Recently, I seem to be writing more and more about gender inequality. I’m far from being a full-blown feminist, but the statistics on the gender-divide in different industries keep catching my eye and are important to consider.
Published in this week’s Media Guardian is a study on gender imbalance in UK media. Over a period of four weeks, Women in Journalism has conducted an analysis of nine national papers, from Monday through to Saturday, looking at gender of the writers, those quoted and those pictured.
The study finds that 78% of all front page articles were written by male journalists, and 84% of those mentioned or quoted in lead pieces are men, most in their professional capacity. This compares to 16% of women who were ‘disproportionately likely to be quoted as victims and celebrities’. Before I carry on, I must say kudos to The Express who is the only paper to have equal number of men and women writing on their front page.
So, does the prevalence of male-dominated front pages equate to socially irresponsible press?
Harriet Harman is quoted as saying: “The media is supposed to reflect the view of everyone. How much is it really reflecting the views of women in this country?” Personally, I would question the link between a reflection of women’s views and reporting by men.. Yes, there is a gender imbalance but why should we assume that men can’t reflect women’s views as well as their own?
For me, the real concern to come out of the report regards the use of images. Although there was greater equality in photographs during the month in question, powerful women who were featured were often represented in an unflattering way. For example, the home secretary, Theresa May, appeared as the main picture four times, three of which were the same image of her caught at the wrong moment and pulling a ‘silly’ face.
Another example is during exam season – why is that only photogenic young women appear to receive GCSE/A-Level results?! Is this due to the influence of men in the role of picture editor or does it reflect what market research might suggest readers what to see? For this particular example, the FT put it down to a combination of journalists being ‘moral degenerates’ and schools encouraging ‘the use of pictures of pulchritudinous blondes’.
In my opinion it shows a lack of respect, putting the sale of papers before intelligent reporting. As the adage goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ after all!
It is my hope that, following this report, there will be more awareness about gender inequality in the press and therefore, result in more balanced reporting. It may mean that we see journalists seeking more female contributions to their articles than before. That said, it shouldn’t be women for women’s sake; journalists are often inundated with industry commentary so it is important to be outspoken, whatever gender you are.
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