An unruly woman

In his latest column, Jonah Goldberg ever so condescendingly suggested that it's time for The View to cut host Rosie O'Donnell loose. The reason? O'Donnell's propensity to unapologetically voice her liberal views.

Goldberg labeled O'Donnell's comments about 9/11 as "stupid," and "crazy," and called O'Donnell a "wacko." He characterized "The View" as updating "the ancient practice of women chattering around the village wall," and took Barbara Walters and ABC to task for giving Rosie the platform to—gasp—voice an opinion.

The unfortunate reality is that Goldberg is not alone in his distaste for women who have opinions and express them. Over the last decade or so, the broadcast networks have also favored mostly compliant women in both talk show and fictional formats. O'Donnell's return to daytime television represents the rebirth of a particular type of female—the unruly woman. After enjoying a short-lived heyday in the 1990s, this type of female has all but disappeared from the small screen. During that decade, Roseanne Barr, Brett Butler, and Candice Bergen played unruly women on shows such as Roseanne, Grace Under Fire, and Murphy Brown, respectively. Their characters had opinions and weren't afraid to express them.

Roseanne, Grace, and Murphy weren't "pleasers." They didn't care what other characters—or even a real vice president—thought of them or their choices. Placed in a comedic setting, these characters were entertaining, non-threatening, and commanded copious amounts of conversational space in their respective worlds. In more recent seasons, they have been replaced by women who serve as wallpaper (the models on Deal or No Deal), strippers (the contestants on Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll), and bimbos (the ex-wives and girlfriends on Two and a Half Men).

Rosie O'Donnell may be a character, but she's not make-believe. She's the real life counterpart to these fictional unruly predecessors. As such, she represents a type of woman that Goldberg and others find disarming, scary even. Predictably, Goldberg relied on the none-too-original technique of labeling O'Donnell as "a wacko," to discredit her and her views. Women who speak their minds must be crazy!

I don't agree with all of O'Donnell's opinions and I think that The View is no paragon of feminist virtue—though the addition of Rosie has caused the program to veer in a more serious-minded direction, relatively speaking. But we could use more female characters—fictional and real—in the tradition of Rosie O'Donnell. Bring on the women talk show hosts and prime-time females who have something to say about world events and issues. Haven't we all had more than enough advice about clothing, hairstyles, and plastic surgery? Women viewers are starved to hear from girls and women who push the envelope and aren't cowed by misogynists like Goldberg who use their public platform to denigrate women who dare to speak up. And Rosie—you go girl.

Martha M. Lauzen conducts annual studies of women working in television and film and is a professor in the School of Communication at San Diego State University.

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