Posted on January 25, 2012
Not all media sexism is as overt and in your face as the examples given by women’s groups during their awesome testimony to the Leveson Inquiry yesterday. Media sexism, (or #mediasexism if you want to do a Twitter search for coverage of Tuesday’s morning’s hearing) isn’t always about Page 3 ‘girls’, victim blaming, sexual objectification or downright misogyny: often it’s a lot more subtle than that.
Take the erasure of women from the MSM for example. The way women are ignored or marginalised, treated as though we don’t exist or as though our issues are unimportant in the grand scale of things, that’s also media sexism.
In a piece for the Guardian last December Kira Cochrane posed the question: Why is British public life dominated by men? and she went on to analyse in quite some depth the factors that contribute to this. Cochrane looked at the absence of women in current affairs programmes; she compared the number of male and female bylines in national newspapers over a four week period, and she also logged the gender of reporters and guests on the Today programme. It was an extensive piece of research, and while the results were depressing, they were unfortunately also entirely predictable.
As I’ve written here before, one of the main problems is that men promote men promote men ad infinitum, so if all the editors are men, the producers are all men, and the senior politicians are all men, it becomes this self-perpetuating cycle, and women’s opportunities to break through and to get their voices heard are limited. And as Cochrane says: “The trouble is, the fewer women who appear on these shows, the fewer feel comfortable doing so – and more broadly, and most importantly, the fewer girls and young women are likely to feel confident claiming public space, speaking their minds, believing women are valued for their voice and opinions.”
And talking of which, talking of women being valued for their voice and their opinions, has anyone else noticed the disgraceful lack of coverage of yesterday morning’s Leveson Hearing in the mainstream press?
Okay, so Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour did a piece about it on Tuesday morning; the BBC has covered it online; the wonderful Helen Lewis-Hasteley wrote it up for the New Statesman; the Guardian posted a couple of articles about it, and the Telegraph live blogged it: but that’s about it. Most of the coverage of the women’s testimony from Tuesday morning has been on Twitter and on blogs, not in the mainstream media.
More significantly, and ironically given the Kira Cochrane article I cited earlier, what didn’t happen yesterday, and what’s so glaringly obvious because of its absence, is that yesterday of all days the Guardian chose not to live blog the Leveson proceedings. Or as I pointed out on Twitter this morning:
Which brings us back to media sexism.
Because I’ve done my own bit of research, and my research reveals that in the 30 days of hearings that have taken place since the newspaper groups made their opening statements to Leveson on November 15th 2011, there have been only four days when the Guardian hasn’t live blogged the Inquiry: December 8th, January 17th, January 18th, and yesterday, January 24th.
And for those who haven’t been following Leveson that closely, Wednesday January 18th was the day that Lisa Byrne, the editor of OK, Lucy Cave, the editor of Heat, and Rosie Nixon, the joint editor of Hello, gave their evidence.
Oh dear, is there a pattern beginning to emerge? Or is there something about a group of women testifying at Leveson that sends Guardian reporters running for the hills?
As I said right at the start: “the way women are ignored or marginalised, treated as though we don’t exist or as though our issues are unimportant in the grand scale of things, that’s also media sexism.” Sadly it seems, the Guardian isn’t immune from engaging in it either.
“And talking of which, talking of women being valued for their voice and their opinions, has anyone else noticed the disgraceful lack of coverage of yesterday morning’s Leveson Hearing in the mainstream press?
Okay, so Radio 4′s Woman’s Hour did a piece about it on Tuesday morning; the BBC has covered it online; the wonderful Helen Lewis-Hasteley wrote it up for the New Statesman; the Guardian posted a couple of articles about it, and the Telegraph live blogged it: but that’s about it.”
Was that bit a joke?
“Oh dear, is there a pattern beginning to emerge? Or is there something about a group of women testifying at Leveson that sends Guardian reporters running for the hills?”
Let’s have a look at those other two dates that weren’t live-blogged by the Guardian…
December 8th: Professor Steven Barnett, Professor George Brock, Professor Brian Cathcart, Angela Phillips, Professor Ian Hargreaves, Professor Julian Petley, Dr Daithí Mac Síthigh
January 17th: Ian Hislop, Thomas Mockridge, Susan Panuccio, Rupert Pennant-Rea, James Harding, John Witherow, Chris Elliott, Alan Rusbridger
No it wasn’t a joke. That list represents just a small proportion of the MSM. Obviously I’m not surprised by the fact that those papers that were named and shamed yesterday have completely ignored the hearing, but I don’t think the fact that they’ve done it should pass without mention either.
And you’re missing the point. Most days the hearings are dominated by male participants and the Gruan, apart from the two days you’ve mentioned, have covered them extensively. The two days where women were represented in any number, and they were all but ignored. If the Guardian wants to make the point, as in Kira’s article, that women are absent from public discourse etc, and that that absence is an issue (which obviously I agree it is), then the least they can do is ensure they don’t also participate in the erasure of women in their coverage of important events like Leveson.
Well said! I really thought c4news would feature it, but instead there was an extensive report on a potential Tory mep who believes in aliens. Leveson cannot change the issues in the press if it doesn’t tackle sexism. It is key and is very telling that the issue has been ignored by the press.
“instead there was an extensive report on a potential Tory mep who believes in aliens”
I have to admit I would have watched that had I known it was on. Mind you my MEP (or one of them) is Nick Griffin, so this person probably can’t be any worse.
Stupid question, what is MSM?
Sorry, I should know better than to use acronyms. It stands for mainstream media Polly.
Sheila – it’s member of european parliament
Its not only the MSM
Flipping eck has anyone seen this on the Fail?
“PCSO who had seven-month affair with 12-year-old girl jailed for rape after they were caught together on sofa by his wife”
Affair????????With a 12 year old?
Fucking hell! No I hadn’t seen it Polly, thanks for pointing it out.
It’s still there – unfucking believable excuse my language. Despite the fact that the top rated comment says ‘I’m not sure affair is the word to be using here’.
FACT: the Fail is now the world’s most popular news website.
I know, depressing isn’t it.
They’re getting slammed on Twitter for this, and the F Word have got a piece up about it already. I don’t see them changing it though, it’s just par for the course for the Fail.
Excellent post. The invisibility of women in mainstream media is a huge issue, and the ones that do feature are often chosen for the wrong reasons. Having worked for many years in factual/current affairs TV, I know that producers did try to get women on shows. The problem was that before they were allowed anywhere near the screen, they had to be deemed ‘attractive’ by the mainly male production staff. Obviously no such criteria existed for men. This leads to the culture of tokenism you mention. As an aside, I remember once being in a meeting in which Zoe Williams was rejected as a potential presenter for a current affairs show because she was, and I quote: “too intelligent.”