On TV, successful female cops populate some of our favorite shows. From Law and Order: Special Victims Unit's Olivia Benson(Mariska Hargitay) to The Wire's Kima Greggs (Sonja Sohn) toThe Closer's Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) to Castle's Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), we see women in law enforcement apprehending sex offenders, performing stellar detective work, nailing interrogations, and closing cases. But in real life, women make up a surprisingly small percentage of police forces.
In 2007, women accounted for about 15% of the total sworn law enforcement officers in large local police departments. In large sheriffs’ offices, female officers comprised about 13% of the total sworn officers. In contrast, local police departments with between 1 and 10 full-time sworn officers employed fewer than 2,000 female law enforcement officers nationwide (6%). Small sheriffs’ offices across the county employed just over 200 total sworn officers who were women (4%) in 2007.
I've been following the discussion about the representativeness of The Social Network, about whether it accurately depicts women and "toxic masculinity" in technology particularly—a conversation which, as I said last week, I've been sort of surprised we're even having. Such a jaded feminist have I become, I guess, since I'm now actively surprised when people actually care about how women are depicted in this culture, but I digress. Personally, I thought the movie was sufficiently infused with internal comment on the misogyny of its characters that I wasn't as upset as I might have been by it's flat depiction of femininity.
I’m hardly the first to observe this sort of thing, of course, but I am, lately, obsessed with this question of how you reconcile your politics to your art. Rather than wade into the discussion on The Social Network particularly, though, since I'm only supposed to be blogging about television here, let’s just situate some of these issues in that context.