Women’s Group Demands Regulation Of Sexism In The Media
10:45 am, November 27th | by Carmen Shardae Jobson
Salacious coverage of sexual crimes in the media is nothing new — most daily newspapers are all too eager to report on the latest sexual assault statistics or particularly horrific crimes, giving rise to nightmares about who’s really out there roaming the streets. This eagerness frequently leads papers to ignore the implications of including suggestive images and headlines as well as grisly details when reporting on these stories.
A growing concern about public safety and coverage of sexually based offenses has caused a bit of an uproar in the U.K., and four women’s organizations have begun insisting on regulations for sexist coverage in the media. The coalition took it upon themselves first to execute an experiment, led by Lord Justice Leveson and reported on by the Guardian, of monitoring 11 national newspapers beginning in September 2012. They collected 1,300+ features and images that featured sexism towards women, especially detailed and nearly eroticized descriptions of violent crime. The coalition since has written a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron to ask for his his support of a “new era” of newspaper rules, rules which will combat the “rape culture” they believe permeates their media. It’s interesting that this debate has emerged overseas first rather than here in the United States, as the U.K. and Europe are typically more permissive about depictions of sex in the media than the U.S., but their tolerance for sexualized violence appears to be much lower than ours.
While this past election year showed that women in the United States wouldn’t take kindly to subtly sexist comments (“binders full of women,” anyone?) and that certain GOP members’ stances on rape would prove widely unpopular, women’s groups haven’t been as direct in demanding accountability for sexism in the media as in the U.K., given that there has been no subsequent push for legislation accompanying much of the anger this election season. What will happen to the U.K. proposal is uncertain, but we’ll be paying close attention. Though it seems obvious that voyeurism and eroticization of sex-based crimes is irresponsible at best and harmful at worst, it will be interesting to see if the British government agrees that the problem ought to be solved with legislation.