I completely agree that women are objectified in the media and am pleased the Leveson inquiry is giving this an airing. Women have been routinely portrayed as “mad or bad” in the press since time immemorial; now, any woman who enters the spotlight seems to be rich pickings, sexually usually, and if not, negatively anyway, whether she has a legitimate grievance or not. There is nothing in the way of balance and the way women are reported on in the media is pretty disgusting.
Kiss and tells are one thing and the women involved know there will be a downside to telling/selling their story. Their backgrounds will be dug up, former lovers will come forward and it’s Titillation Central for a few weeks on the front pages. The female columnists will get indignant, and chew up and spit out the men involved, as well as the women, repeating the same lurid details from a different angle. But the next week, those same columnists will be vilifying—and objectifying—another woman in the public eye, just because she happens to be a woman in the public eye, and usually with as much venom as they can muster.
Tabloid editors are, by nature, so perverse they don’t see or care that what their rags perpetuate is the idea that it is ok to disrespect women, whoever the woman may be.
Successful women are nearly always objectified. Madonna’s got a young lover (slag), Posh is so thin because she tries desperately to stop her man straying (saddo), Angelina’s a man-eater, while all their other halves are heroes within their professions. The way ALL female stars are depicted in magazines like Heat, with their cellulite close-ups, the “have they or haven’t they had surgery” close-ups, those scrutinising portraits of women on the red carpet in their “hit or miss” outfits—is absolutely abhorrent. And when they can’t get a sexual or close-lens angle, those successful women are simply characterised as bitches or losers.
All this is now normal. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Women in the public eye now need thick skins more than ever to countenance the slanderous headlines with the good things, even though they shouldn’t have to.
The feminist groups who appeared at the Leveson inquiry last week made some good and wide-ranging points. The sexualisation of child models has to go, the reporting of rape and any crime involving sexual assault should be done more sensitively and the mainstream media in general has got to learn to report women in a fair and balanced way without objectification creeping in at every turn. But those groups need to be careful not to push a feminist agenda to imply that we must be protected from anything that could be deemed offensive – otherwise people will switch off.
The Daily Mail is a million times more sexist and misogynistic than the Star, Sun or Express, in the tone and the ideology it perpetuates, from all its writers. Women are not generally so sensitive that we need to be shielded from pictures of boobs in the redtops, surely? There are bigger battles to fight.
What’s wrong, on every level, is the sexual objectification of women who have made it into the public eye without seeking fame, and women who are in the papers as victims of a crime. This trend in reporting needs to be quashed, and soon.
Nicola Thornton is a freelance journalist from Brighton with 12 years’ experience in regional press and magazines. She’s a self-confessed “sucker” for fair and balanced reporting, something instilled in her by a course tutor who “scared the hell out of us” with stories of defamation and contempt of court every Thursday morning.
Posted on 30 January 2012.