By now, you may have seen Matt Lauer’s interview with Anne Hathaway on the Today Show where, instead of focusing on her upcoming movie Les Miserables, he decided it was better to mock her about a recent “wardrobe malfunction.”
Why do I care about this episode? It’s not because I think Hathaway needs my help. She did just fine on her own killing Lauer with her kindness and grace. I’m writing about this because my daughter, who is about to turn 13, is also starting to learn about how men try to objectify women and their bodies.
How is that possible for a seventh grader?
First, a quick recap of the Lauer/Hathaway moment. While getting out of a limo at a Les Mis event, Hathaway was wearing a dress that was particularly difficult to maneuver in. Not surprisingly, the paparazzi were able to get some compromising shots of her. Instead of focusing on the movie and what Hathaway did to prepare for a grueling role, Lauer started off their chat this way:
Classy, huh? The only good thing about this interview is that it arrived just when I needed a teaching moment.
A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and a friend were out taking her friend’s dog for a walk. I somewhat reluctantly agreed to let them walk by themselves and go a little further than I usually would have (which is a different story for another day). But it was a beautiful day and I knew the neighborhood they would be in. They had their cell phones and knew how to reach me or the other parents, if necessary.
My daughter told me later that she enjoyed the walk, and I suspect the momentary freedom, but said she was surprised and upset when they walked past a construction site and the men working there started whistling and cat-calling after them.
That’s right. A bunch of grown men decided it was OK to harass two seventh-grade girls in that way. So in talking with our daughter about what happened to her, and how to handle situations like that in the future (because, sadly, we all know they will happen again), I want to take some lessons from Hathaway because my daughter will surely pay more attention to what the star of The Princess Diaries (one of her faves for a long time) has to say on the subject than what her know-nothing mom might want to tell her!
As I get the interview, the five takeaways are these:
1. Don’t lose your cool. The perpetrator, be it a smarmy interviewer or a cat-calling construction worker on the street, is hoping to get you to react so they can enjoy their “gotcha” moment. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
2. Walk away. Hathaway couldn’t physically do that on the Today Show set, but she accomplished the same thing by turning the conversation back to her own purpose, promoting her movie and in her very polite way, putting the shame back on the paparazzi for taking the pictures, and Lauer for asking about them.
3. Only get taken by surprise once. I’m sure in the aftermath of the photos being released, Hathaway and her publicists knew she’d get asked about them, so undoubtedly there was some quick “media training” time about how to turn it back to her advantage. Similarly, arming our daughters with some appropriate zingers (if they can’t manage the “walk away” technique) will help them feel empowered at moments when they’re caught off guard, rather than feeling like they’re at the mercy of those trying to boost themselves up at our girls’ expense.
4. Know how to pick your battles. Our daughters will learn as they navigate their way to adulthood that there are times to fight and that there will be moments to just put what happened into the “best served cold” file.
5. Keep smiling. No matter what you say, if you say it with a calm and lovely smile on your face, who’s going to try it again? I have a feeling Lauer won’t try to spar like that with Hathaway in the future.
And as for Lauer? I wouldn’t be surprised if his wife or his Today Show co-host Savannah Guthrie had a thing or two to say to him about that interview that he won’t soon forget.
Read more from me at my place PunditMom and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (now available for your Kindle or Nook!)
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