Actor Charlie Sheen seems to be getting about as much media coverage these days as Libyan leader Moammar Ghadafi, maybe more. Bad boys always seem to grab off the headlines, don’t they?These two are so much alike: bad tempers, revenge scenarios, buxom women close by to attend to their every need and seemingly oblivious to what truly awful persons these men are.
But this is National Women’s History Month. I'm concerned that many media resources that could be examining how women are faring will continue to focus on the strange, twisted existence of Sheen, star of “Two and a Half Men,” a blockbuster hit for CBS that has been roiled by Sheen's recurrent substance abuse. Sheen has been acting as his own publicist since he was dropped by his longtime representative a few days ago. He's booked interviews with network interview programs and dished to them, People magazine and TMZ.com about his family (he is the father of five, four of whom are under 10 years of age), his “goddesses” (live-in girlfriends who share a bedroom with each other when one of them isn’t in bed with him), and his contentious approach to personal and business relationships, especially how much his employers owe to him for his innate fabulousness, and why his fondness for drugs and pornography is really no one's business. The result is that his estranged wife has obtained a restraining order against him, his toddler sons have been removed from his household, and production of “Two and a Half Men” has been suspended. No show, no paychecks. Not a problem for Sheen, said to be worth $85 million, but not so good for the rest of the people connected with the show.
If you push past the media obsession with Sheen, you just might learn that yesterday the White House released a statistical portrait called Women in America. This is the first comprehensive federal report on women since 1963, when the Commission on the Status of Women, established by President John F. Kennedy and chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, produced a report on the conditions of women. (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/Women_in_America.pdf) Among the findings:
Women have not only caught up with men in college attendance but younger women are now more likely than younger men to have a college or a graduate degree. Women are also working more and the number of women and men in the labor force has nearly equalized in recent years. As women’s work has increased, their earnings constitute a growing share of family income.
However, gains in education and labor force involvement have not yet translated into wage and income equity. At all levels of education, women earned about 75 percent of what their male counterparts earned in 2009. In part because of these lower earnings and in part because unmarried and divorced women are the most likely to have responsibility for raising and supporting their children, women are more likely to be in poverty than men. These economic inequities are even more acute for women of color.
Women live longer than men but are more likely to face certain health problems, such as mobility impairments, arthritis, asthma, depression, and obesity. Women also engage in lower levels of physical activity. Women are less likely than men to suffer from heart disease or diabetes. One out of seven women age 18-64 has no usual source of health care. The share of women in that age range without health insurance has also increased.
Women are less likely than in the past to be the target of violent crimes, including homicide. But women are victims of certain crimes, such as intimate partner violence and stalking, at higher rates than men.
All of these are matters that demand renewed effort to correct, but the last paragraph ought to get our attention, since it leads directly back to Charlie Sheen and others like him. His verbal and physical threats of female partners are now a matter of court action. If domestic violence continues to be such a terrible factor in the lives of women, as the White House report tells us it is, let’s ask that the hours of TV and radio airtime and gallons of printer’s ink being given over to Sheen and his egomania instead be used to discuss the issue of domestic violence with the seriousness it deserves. It’s a travesty to allocate so much coverage to a TV actor who engages in precisely this dangerous behavior and flaunts his celebrity as a way of deflecting attention from it. Enough, already.