Women In The Media
Equality between women and men will not be achieved by legal change alone. How our society, culture, communities and individuals view women and women’s equality will make a huge difference. In other words, people – including women themselves – have to believe in and support the idea that men and women are of equal value and worth. We need to see an end to narrow or negative attitudes about women and outdated stereotypes that maintain inequality and limit both women and men.
For example research has shown:
29% of 11 – 16 year girls are “not at all happy with the way they look”
20% of people think it is acceptable for a man to hit his partner if she dresses in sexy or revealing clothes in public
76% of girls and 59% of boys would be interested in a non-traditional work sector if they were given the opportunity to try it out.
Our attitudes to women and women’s equality are shaped in multiple ways; they are informed by our upbringing, social values and our personal experiences. Two of the other most important influencers are what we experience in popular media and culture, and what we learn in schools and education.
Our media and cultural representations of women have a huge impact on how girls and women are viewed and view themselves – and on public attitudes to women and women’s equality. How boys and girls are treated at schools, the values they experience and what they are taught all make a huge difference. Schools have a duty to use education to tackle all forms of prejudice and discrimination in generations to come.
Women continue to be predominantly represented in passive and stereotyped roles in film and television. This extends beyond fictional representations, to news media – women are far more likely to be shown as victims and far more likely to be referred to in terms of their age, physical appearance or family role than men in the news. Women are also less likely to appear in important roles behind the scenes
From the effect of celebrity culture on young women’s and girls’ body image, to the stereotyped portrayal of rape survivors, to a chronic under representation of female news subjects, our attitudes are moulded by these media and wider cultural representations of women. Moreover, the leadership of the media and culture industry is still dominated by men.
In terms of our schools, while there are some positive examples, we are a long way from seeing women’s equality affirmed or mainstreamed across the curriculum. Schools need greater support around sexual harassment and the bullying of girls that occur all too frequently.
Schools are also being asked to play greater role in careers and apprenticeship advice, with little guidance on tackling some of the gender bias that still exist in these areas. Women earn, on average, 21% less than men in the apprenticeship sector – for example, 97% of engineering apprenticeships – which pay around £189 a week – are done by men, whereas 92% of hairdressing apprenticeships – which pay around £109 a week – are done by women.
There is also still a way to go before we can confidently say that most schools have a “whole school” approach to creating a culture of gender equality for pupils and staff.
You can find references to the statistics cited above in the What About Women report available to download to the right of this page.
What Could Make a Difference?
The Beijing Platform for Action, which was agreed by Governments around the world in 1995, states: “the continued projection of negative and degrading images of women in media communications – electronic, print, visual and audio – must be changed. Print and electronic media in most countries does not provide a balanced picture of women’s diverse lives and contribution to society in a changing world.”
We support the recent recommendation of the Tackling Media Sexism campaign of EVAW (End Violence Against Women Coalition) of which we are a member. These recommendations call on the government to examine Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals and to consider instituting a new press regulation regime which:
- Allows third parties to make complaints; and allows for thematic investigations as well as those on individual cases
- Has clear guidance about women’s equality in the text of the new code; and has accountable representative(s) of the equality sector as member(s) of the new body
- Makes newspapers’ membership of the new body compulsory
- Requires consistency between the broadcast watershed for sexually explicit material and newspapers.
We also want to see much greater action with the media and cultural industries to tackle the dearth of women in leadership and powerful positions and support the valuable work being undertaken by organisations such as:
Women in Film and TV
Women in Journalism
Article 10 of the UN CEDAW convention also requires states to ‘take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure to them equal rights with men in the field of education including:
- the elimination of any stereotyped concept of the roles of men and women at all levels and in all forms of education by encouraging coeducation and other types of education which will help to achieve this aim and, in particular, by the revision of textbooks and school programmes and the adaptation of teaching methods;
- the same opportunities for access to programmes of continuing education, including adult and functional literacy programmes, particularly those aimed at reducing, at the earliest possible time, any gap in education existing between men and women;
- the same opportunities to participate actively in sports and physical education;
- access to specific educational information to help to ensure the health and wellbeing of families, including information and advice on family planning.
We would like to see:
- Gender equality principles incorporated across the curriculum, not only in PSHEE classes,
- Greater whole school investment in creating a culture where gender inequality against women is addressed openly and appropriately, with a strong lead coming from senior staff as well as individual teachers. This will mean ensuring that all schools have access to adequate advice and support on developing and implementing a robust equality scheme or plan.
- The development of comprehensive guidance for schools on dealing with sexual bullying – as a member of EVAW we support the Schools Safe 4 Girls campaign
- Schools encouraging young men and women to explore non-traditional career options via work experience and incentives and being supported to do this.
What is Fawcett Doing – and How You Can Get Involved
At any one time, the Fawcett Society is working to progress equality and women’s rights in a number of different areas.
We supported the campaign calling on Facebook to Stop Gender-Based Hate Speech!
We regularly produce new and original research (often in collaboration with partner organisations), analysing the state of women’s equality in the UK and making recommendations about the kinds of things that would make a difference.
Fawcett also works to raise awareness of the issues we campaign on using a number of methods, including media coverage, briefings for MPs, public speeches and social media activity.
We work hard to persuade members of the government, including Ministers and key policy makers to think carefully about our proposals for change, and also work directly with political parties.
Crucially, we also ask you, our supporters, to back us in our lobbying work through taking targeted campaign actions.
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