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Raw deal for women and minorities in the media

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Women are still getting a raw deal in the media, according to early returns of NUJ Scotland’s survey on equality.

Three out of four journalists in Scotland think there is a problem with the way women and/or minority groups are represented in the press, according to early survey returns.

The ongoing survey by NUJ Scotland, as part of the Stronger Voice for Women Project funded by the Union Modernisation Fund, reveals that 75 per cent of journalists and other workers in the media who have responded so far believe there is an issue.  The results of early responses have been released to mark International Women’s Day.

The survey asks “Do you think there is a problem with the way women and/or minority groups are represented in the media?” One male respondent answered “Women are portrayed as weak; minority groups, alien.”

Comments in responses from male and female journalists and other media workers include

  • “I think the media – print and TV continue to send worrying signals to young women about what the roles are for women in the world and how they are expected to dress, speak, behave, shave, etc.”
  • “Fat shaming, slut shaming, women being identified as mother of two etc. – when was the last time a feature on a man referenced his family?”
  • “Varies from publication to publication, but the usual suspects fixate on clothes and appearance, even when writing about women in politics, business or sport.”
  • “Depends on the slant of national paper but still portrayed as ‘model type bimbos’ and at every turn there’s pics of women in bikinis. Real issues get buried i.e. Equal pay, the need for child-care, flexible working hours, poverty, sexual harassment ( unless it’s a court case) domestic abuse…. need I go on?!”
  • “I see evidence of major problems for women, Muslims, travellers, asylum seekers, welfare recipients and other groups. There is still a major problem with homophobia in the media, too.”

Other comments included “Sexualisation of women (particularly young women) and degradation of minority groups” and “Minorities are often either ignored or vilified, I would say women are either ignored, trivialised or sexualised.”

One male respondent said “Still the over-riding attitude that women are silly little things or sex objects or harridans rather than professionals, intelligent etc.”  Another said “Certain segments of the media unfairly revert to stereotypes when dealing with minority or ethnic groups.”

One response said there were problems, particularly with minority groups such as BAME, trans, bisexual, asexual, those with learning difficulties, people who were cash poor and the intersections of these groups.

A number of respondents said they had complained about inappropriate headlines and challenged sexist and homophobic content, sometimes successfully.

The Stronger Voice for Women in the Media project, funded by the Union Modernisation Fund through the STUC, comes at a time when there is growing recognition of the everyday challenges women face and the need for the media to report more responsibly on issues such as violence against women.

But they are not only women’s issues, they affect everyone, men and women,  and it’s important that all those working in the media, the union, the wider trade union movement, management and groups represented in the media all work together to improve the situation

The project aims to provide opportunities for women’s voices to be heard, as well as those of men, with a major event planned for the end representing women and men both in the media and who care about the media and the wider trade union movement culminating in a call for action to move the cause forward.

If you work in the media in Scotland, you can still complete the survey – here

Additional comments include:-

  • “The Sun’s page 3 ladies platform almost pales into insignificance when you look at the sexual, explicit, almost x-rated images that are being reproduced from celeb Twitter feeds and placed into the digital editions of news media on an hourly basis. As far as promoting positive body image is concerned, new media has not exercised much in the way of responsible judgement when reproducing banal Tweets of female bodies – particularly when there’s no actual story – it’s just usually a boob or bum shot which does nothing to promote positive body image in young people. We’ve crossed over traditional standards of editorial judgement and forgotten the ‘print’ ethics and codes of practice simply because ‘it’s digital’, it would seem.”
  • “I don’t know where to start…patronising, paternal, superior attitudes are still commonplace.”
  • “Not enough coverage need for greater diversity”
  • “Women are still objectified and under-represented as are other minority groups”
  • “On TV women are still chosen for their looks. For BAME men and women the approach is still tokenistic.”
  • “With regard to women, yes, women are still objectified, their outfits are commented on (not so with males so much), we still have Page 3, we still have lewd comments/innuendo in mainstream newspapers, photographs of women tend to focus on body/appearance, body shaming (weight), face shaming (if they are not pretty enough), and if the media includes the internet, too much exposure of females in online pornographic websites which are too easily accessed by accident by children as young as 9 years old. On the whole, I feel that the media should treat women with much more respect especially as mass media has incredible power over minds.”
  • “Too much focus on appearance in comparison to men.”
  • “Stereotypes are rife even now – bigger problem for ethnic groups though”
  • “While the representation of women in the media remains an issue, it is the representation of minority groups – particularly racial and LGBTQ groups – that is the biggest issue. The only way to address this is by having the characteristics of those who control the media more closely reflect those of the general population.”

Fiona Davidson

Women’s Project Worker



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