I want to talk a little bit about media and social responsibility, how the expectation is that the two should marry together in an open, honest reporting of the news. News should be newsworthy and we should be able to trust that it is a factual, unbiased account. Daily I am disappointed that this is simply not what we have access to. The world of print journalism is littered with agenda and depending on where you source your news, your views and opinions can be marred and altered to react and digest the ‘facts’ in a certain way. There is also too much focus on celebrity and gossip which is invasive and untrue this focus is centred around the superficiality of our society.
Media and misogyny is a huge bugbear for me, I hate the way in which women are portrayed and I also hate the way we, as a sex, are manipulated. We are all guilty of succumbing to it too, which is possibly what I hate the most, as it highlights my own weaknesses. The way in which women are reported in the media can be shameful and insulting. We are either paraded around as air headed bimbos or angry, angst ridden spinsters. Often we can be tarred with unjust villainy and not offered much of a lifeline. You see it time after time where the media picks up a juicy story that peaks public interest and media groups are relentless in their portrayal. I am frequently witnessing an increase of gaslighting where the reader is manipulated into judging women. It is a very interesting concept that is only now being discussed openly. Jamilla Jamil, an actress and activist, is using her platform to raise awareness on the matter. She is doing excellent work educating people into the many interesting aspects of our superficial society, and the negative effects it has on an individual’s self esteem. I would highly recommend following her on instagram to get totally schooled Jamilla style!
It was from following her, and reading the varied responses to her opinions on social media that I started to analyse my own reactions to women that have been portrayed in the media. Why it is that we say “I don’t like such and such, but I couldn’t tell you why?” I know I have been guilty of this at times and what was interesting is that once I broke it down it was often due to, in part, a negative media portrayal. Sometimes subtle and done over time, and other times so glaringly obvious that it is quite sickening. For example the recent treatment of Meghan Markle and much more tragically, the treatment of Caroline Flack. The severity of the media backlash that Caroline experienced ultimately culminated with her suicide in February this year.
I had always been a fan of hers, but have found the stories written about her over the years to be contradictory to the person that I saw on screen. She had always suffered a strange relationship with the press, who seemed determined to create ‘clickable’ stories about her which, for the most part were either untrue, half truths or exaggerations. The last few months of her life had spiralled and she was clearly suffering mental health problems, an incident that should have been handled with compassion and care suddenly saw her being hounded, ridiculed and vilified. I do not claim to know the whole story, however it would appear that a version of ‘the story’ was formulated one that could be used to maximise the enticement of the reader. I found the approach unsettling and scary. I could see a fragile person breaking before my eyes and it just seemed to fuel paparazzi and reporters further. They had a great angle and they were going to persevere with that no matter the cost.
The trolls on the Internet rejoiced in the treatment of Caroline, oddly taking pleasure in the fact that she was a woman accused of domestic violence. The vitriol aimed at her was awful and the hate came from all angles. The justification behind this public vilifying was that the story was in the public interest. There was also an element of wanting to celebrate that finally a woman was getting into trouble for being an “abuser”. I repeatedly read statements of anger like’ if she was a man she would never have gotten away with that’. Finally a woman was getting in to trouble for an action that men had been getting in trouble for for years. It was a weird response, I can understand that any form of domestic violence can be extremely triggering for people, however the irrationality of some of the anger was unsettling. She was clearly unwell, was in the grips of a mental breakdown and would have benefitted more from a compassionate response and an outreaching of help. Instead she was hounded and driven to suicide. A lot of people say that she shouldn’t have been able to use her sex as a way out of the trouble, but her sex was being used against her, as a way of solidifying her fate. It was used as an argument to use the full force of the law against her – being a woman should not let her get away with things, but neither should it seal a fate of unwavering certainty of her guilt.
This is just one of many examples where women have been vilified in the press, this is not a revelation, I continue to see stories twisted and used to the editors advantage. Public figures being persecuted and used to sell more column inches is a sure fire way to obtain new readers and keep current ones engaged. It is a superficial and lazy approach, but it works and highlights the weaknesses in our press. Our media system is a long way off of creating the change that is so desperately needed within UK based reporting.
In my next piece I will discuss the different media group agendas, where their loyalties lie and who benefits most from a sexist press.