Equality groups make case against sexism in UK media
In oral evidence presented today, leading UK equality groups called upon the Leveson Inquiry to address inaccurate, prejudicial and demeaning media portrayals of women.
The inquiry, which began hearings in November last year, was commissioned by the government to investigate the culture, practices and ethics of the UK media.
Speaking today, representatives from Eaves, the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Equality Now and Object argued that media bias condones violence against women and girls, reduces women to a sum of body parts and is corrosive to gender equality and human rights.
In a series of recommendations, representatives urged that the Press Complaints Commission be replaced with a stronger body that could hear from groups as well as individuals, and would have stronger powers when complaints were upheld.
Anna Van Heeswijk of Object drew attention to The Sun newspaper’s “page three” – which shows “glamour models” in poses considered by many to be pornographic.
She called for the rules banning inappropriate and explicit material from the public realm to be extended to cover this kind of material.
“If we are serious about wanting a socially responsible press, recommendations must address the persistent portrayal of women as sex objects in the UK ‘page three’ tabloids,” Van Heeswijk said.
Representatives also called for journalists to receive training on the myths and realities which surround violence against women, and the culture of victim-blaming.
They highlighted failures to report accurately on sexual violence, prostitution, rape and crimes against ethnic minority women.
One example cited was the headline, “Orgy in the Park”, used to describe a gang rape.
“These are not matters of taste and decency. Poor reporting on all forms of violence against women, but particularly on rape and sexual violence, has an impact on individual women,” said Heather Harvey of Eaves.
“It can deter victims from reporting crimes and gives a message to perpetrators that you are likely to get away with it.”
Jacqui Hunt of Equality Now added: “Good journalism strives for balance and diversity, yet women are rarely represented as leaders, experts or decision-makers, rather they are frequently objectified, stereotyped, trivialised and demeaned.”