No more excuses for the lack of women experts on air

Not before time. Indeed, remind me again why we’re doing this only now.

Executives from four major news providers – BBC, ITN, Channel 4 and Sky – have pledged to try to improve the number of women interviewed as experts on their programmes; and this summer will be the test of that. They made this promise at a conference at City University London where former DCMS Secretary of State, Tessa Jowell called women’s representation in broadcasting “disgraceful”.

For the past two years the ratio has stuck at four males to every one female interviewed as experts on news programmes. This has been confirmed by our research, done in the Department of Journalism at City from March 2012 to April 2014.

I started looking at this informally in 2010 when I was furious at listening to “Today” on BBC Radio 4 and not hearing a woman’s voice for about 40 minutes. Then I realised that was a good day.

Rest on theconversation.

A sixteen year old girl is dead

Emphasis added. On seriouslyamerica:

Because she had the audacity to refuse an invitation to prom. Maren Sanchez is dead, murdered by a sixteen year old classmate who flew into a rage when Sanchez declined to be his date.

Maren Sanchez is dead, and multiple media outlets have the goddamn audacity to call this a “dispute” over prom, as if Sanchez’s refusal makes her somehow culpable for the heinous and violent actions of her killer. As if this was a minor hallway tiff. As if this wasn’t about some young man thinking, “if I can’t have her, nobody can.” As if she was something to be had, as if she wasn’t a vibrant young woman with friends, family, dreams, and ambitions.

Maren Sanchez is dead because of male entitlement. Because we teach young men that they deserve the pretty girl as a prize for overcoming their life’s obstacles – we teach them this in just about every movie, book, and television show they consume: women are prizes, not people. Maren Sanchez’s murderer heard her refusal, and felt that stabbing was his best recourse.

Maren Sanchez is dead, and she likely will soon be just another name in the endless list of women murdered by men – while she and her murderer are barely more than children. [Rest.]

Twelve Things the #nomorepage3 Campaign Is NOT

Photo: Jack Fletcher

I have never seen so much confusion surrounding a campaign than ‘No More Page 3′ (NMP3). Yes, I am young and not world weary, but as a supporter of the cause I have certainly grown weary of the misconceptions and the false assumptions about what the organisers are saying. So I propose to tell you exactly what the campaign is NOT:

1. It is not against free speech. The campaign is asking members of the public to sign a petition asking the editor to make a voluntary change. If you sign the petition, you are declaring that you don’t like to see topless women displayed on Page 3 of The Sun Newspaper, for whatever reason you choose. There are many reasons to support it and simply saying you disagree with a part of the paper is perfectly reasonable.

2. It is not anti-breasts at all. It just feels that the context of a family newspaper is wrong for these images and The Sun newspaper sends out very different messages about each gender. One is dominant, powerful and depicted in clothes doing things like running the country and achieving in sport; whilst the other is shown passive and naked for the former to ogle.

On Huffington Post: Twelve Things the No More Page 3 Campaign Is NOT

See also:

Exposed: Outrageous Gender Bias Rife in News Industry

On alternet:

According to the Women’s Media Centre (WMC), male journalists dominate the U.S. news industry, receiving 63 percent of byline credits across almost all media sectors compared to just 37 percent for women.

In conducting the research, the WMC examined 20 of the most widely circulated U.S. based media networks analyzing some 27,000 pieces of content including TV, newspapers, wires and online news on full time staffers as well as freelancers and non-paid content only to find that gender inequality exists across every platform in the news

The key findings of the study include:

- Among the top 10 most widely circulated newspapers in the United States, men acquired 63 percent of bylines, compared to 37 percent for women.

- Male journalists at ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS provided 66 percent of news reports from the field.

- The New York Times had the widest gender gap in male-female bylines, while the Chicago Sun-Times came closest to gender parity with 46 percent female bylines.

- More women had bylines at Reuters than at The Associated Press , but at both news wires, male bylines still outnumbered female bylines with women representing 43 percent of the bylines at Reuters and 32 percent at AP.

- Huffington Post had more women contributors (48 percent) than the three other large online news sites: CNN (41 percent) The Daily Beat (30 percent) and Fox News (38 percent.)

- Female journalists were more likely to report on lifestyle, culture and health while men were assigned to cover politics, criminal justice or technology.

- NBC “Nightly News” and CBS “Evening News” feature men as primary anchors with female anchors comprising of 7 percent of news stories at NBC and 5 percent of news stories at CBS.


See also:

What James Corden’s Sun Issue Means for Page 3

James Corden’s guest edited issue of The Sun was intended as a special Sports Relief edition. Released on Friday, it included additional sports coverage, commentary on Sports Relief events and exclusive interviews with David Cameron, Tom Daley and Gareth Bale. There was one thing, however, that was missing from Corden’s issue: a topless woman on page 3.

Instead, Corden himself appeared topless alongside members of The Sun’s editing team. All twelve of the men pictured were wearing red shorts and sweatbands, and bearing their muscles in a rather stereotypically ‘macho’ way. This was obviously meant to be a nod to the usual content of page 3, as the caption read: “There’s been a woman with her top off on Page 3 as long as I remember. I thought it was time the male workforce of The Sun gave a little back. So here they are: The hottest hunks working on The Sun. You’re welcome, ladies.”

This attempt to gender flip page 3 is a bit confusing. These men are topless, but they are certainly not passive sexual objects, and the intention is clearly to generate humour, not arousal. It’s also important to bear in mind that a topless man is not the same as a topless woman, as breasts are fetishised in our culture in a way that the male chest is not. Having said that, it might have been a better idea to include some actual news on page 3 – or what The Sun classifies as news, at least – because it is, after all, a newspaper.

Even though it might not be a perfect solution to the everyday sexual objectification that page 3 stands for, Corden’s issue has certainly shaken things up a bit. Here’s what we now know about page 3, thanks to his issue:

It Isn’t Necessary

Surprisingly, The Sun did not go out of business after removing bare breasts from its pages. As with the Irish Sun, which dropped the nudity in summer of last year, readers did not pick up the paper, see that there were no breasts to ogle, and refuse to buy it. This means that people are buying The Sun for its actual editorial content, not its pornographic images. Although this is baffling in itself, it does show that page 3 is not an essential part of The Sun as a newspaper. [Rest.]

What James Corden’s Sun Issue Means for Page 3

“Toxic Wars” vs. Conscientious Feminism

Why do these outcries happen? The simple answer is because some women, particularly white women with visibility and influence, all too often use (without consciousness sometimes) the very devices that patriarchy uses to dominate women – namely dehumanisation.

In July 1992, an international conference Women in Africa and in the African Diaspora (WAAD) was held in Nigeria. WAAD was a rare event: an interdisciplinary and international conference about African women in Africa.

The conference, which took place in the Eastern town of Nsukka, during an unusually dry week in July (precipitation for this month is normally high in the region) kicked off jubilantly, matching the expectations of the excited delegates.

The camaraderie was short lived however. On day two of WAAD, all hell broke lose. Unexpectedly, the programme convenor, professor of women’s and African studies, Obioma Nnaemeka, found herself having to respond to the question of whether or not white women (about one fifth of the seven hundred or so participants) should be able to “present papers on black women’s experiences”. Some delegates felt that white women, complicit with discrimination against black women in their home countries, should not be allowed to take part. The sessions should be a safe space for black women, they argued. [Rest.]

Excellent article. (HT: louisepennington)

“Toxic Wars” vs. Conscientious Feminism

The BBC remains incapable of using appropriate language

This is the title of a BBC article:

Brig Gen Jeffrey Sinclear Pleads guilty to charges in sex case.

The General actually pled “guilty to improper relationships with two female Army officers, violating orders by possessing pornography in Afghanistan, and conduct unbecoming of an officer.” A criminal trial will continue for 5 remaining charges which include threats and sexual assault. Yet, the BBC, once again, is referring to sexual assault as a “sex case”.

It is completely irresponsible to use the word sex when discussing cases of sexual violence. It contravenes the National Union of Journalists guidelines but the BBC continues to use inappropriate language.

(Orig. everydayvictimblaming)

The BBC remains incapable of using appropriate language

“As all advocates of feminist politics know…

As all advocates of feminist politics know most people do not understand sexism or if they do they think it is not a problem. Masses of people think that feminism is always and only about women seeking to be equal to men. And a huge majority of these folks think feminism is anti-male. Their misunderstanding of feminist politics reflects the reality that most folks learn about feminism from patriarchal mass media.

- bell hooks

Fictional characters way more likely to die after abortion

Fictional characters way more likely to die after abortion than real people (full infographic and (c) Commentary, feministing:

Reproductive health researchers from ANSIRH recently did a census of all abortion-related storylines in American television shows and films. Although we’ve lamented the dearth of abortions on screen–particularly on primetime TV shows–according to the survey, over the last century, there’ve been 385 abortion storylines in pop culture–and recent years have seen a spike. 

However, the researchers note, “these stories are often inaccurate and not necessarily true to most people’s experiences with abortion.” For one thing, fictional pregnant people are much more likely to choose adoption than they are in real life. And, as illustrated in the chart below, abortion is portrayed as much more risky than it actually is. While the procedure is one of the safest out there–the risk of major complications, let alone death, is less than 1 percent–almost 10 percent of fictional women died as a result of their abortions. (And others were murdered before they went through with it, which is also very disturbing and telling.)

Media is ‘failing women’

Media is ‘failing women’ — sports journalism particularly so 

The Women’s Media Center released its third annual Status of Women in the U.S. Media report today, and if you’ve been paying any attention to gender imbalances across print, broadcast and online platforms, it’s more of the same. Men – especially white men – vastly outnumber women. Still.

“The media is failing women across the board,” Women’s Media Center president Julie Burton said in a press release that accompanied the report. “The numbers tell a clear story for the need for change on every media platform.”

The report compiles recent studies from several sources — Media Matters, the American Society of News Editors, even Gawker — all of which show that despite efforts (or at least talk of efforts) to achieve parity in media organizations, from CEOs to copy editors, we haven’t come close.

An ASNE newsroom census cited in the report showed that newsrooms were 63.1 percent male and 36.9 percent female in 1999. In 2012, those percentages were exactly the same. For 2013, it was actually worse: 63.7 percent male and 36.3 percent female. That said, when it came to journalists of color, gender representation tended to be more balanced, and there were actually more Asian women than Asian men (52 percent versus 48). That’s great, but the percentage of minorities in newsrooms is far smaller than their representation in the United States population. That’s not so great. [Rest.]

Amanda Knox and the ‘Femme Fatale’ Complex

The murder of British student Meredith Kercher is infamous worldwide – even inspiring upcoming blockbuster The Face of an Angel. Now, two individuals – Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito – have been found guilty of the student’s murder for the second time.

This article, however, is not concerned with the case for and against the defendants, but rather about why the media (and, as a consequence, we the public) were so fascinated by the Kercher story – or should that by the Knox story? From day one, it is she who has been at the centre of the media firestorm surrounding her friend’s death. Interestingly, Knox’s co-accused gets virtually no media attention. Is this purely because he is less vocal on the subject? This may be true – but it is also worth noting that no one is asking him the questions.

In a powerful interview for the Guardian, Knox seems almost incredulous about the fact that she has been targeted by the media to tell her story – and feels compelled to do so as a result. Why her and not someone else? The ‘foxy Knoxy’ rhetoric (a childhood nickname that took on vixen-like connotations when adopted by certain media outlets) seems the most blindingly apparent. Yes, the potential wrongful imprisonment, the appeals – they kept the papers selling, but from the case’s very outset, Knox’s physical appearance was a core feature. [Rest.]

Amanda Knox and the ‘Femme Fatale’ Complex

We need to talk about the UK media war on women.

We need to talk about the UK media war on women. By the ever brilliant @SarahGraham7 on @opendemocracy.

A number of years ago I heard British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) journalist Bidisha quote feminist academic Germaine Greer: “The corporation changes the woman before the woman changes the corporation.” These words have weighed heavily on me in the early years of my journalism career.

I later found myself at a protest, working with a reporter from a national news outlet. He spent a long time with his camera trained on an attractive blonde woman handing out flyers.

“I don’t make the rules, I just try not to break them,” he told me.

Rest: here.

Responsible reporting of rape and sexual assault

Reports of sex slavery and rape alongside naked pictures on page 3 minimise sexual violence and titillate the reader. Yet more reasons for #nomorepage3.

This kind of sensationalised reporting causes real harm by minimising and eroticising sexual violence against women. The fact is that stories of abuse which are placed next to soft porn on the next page are designed to titillate. It is deeply discriminatory and underlines the need for Page 3 to go and for more responsible reporting of abuse. Furthermore, it is essential for women’s groups and other third parties to be able to complain to the new press regulator about discriminatory reporting.”

On nomorepage3:


This front page precedes the usual Page 3 feature with topless 21 year old Sabine and over the page  on Page 4 a big headline ‘Slave gang forced me to have sex with 5 men at a time.’Where newspapers and other publications cover awful crimes such as rape, trafficking and child sex abuse it is vital that language and tone is carefully chosen. That the public are made aware of these things is obviously important but it is crucial to consider carefully the language used and the placement of the story so that the seriousness is not lost and that survivors of this and similar crimes are aware that they are being regarded with total respect. It is NEVER appropriate to use the crime of rape to titillate readers or to trivialise it by placing it next to pictures meant to arouse. Not only is this very likely to traumatise any rape survivor and belittle their experience it also potentially feeds into a culture that considers rape as less than a violent crime and therefore supports rapists by reinforcing and reaffirming that their act was perhaps not “rape” at all.

Rest: nomorepage3.

Least Convincing Study Ever: Voters Don’t Care How Lady Politicos Look

Herein is the problem with any sort of media effects/ impact research. The media is such a vast and ubiquitous industry that it’s impossible to conclude from some sort of experimental design, using one form of media, that it is (1) unaffecting or (2) benign.

From jezebel:

Have you been operating under the assumption that women in politics are held to an unfair physical standard while male politicians get to paunch over their golfing Dockers like a bunch of semi-retired Dads? Did you assume that a woman’s failure to be pretty and skinny and feminine enough might kill her political career before it even begins? Well, according to new research, you’re wrong— voters, in fact, don’t care how lady politicians look, like, at all! To respond to this via terse passive aggressive text message intended to convey sarcastic acquiescence: K.

The feminist catnip title “Voters don’t care how women in politics look” precedes a piece in the Washington Post that explores the way negative descriptions of female politicians’ appearance in media coverage impacts voters’ opinions of the candidates. Among the rising din of WTF around looks-based coverage of ladies in the annals of power, George Washington University professor Danny Hayes and writer Jennifer Lawless conducted their own research to determine just how much bitchy coverage of, say, Hillary Clinton sours voters to her. Their findings?

We find that women don’t pay a higher price than men for coverage of their appearance. Unflattering coverage does hurt, but it lowers voters’ assessments of both men and women equally. Like other emerging political science research, we show that voters don’t hold women and men to different standards on the campaign trail.

In other words, the media can talk smack until they’re blue in the face, but when it comes to politicians, the public heart wants what the public heart wants regardless of whether or not the politician in question has two X chromosomes and wardrobe full of Ann Taylor.

In determining that looks-based sexism is deader than the Republican party, the WaPo team invented two Senate candidates — one male, one female — and penned newspaper-y articles about each one. The pieces were exactly the same — except researchers varied the candidate’s sex as well as the way the candidate’s looks were described. Hayes and Lawless found that study participants assessed both candidates more or less equally. Being described as a hot mess in print made readers think less of the candidates, sure, but they thought less of the candidates equally.

Sounds great, right? Sexism is dead! Let’s all pack it up and head home; job here finished. Feminism accomplished. I guess I’m going to have to go back to working in finance and looking at gifs of Lloyd Blankfein in my spare time. Worth it.

All of this would be wonderful if the WaPo team’s findings were true and applicable to the current media landscape — but, they’re not. [Rest.]


“If you want to write, go someplace else”: Gender discrimination and the media

On the New Statesman:

“If you want to write, go someplace else.” These were the words Judy Gingold was greeted with upon beginning her employment at Newsweek. In the late 60s, sexism was the norm in most newsrooms. Judy became a researcher, and like the other women at the magazine, she was expected to do little more than delivering the mail and fact-checking the articles of her male colleagues. Out of fifty writers, only one was female.

In the years that followed, things have changed dramatically for women in journalism. In 1970, while Judy and 45 other women of Newsweek successfully sued their bosses over gender discrimination, the UK Parliament was passing the Equal Pay Act, effectively outlawing differences between sexes in treatment and salary at work.

But forty years later, a glass ceiling still hangs above women’s ambitions and careers in journalism. [Rest.]

In response to Sun’s request for a naked photoshoot

Disgraceful (though, I dare say, common) request; excellent response.

My immediate reaction was to fetch a tea towel to cover her bare chest, lest a stranger should ogle at her body in the style of that same repulsive man in the street.

Screencap of email (click for much larger).

Dear Matthew,

I am writing to you in response to the request that popped up in my inbox earlier this afternoon. I have also copied in Charity Comms, which deemed your request as relevant to charities that fall into the “women’s group”, “children” or “family welfare” categories. I do hope that you receive several replies from “women’s groups” and that said “women’s groups” tell you exactly what they think of you.

Let me recount for you a memory from my childhood. I recall a day out with my father in which we passed a man on a bench staring fixatedly at the highly sexualised image of a bare-breasted young woman in a newspaper. I remember how this sight provoked a feeling of surprise, disgust and anger in my heart but, given my young age, I could not articulate why. When my father and I returned home, I found my mother breastfeeding my younger sister. My immediate reaction was to fetch a tea towel to cover her bare chest, lest a stranger should ogle at her body in the style of that same repulsive man in the street. I think that is the day that I became a feminist. I wanted my mother, my sister and indeed women and girls in general to be seen by all as more than objects, mere pieces of meat, for men’s sexual gratification. Your newspaper, filled with men in clothes doing “useful” things, a single giant image of a girl in her pants, and, apparently, as of Tuesday, naked Real Women TM in “nude thongs” who can only “get happier” when men rate their bodies favourably, is, therefore, not one of my favourite publications. Just so you know.  [Rest, yourdaughterswillbenext.]

Her Name was Lucy Meadows: the consequences of transphobic press monstering

This is a guest post by trans feminist Sarah Noble, who tweets here.

This week isn’t really a good week to be transgender. Then again, it never is.

On Tuesday we learnt that the Press Complaints Commission, despite receiving 800 complaints against Julie Burchill’s horrific transphobic rant back in January, would not be taking any action against either the Observer or the Daily Telegraph, ostensibly because it was hate directed against a group of people and not an individual person. As if that makes it any more excusable.

Well, if you want hate against a person, consider Lucy Meadows. She was a trans woman who did nothing wrong. She was a well-respected teacher at the primary school in which she worked. But she raised the ire of the Daily Mail, including their infamous columnist Richard Littlejohn, who laid into her for not thinking of the children. She received a lot of abuse after the Daily Mail article, and was sadly found dead on Tuesday.

[Rest: thefword]