Four women’s groups today published a report on media sexism, raising concerns about coverage of violence against women by the mainstream press.
The joint report by Eaves, End Violence Against Women coalition, OBJECT and Equality Now, sampled 11 national newspapers over a two week period in September 2012, looking at examples of sexist and sexualised reporting.
Published on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the report took its name, ‘Just The Women’, from Peter Rippon’s notorious justification for spiking the Newsnight exposé of Jimmy Savile.
As quoted in the Observer, the report said: “We found numerous instances of violence against women coming across as sexual and titillating.
“We call this ‘rape culture’ because this reporting of violence against women and girls not only trivialises the abuse, but it further contributes to an increasingly conducive context for rape and sexual abuse to take place with impunity.
“Articles which appear to present violation, fear and lack of consent as appealing were not uncommon.”
Irresponsible reporting on violence against women is presented in the report as part of a wider culture of media sexism, with the following key findings addressed:
- A lack of context in reporting, leading to inaccurate, incomplete or misrepresentative and misleading impressions of women and women’s lives
- Imagery and coverage that focuses on women’s appearance and the degree to which women’s behaviour conforms to a stereotyped code of acceptable femininity, which has the potential to reduce women’s aspirations and participation
- Excessive objectification of women in some parts of the press, reducing them entirely to sexual commodities in a way that would not be broadcast on television, nor allowed in the workplace because of equality legislation
- Selective, de-contextualised reporting that can perpetuate stereotypes and myths about victims and perpetrators of violence, having the potential to negatively impact on our justice system
- Glamorisation and eroticisation of violence against women and girls
- Narrow and stereotyped coverage of “women’s issues” coupled with the abuse of women who speak out on public matters, which can lead to silencing, reduced aspirations, and a deficit in our democratic discourse
With Lord Justice Leveson’s report on press ethics due to be published on Thursday, the women’s groups are calling for a new regulatory body to address concerns about sexism in the media.
In addition, the report recommends, “specific training for journalists and editors on violence against women and girls and the relationship between its depiction and harm to women and girls.
“We want to see those offering training courses to journalists include discussion of these issues in their curricula and for newspapers to require/encourage their staff to take such training.
“The apparent repeated failure by Newsnight to properly report on matters of child sexual abuse, including protection for vulnerable survivor/victims, underlines this point.”
The report can be read in full here.