As a TV host, commentator and lawyer deeply involved in women’s issues worldwide, Lisa Bloom has noticed that—despite being more educated than ever before—American women tend to devalue their intelligence and strive instead for unrealistic standards of beauty and image. Her debut book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, addresses the paradox modern women have come to represent and encourages them to maintain a more balanced perspective on life. Here, the author discusses the decline of American intelligence, growing up with Gloria Allred as a mother and her hopes for women in the future.
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What motivated you to write this book?
About a year and a half ago it started to hit me that as a television legal analyst, virtually everything I was called upon to talk about was celebrity cases. Even in the past 10 years, there’s been a dramatic shift. I’ve previously talked about Saddam Hussein’s war crime trial, Supreme Court decisions and issues on international law. Now, I think 95 percent of the time I’m talking about Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen. And I’m not a celebrity reporter—I’m a legal analyst.
It seems that no matter where we started out, virtually everybody is an entertainment reporter now. I also started to notice that a lot of educated young women were obsessed with celebrities and tabloid media and could name more Kardashians than wars we’re in. I think we as a culture have made some strange left turns. So I turned down cases in my law firm and I buckled down and wrote this book.
What made you focus on women, as opposed to society on the whole?
Women are my people. I like to say I was born a baby feminist. My mother is Gloria Allred, prominent feminist attorney, so I’ve always grown up with a very strong sense of being an advocate for women. As an attorney, a lot of my cases are on behalf of battered women, rape victims and child sexual abuse victims. As a television commentator, I’ve talked a lot about these issues. Women’s issues are my issues. I talk in the book about all the time we spend on appearance. I’m somebody who has experienced this as well. We’re all a part of this. Let’s do something about this.
We are all judged by our appearance to some extent. Where is the line drawn between a reasonable attention to your appearance and an unhealthy fixation on beauty?
In the book I talk about balance. So where is the balance? I think the questions that I would have for somebody asking that are: Are you reading? Can you name the wars we’re in and why we’re in them? Can you name the issues in your local election? Are you aware of the status of women in the world? Are you giving back by volunteering your time and giving money to a cause that is important to you? If you’re doing all of these things, your life is probably in balance. If you know more about how to make your face look good and how to highlight your hair than you know about the pollution in your local rivers, your life is out of balance. I really don’t think anyone could argue with that.
What do you hope women will gain by reading your book?
I want the book to be a wake-up call to women. I hope that all of us can see some of ourselves in the book. I’ve had a woman say, “I read your book, I stopped reading tabloids, and I bought five books.” I thought, “OK, my work is done.” You don’t have to completely stop reading tabloids. But, for the most part, let’s turn away from them and turn toward something that’s more productive.
Twenty years from now, what would you like to see changed, especially in relation to women?
I’d like to see First World women reach a hand out to Third World women who so desperately need us. We, who are living now, have gained all the benefits of what our mothers’ generation did for us. There are still a few things that need to be fixed but for the most part, we’ve got equality. I’d like to see us pay it forward by helping women and girls in the Third World. I mention in the book that for $20, you can send a girl in Ethiopia to school for a year. I do this as much as I can through my law firm and also individually. I sent 3,000 girls to school this year. I’d like to see us turn away from worrying about if we have the right bag or the right shoes and toward what can we do to help women and girls. That would be my dream.