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December 2012
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Women in the Press

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

Lord Justice Leveson’s report into press standards, published last Thursday, has generated a lot of debate on the role of the press in modern society.

 

Interestingly enough – and perhaps stirred into action by the controversy they generated when unable to find female experts to discuss breast cancer on Radio 4′s Today programme - the BBC has published a magazine article on the media representation of women in the press. Astute readers of The Capp Blog will know that this is a topic we have covered previously.

 

In this article, the BBC highlighted five of the most common complaints about how women are portrayed in the press:

 

1. Women as sex objects – Women are often portrayed as sex objects by the press, whether explicitly, such as in a Page Three photograph, or more implicitly, through the way in which they are presented and described.

 

2. My mother, my wife - Women are often portrayed as wives and mothers (or girlfriends) – that is, being defined by who they are in relation to someone else, rather than for who they are in their own right.

 

3. The passive woman - Rather than as people who are active and doing something, women are often portrayed in passive roles. This serves to create and perpetuate a stereotype of women as passive recipients, rather than active participants.

 

4. The invisible woman – As we have noted previously on The Capp Blog, where have all the women gone? The campaign group Women in Journalism reported earlier this year that 84% of lead articles in the press were about men, rather than women, and of these articles, 75% were written by men.

 

5. Women’s bodies, but men’s contributions - Far, far more than is ever the case for men, women are judged on the basis of their appearance, rather than their contribution.  Whereas commentary about men in sport, politics or business will almost exclusively be about their performance, for women, any commentary will almost always include a judgement on their appearance.

 

If this media representation was single, isolated, or unusual, one might argue that it was unfortunate. Yet the reality is that this is only too typical, rendering it not only unfortunate, but unacceptable.

 

With the influence of the media all around us, and the impression and impact that this has – deliberately or unwittingly – on young minds, we all share a responsibility to be mindful of how what we consider acceptable or unacceptable shapes the reality that will be faced by future generations.

 

As I contemplate my two daughters growing up, I hope they will find a world in which they are judged for what they have achieved and contributed, rather than for what they are wearing or what they look like. It’s time to change for the sake of these future generations.

 

Happy birthday, Sophie, 10 years old today.

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