says she's sending a wake-up call to women that the more they obsess about pop culture drivel, the less intellectual they'll become. Instead, their distracted minds will just get foggier and fuzzier than ever.

Bloom says she wrote the book for women in particular because they're the ones lured most by celebrity gossip. Men's minds, she says, are also at risk, but they have different addictions -- like porn, for example -- pulling them away from what really matters.

"Think" opens with two startling statistics: Twenty-five percent of young women in the United States say they'd prefer to win the "America's Next Top Model" title over the Nobel Peace Prize, and 23 percent say they'd rather lose their ability to read than their svelte figures.

MyDaily spoke to Bloom, the daughter of high-profile feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, about whether our minds are truly in danger of turning to mush, what we can do to stop the downward spiral, and whether it's all just a vast media-driven conspiracy aimed at numbing us into oblivion.

MyDaily: What specific example of American women's brains turning to mush persuaded you to write this book -- or was it a whole host of things?

Lisa Bloom:
There are a lot of examples: the statistic that 25 percent of American women would rather win "America's Top Model" than the Nobel Prize and roughly the same number would rather lose their ability to read than their figures. When I read that, I got very upset, frankly, and I thought, We really have a problem, but maybe I'm overreacting. I did a lot of research and found that I wasn't overreacting. The problem is actually worse than I could have imagined. The tabloid media, not only does it make women less intelligent, but it makes them more narcissistic and self-loathing.

Do you think there's a chance that even though you've written this in the name of feminism, it will come across as sexist? Do you think you could find an opposing set of studies suggesting women are, in fact, getting smarter and more worldly?

For women, it's the best of times and the worst of times. We're kicking ass in education, we're overwhelming the boys. There's no question that we're very smart. I don't say that women are stupid -- far from it. We're blowing away the boys. What I do say is that we've made some strange left turns. That's why I wrote the book. I think it's up to us to turn the tide.

Am I getting less intellectual if I read People magazine or watch "Access Hollywood"? Is it really so bad to care about what Lindsay Lohan is up to?

I think the tabloid industry has a dumbing-down effect on women. The book was written as a wake-up call. It's a question of balance. There's nothing wrong with taking a glance at a gossip magazine, but if all your focus is on celebrities and tabloids, then your life is out of balance and you will only have so much of your free time to learn about your world. The majority of college students I surveyed could name more Kardashians than wars we're in.

Is this a vast, media-driven conspiracy?

I don't really believe in conspiracies as a rule, but what I do say in the book is that it becomes a vicious cycle. When I try to pitch serious stories, they don't want to run them because they tell me that women won't watch. I don't believe that. One of the reasons I wrote this book is to take this directly to women: This is what news directors think of you. We want change. There's always a behind-the-scenes dilemma: Do we cover real news or fluff? It's up to us as consumers to demand better coverage. I don't think the media is off the hook. The media delivers crap to us, and we watch it. It becomes this endless cycle.

Is there any hope for women in the current climate? Isn't it OK if we want to be smart and sexy -- or do we have to choose?

Absolutely. Of course there's hope. We're an intelligent group of women. Women feel they have to dumb themselves down to get an in. They want to have more meaning. They don't want to live this way. I think it's fine to make yourself look nice and wear nice clothes as a matter of self-expression or self-love. It's just a matter of balance. We don't want to go overboard. There are so many messages in our culture about women looking good and very few about using their minds.

You write about your famous mom, but how would you say she inspired you?

My mom always wanted to talk about ideas and issues in the world. I grew up going to picket with her, for unions, gay pride -- learning about the world. She never cared much about how my nails were done or how I wore my hair. She cared about what was in my head. I'm very grateful she raised me that way. She's also fearless, and that's very inspiring.

Are men's minds becoming softer too, or is this just a woman thing?

The same problem exists for men, they just have different distractions -- sports, video games and online porn. That's where they spend huge amounts of time. That's a whole separate book, which may very well be the next one I write.


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