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Profile: Lydia Justice

Lydia Justice Justice is "Politically Incorrect"

A 1986 Seton High School graduate, Justice is grateful to have a university like UC here in her hometown. One of the things she likes most at UC: "It has good quality programs and departments. It's like the best kept secret in the country, and it's in my own backyard."

The run-down Volvo parked outside Lydia Justice's house gives a few clues as to why the TV show Politically Incorrect may have selected her as a citizen panelist to appear on the program in late September 1999. Her viewpoints are broadcast via bumper stickers affixed to the back of the car: "The goddess is alive and magic is afoot," "Thank Goddess" says another, while one proclaims, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." Yet another urges, "Believe in your dreams."

The Bill Maher-hosted program selected Justice, a UC sociology senior, to appear on the show after an audition of 50 people at the WCPO-TV studios in Cincinnati. The field was narrowed down to five, and Maher chose Justice, 31, to appear on a show that discussed an issue she feels strongly about: how women are portrayed in the media.

The program aired sooner than it was originally supposed to, so many of Justice's friends missed her appearance on Sept. 28. As the show opened, host Maher introduced the show's first topic -- the Good, the Bad and the Ugly Awards given by the Advertising Women of New York to encourage improvement in the portrayal of women in advertising. Justice plunged in with a comment that ignited the evening's first debate.

"Yes," she said, lauding the awards concept, "which I totally am for, because I think women are very negatively portrayed in the media. I think that obviously the highest-paying jobs in America for women are anything exposing women's body parts or using women's body parts."

Appearing with her on the late night panel were Nancy Travis, star of the new TV show Work With Me, Bruce Vilanch, an Emmy-award winning TV writer, and Al Rantel, KABC radio talk show host. Justice spoke out strongly against Victoria's Secret lingerie advertising and other sexual images of women used by the media. She encountered vocal opposition from Maher and Rantel, who both defended pornography. Maher's opposition was so intense that during a commercial break, Justice said, she asked him if he was trying to get her goat. Justice recalls: "He walked over and said, 'That's right. That's what a good talk show host does. I am making you look so good.'"

All in all, the experience was exciting and fun, Justice concludes. "It was intense. I asked Bill Maher how he could do this every day for a living."

The mother of a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Rain, Justice ardently believes that the media is used to maintain a power imbalance in American culture that perpetuates men's control of women. Justice has worked to counter the imbalance by serving as a teaching assistant for the "Sexual Assault in American Culture" course offered through UC's College of Education counseling program and UC's Women's Center.

Chosen for Politically Incorrect because she is articulate, opinionated and able to defend and refute viewpoints, Justice also displays the same qualities in the classroom at UC, said her adviser, Marcia Bellas, whom Justice calls one of her best teachers at UC. "Lydia is outspoken but clearly very bright and articulate. She seems to be very committed to social justice issues, so I have hopes for her in terms of community activism," Bellas said

After graduation in spring 2000, Justice plans to continue her education at UC by pursuing a joint master's in women's studies and law degree. UC remains the only university in the nation to offer such a program, according to UC Center for Women's Studies Acting Director Lisa Hogeland.

"When women's studies started the program a few years ago, I really felt like I was being placed right on a path. It was opening a door right up for me," said Justice.

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