We live in a culturally diverse country that promotes gender equality, and yet females and their views are woefully under-represented – and often misrepresented – in the UK media. It’s creating problems for girls’ self-esteem and it threatens our democracy.
Part of the problem is that the leadership of the media and cultural industry is still dominated by men. Here are some figures:
- Only 23% of reporters on national daily newspapers in the UK are women
- Only 24% of news subjects across global news channels are female-oriented
- 46% of news content reinforces gender stereotypes; only 6% of stories challenge them. (Source: UK Feminista)
- Only 17% of all directors, writers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films last year were women (Source: Centre for Women in Film and TV)
Women still overwhelmingly appear in supportive, reactive or victim roles in the media, whereas men tend to appear in leadership roles where they are driving change. In print, women are far more likely than men to be referred to according to their looks, age or role in the family. And they appear less frequently in blockbuster movies than men (about a third as often).
In a world where women make up 51% of the population, these messages are powerful and go deep.
Media tells us a lot about who we think we are. When marginalised groups in society are absent from the stories a nation or community tells about itself, or when the media images are rooted primarily in stereotype, inequality is normalised.
Prejudices and practices are reinforced. And it’s not just the problem of mainstream media.
Social media is negatively impacting girls’ body image, sexuality, self-esteem and ability to succeed. According to the Fawcett Society, only 29% of girls aged 11-16 are ‘happy with the way they look’.
The gender imbalance in the media is damaging not just to girls but also to how boys see themselves and the females around them. Boys are subjected to a popular culture – which is influenced by porn culture – where women are consistently put down, harrassed and abused. It’s leading to rising levels of misogyny in the workplace and spiking domestic violence.
It’s clear that narrow representations of gender in the media restricts the prospects and the freedom of all sexes.