You could say, that over the past few years traditional media has both moved on and gone completely backwards in one fell swoop. If you are reading this post, I don’t need to tell you about how the traditional press, glossy magazines and broadcast media are taking women for total fools – and not only that, they are damaging our confidence, self esteem and our place in the world. Because although a resurgence in the feminist movement is alive and kicking amongst us, there are dozens of articles, programmes and examples of anti-women content ready to pull us back.
If feminism is growing, ironically, so is misogyny in the media.
What exactly do I mean by this? Well, I can point you to a million and one examples of how women are constantly and appalling torn down by our press, and perhaps unsurprisingly by female journalists to boot. The No More Page 3 campaign is growing in numbers for a reason, the Everyday Sexism project exists to bring awareness to the instances of casual sexism experienced by women on a daily basis and The Women’s Room are trying to put women back in the media where they belong – as experts, not victims. Their Mediawatch section is brilliant, but also like a car crash of everything that is wrong with how women are portrayed by the media.
But whilst I can point you to a million and one examples of how women are constantly and appalling torn down by our press, that isn’t the most awful thing about what is going on with women and the media right now. What I’m talking about is the juxtaposition of women’s supplements and sections meant to support female empowerment alongside what can only be described as 101 ways to make women feel shit about themselves. The fact that this happens shouldn’t be shocking – but the fact it is used as a way to excuse blatant misogyny in the media is.
Here’s a couple of examples to illustrate…
Telegraph Wonder Women
The Telegraph Wonder Women section is a fairly new edition to the online offering of The Telegraph and was introduced to great fanfare. They do have some excellent contributors such as Cathy Newman and whilst I remain sceptical about the tone and content overall of this section (and the name…*rolls eyes*), at least they are giving it a go.
But no one could have missed the absolute shit storm of last week which probably illustrates my point better than I ever could with words. The main Telegraph newspaper printed an absolutely vitriolic piece (written by a woman, natch) about the state of Kate Winslet’s love life and family set up – effectively slut shaming her on a grand scale. The Wonder Women section accidentally auto tweeted it out which created a massive backlash, and a balanced response from that section followed.
But whilst the response piece was commendable (and this issue was clearly handled well by the Women’s team and as they state they had nothing to do with commissioning the original nasty article), it does not get away from simple facts.
Yes, it is absolutely disgusting that a columnist in a personal opinion piece slut shamed another woman. However, a national newspaper has a choice whether to publish online or in print said article. When national newspapers stop giving airtime to such bile and they disappear off to their own hateful corner of the internet, that will be the day I can take a female empowerment section such as Telegraph Wonder Women seriously. The Telegraph posting a piece to slam another piece which it published on the same day does not excuse it. In fact, it makes them look entirely stupid. And it makes them looking like they are excusing outright misogyny in the media.
But hey – perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised. This is coming from a women’s section that published the article “So, can a woman be beautiful and funny?”. (Don’t click, it will give you rage).
The Guardian Women In Leadership
Women In Leadership is a new launch from The Guardian’s professional section online. As with all their professional sections (I’m an active member and on the advisory panel the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network), it aims to bring debate, advice, tips and tricks to those in that sector. When I heard they were creating this section I was pleased as punch – a media outlet seriously tackling the issue of female careers and leadership?! Who knew.
However, imagine my disappointment when this section was used to launch a debate on whether women are judged for what they wear. This came through in an email to the members of that network as one of the first big talking points of that section. I mean really?! An example in the question was given of an White House staffer who is known for her shoes, and linked to an article in the Washington Post. Again I say, really?
The problem with this example is that a newspaper is creating something apparently of worth to women to redress the balance somewhat, and then using it to sneak in the usual claptrap and outmoded thinking that has plagued women for decades. Upon signing up to this network, I was hoping to find intellectual debate on female leadership and our working environment. Instead I got the usual stereotype that even in the context of my career I should only be concerned with how I dress and looking good 9and usually young too). Disappointing.
Note that neither of these examples are in the traditional tabloid press or that *insert sarcastic face here* well known supporter of women The Daily Mail. And whilst normal, hard working and quite honestly fantastic women will continue to talk about representation in the media, the reason why there are hardly any women on Question Time and why the biggest picture of a women each day in the news is half naked, newspapers like this will quietly and assuredly undermine us.
Does having a women’s section or women specific content excuse misogyny in the media? Of course not. But try telling that to the commissioning editors and owners. They don’t want to hear it.
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