TW Misogyny, TW Rape, TW Domestic Violence, TW Suicide, TW Body Shaming, Gif Warning.
For as long as there have been women attempting to break free of imposed societal roles, there have been men trying to force them back again.
One of the most formidable obstacles women face in today’s society is the media and the patriarchy that is rooted deep within it.
Misandry is defined as being ” a parallel form to misogyny” or “The hatred of males; hatred of men as a sex.”
From this idea there has been a rise in men’s rights activists (MRA’s) who mainly raise their issues by derailing feminist arguments, using the argument of “misandry.”
With this in mind, consider the fact that the patriarchal structure has ensured that men have been in power for a long long time. If these issues were so important would they not been addressed earlier?
Whilst there are serious issues that men face such as domestic violence and suicide – MRA’s do not seem to devote any time to address them. Instead they use the issues of men as a guise to attack women thus enforcing sexism and the patriarchy.
It was after reading an article by Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) about Michelle Obama that the idea for this post came to fruition, more specifically,my attention was grabbed by some of the responses by individuals/the media: “Politico wrote that the First Lady had “engaged in a battle of the sexes”, anti-feminist author and Fox News contributor Suzanne Venker called it a “sexist and elitist display”, and the headline at Business Standard read “Michelle Obama claims women are smarter than men”. As if it were a serious assertion rather than a joking aside!
This got me thinking; there are times when we hear about women and women’s issues in the the media (more specifically the news) when they aren’t catering to the will of the patriarchy. One example of this is body shaming, where women are stigmatized for their appearances because they don’t fit the beauty standard set and enforced by our patriarchal society.
In July, a Daily Mail article about new female cabinet MP’s sparked outrage after the paper focused on the women’s style rather than their professional ability. “The Downing Street Catwalk” became one of many examples of patriarchal values in the media. You would be hard pressed to find a similar article about men in a national newspaper.
When thinking about the way in which women are represented in the media, I find myself asking: “is this truly newsworthy?”
My journalistic training tells me that if something is deemed ‘newsworthy’ then it has to be fair, accurate and contemporaneous. If this is the case, stories such as “The Downing Street Catwalk” should not be classed as news.
Using this particular case as an example, the story was contemporaneous (happening at the time) with a variety of possible angles that could have been taken, yet -as is typical with various news outlets- the women were reduced to a single image.
Another element is whether or not articles like this are ‘fair’ for the the women involved, the readers and anyone else who may not want to uphold the patriarchy and its values.
The final point of focus in regards to this article is the accuracy of the work – is the article an accurate picture of what is happening?
Whilst in one aspect it could be said that the work is accurate as it reports on what the women were wearing, the focus of the work was taken off of the women and their capabilities in their new position. By taking the focus off of such an important element to the story, the piece (to me) can no longer be classed as news, let alone put in a national broadsheet.
It is misogynistic reporting like this that demonstrates how in built patriarchy is in news media. The inference being that women should fit a certain role, look and position in society.
The final (very short) point to think about is the use of stereotypes and how the media tells them to it’s audience.
In her book The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf describes how feminist’s are stereo-typically seen/ represented, describing the portrayal as a “caricature”; “The caricature of the Ugly Feminist was resurrected to dog the steps of the women’s movement … a big masculine woman, wearing boots, smoking a cigar, swearing like a trooper.”
Is this an accurate depiction of the modern feminist movement?
Not a chance.
The ugly feminist stereotype is put across almost dogmatically by patriarchal media to strengthen the patriarchal society and tarnish feminism.
However, this particular stereotype is slowly being rendered defunct with celebrities coming forward and expressing their feminist views.
Beyonce has been one of many recently to do such a thing. Her recent, eponymous release ‘Beyonce‘ held various themes including feminism. This is most evident in the track “Flawless” featuring, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which samples the Nigerian novelist’s TED speech “we should all be feminists.”
Here Beyonce has obviously told the world that she is a feminist. Does the ugly stereotype still apply to today’s feminists? I think not, especially when you take into account that the singer was named PEOPLE magazines’s most beautiful woman in the world back in 2012.
The stereotype of ugly feminists is something that is said by anti-feminists – one image cannot be applied to women in general.
“The unpleasant image of feminists today resembles less the feminist themselves than the image fostered by the interests who so bitterly opposed the vote for women in state after state.” – Betty Friedan.