Guest post: Woman-friendly news?

// 5 June 2009

Lindsey M Sheehan longs for a newspaper that doesn’t alienate female and feminist readers…

I’m starting to realise that there is no such thing as a woman-friendly newspaper. At one end of the scale are the porn tabloids offering “twenty times more boobs than The Sun”, somewhere in the middle is the self-esteem crushing Daily Fail, and at the safe-to-view-without-snorting-cornflakes end I place leftie papers like the Guardian and Independent. I favour independent.co.uk for the mix of news and opinion.

On Wednesday morning, two articles on the Indie website caught my eye: Sir Alan, Sexism and the Workplace and Blonde Parade lifts spirits in Latvia.

In the first, Johann Hari discusses the Equality Bill in the context of The Apprentice, and is not afraid to criticise the general corporate attitude to women:

The Bill requires companies to calculate the gap between what women are paid and what men are paid in their organisation, and publish it. Some companies have squealed that their gap will be large, because their managers are overwhelmingly male, and their cleaners are overwhelmingly women. Well, yes. Do you think women are better suited to scrubbing than managing? Do you want to make that case to the public?

Excellent article, two thumbs up. But just a few clicks away is the Blonde Parade.

The article itself is a short and incredibly vague introduction to a series of pictures of women dressed like Barbie. Some shots are dangerously close to the “up-skirt” angle. The charity this is in aid of was not important enough to be named, though organisers hope to make it an annual event. Gathering this many young, thin blonde women implies a vetting process too, unless only the most attractive women were photographed. The most important thing is that they “put a smile back on the face of recession-weary Latvians” – I think they mean Latvian men.

So I have news outlet that supports a feminist author on one hand, and signs off on sexist fluff with the other. I don’t understand if this is because the powers-that-be are flakey, predominantly sexist but trying to please their feminist readers, or predominantly feminist but want to reassure their non-feminist readers. What I would like to see is some commitment. Cut the fluff. It’s beneath us all.

Comments From You

Octavia // Posted 5 June 2009 at 12:52 pm

With regards to the “Latvia Blondes” article, this depresses me so much. Maybe it’s the assumption that it lifts the spirits of the nationals (i.e. men. Obviously women aren’t citizens) that annoys me so much. Or that charities have not yet got bored of using women’s bodies to raise money (such as Bikini Washes for Breat Cancer, etc). Or that if I was to post something similar to this on the newspaper’s website I’d be accused of “jus bein jelus”.

Sigh.

Great site by the way!

Amy Clark // Posted 5 June 2009 at 1:06 pm

Agree that the UK media’s approach to being “women- friendly” is wholly inconsistent and contradictory. Weekly gossip mags being amongst the biggest offenders – one week they’re hailing the curvy next week slating them. We definitely need a little consistency to break through this female bitchiness stereotype and cut the fluff, it’s getting VERY boring!

Madeleine // Posted 5 June 2009 at 1:43 pm

Well, Sr’Alan apart, I was really disappointed and annoyed watching the most recent episode of the Apprentice when Kate said that her biggest challenge would be an all-female team because “of course I can’t generalise” (!) but women are too emotional.

And when Debra Barr told Karen Brady that she (and a lot of successful women) got called a bitch just because she was successful, Karen Brady chose to go down the disingenuous, denying route, “Well I’m a successful businesswoman and no one’s called me a bitch”.

If it wasn’t for feminism they would never have had the chance to become successful. A lot of women still don’t.

Tamasine // Posted 5 June 2009 at 3:52 pm

Another issue in relation to the UK news, is that ‘women’s issues’ are still reported on ‘separately’ from the ‘normal’ news. Even papers like the Guardian, which does report heavily on equality issues, has a separate women’s section and supplement – the last full issue of that supplement lead article was focused on women’s need or ability to wear short skirts…Not exactly challenging perceptions or views of women’s media focus or interests! I guess at some point the editors fail to see the irony in reporting on both stories… New to the site; really enjoying following the articles.

Rosa // Posted 22 June 2009 at 3:49 pm

I love this blog. Even if the entries handle depressing subjects, it’s followed by a string of comments by excellent people.

“Another issue in relation to the UK news, is that ‘women’s issues’ are still reported on ‘separately’ from the ‘normal’ news.”

I agree, but I also think it carries a double edged sword. My brother, for example, really hates feminism and doesn’t have much patience for women’s issues.

I can’t remember the context of this conversation, but I told him I thought women aren’t represented in the media as much as men. True? Yes. Obvious? Should be.

My brother said, “You ARE represented!” He picked up the Guardian’s women’s supplement and said “You even get an extra magazine in the paper! Where’s our magazine? Women are more represented than men, for god’s sake.”

Supplements like that – well, most women’s magazine’s to be honest – gloss over the issue and make it look like women have an equal voice and standing with men.

We don’t.

And I hardly think that if we did we’d be talking about the top ten mini skirts we could buy while checking articles to see if the kind of eyebrows we have are the kind of eyebrows that are in fashion this season and what diets we could go on.

Veering off topic slightly, I once read an article in a newspaper about how men and women relate to each other. A man was advised to watch Sex and the City and read fashion magazines to “get inside the minds of real women.” The man said he was horrified (“is this how women see the world? Is this how women really think?”) and said it made him feel even more alienated to women and even felt a loss of respect for them.

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