The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon

3 Oct

binoculars{Image via Mark Roy/Flickr}

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is totally real. You know, when you learn or hear about something, and suddenly start noticing it everywhere? Ever since I decided a month ago to write this 31-day series on girl power, I have seen echoes of it everywhere.

I’ve been exploring* not only ways that girls are powerful but also ways their power is diminished, and it’s unsettling the evidence of diminished power I’ve come across. For example, in the past 24 hours:

  • BuzzFeed News detailed how some state laws treat a battered mother as a perpetrator for not protecting her children from her violent partner. Domestic violence advocates argued these laws further victimize the woman and “signal a deep misunderstanding of what it means for women to be trapped in abusive relationships” and “[serve] little purpose and [deprive] any surviving children of their mother.”
  • Ann Friedman enumerated the roots of tech’s girl problem and offers suggestions for making women more welcome. (So long, hoodies and beer pong.)
  • The Atlantic, in a less harrowing but nonetheless noteworthy report, announced that women’s clothes may finally include (real) pockets. A designer acknowledges: “I honestly believe the fashion industry is not helping women advance. … When we’re working we don’t carry purses around. A pocket is a reasonable thing.”

These stories serve as a reminder that though we have made great progress, the struggle for gender equality did not end with the 19th Amendment. They also bring out many characters in the drama that is continually playing out in this struggle. There are full-fledged bad guys, to be sure (see: domestic abusers). But there are also simply people who don’t respect women as much as they should (fashion designers). People who, consciously or not, subscribe to pervasive misconceptions about women (lawmakers who made harmful laws). And people who are a little clueless about how their actions and attitudes affect women (socially oblivious technologists).

This varied cast of characters shows that gender equality is not about good guys vs. bad guys, and it is not about men vs. women (do you hear me, Women Against Feminism?). It’s not a persecution complex or a victim complex; it’s confronting a complex set of challenges and opportunities related to gender. It is about men and women joining together to recognize, resist, and redefine** harmful attitudes and practices about gender. That is something I would love to start noticing everywhere.


* Clearly I’m also exploring using more bold text in my blog posts to make them more readable. Helpful? Obnoxious? Feel free to weigh in.

** Terms borrowed from the Redefine Beauty campaign (not the Dove one; it’s even awesomer).


One Response to “The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon”


  1. 31 days of GIRL POWER | spifftacular. - October 4, 2014

    […] Day 3: The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon […]

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