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Heads They Win, Tails You Lose

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By Elli Wilson

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Ladies, I have some not-so-shocking news for y’all; in the eyes of our largely sexist and often misogynistic mainstream media, you can never win. Some of you have no doubt already reached this conclusion but it took me almost 18 years to come to the realisation that no matter how long I spend trying to ‘fix’ myself, there will always be another ‘problem area’ which is just crying out for a good wax/work out/cellulite-reducing massage (delete as appropriate). I now know that I can never look like the models in the hyper-sexualised adverts that have become the wallpaper to our lives because they are so heavily photoshopped and airbrushed that they don’t even look like themselves. I’m also aware that if I dare to be successful, I will receive less media coverage than men and if I do receive any it is far more likely to be negative and/or focused on my appearance. Yep, in 21st century Britain the representation and portrayal of women in the media still isn’t looking too great.

We live in a society in which the media is incredibly hostile to women, their bodies and their achievements. Nothing we do is ever good enough. We are either too pretty, too ugly, too thin, too fat, too successful, too unsuccessful, too career-oriented, too family-oriented, too prudish, too slutty, too uptight or too slobby. This list could pretty much continue ad nauseam. Whenever a women is in the public eye you can bet your bottom dollar that she will receive gendered comments about her appearance, her family or lack thereof, and her credibility that no man ever would. Think of the ridiculous commentary about whether Hilary Clinton can be both a presidential candidate and a grandmother, or the way Jennifer Aniston has often been depicted as sad and lonely since her relationship with Brad Pitt ended. And such treatment is not just reserved for individual women but for our entire gender. The behaviour of girls and women is frequently blamed for all manner of ills, from badly behaved children to the perceived crisis of masculinity. The media doesn’t just criticise and belittle us; it also polices our behaviour.

So let us be clear; media sexism is real and it has real consequences. The media’s obsession with women’s appearance – from Page 3 to talk of female politicians’ clothing – tells us that our looks are our most valuable asset. The way that certain newspapers talk about rape victims perpetuates our victim blaming culture where the victim is often held as accountable as the perpetrator. The near total lack of representation of women of colour, disabled women and LGBTQ+ women is a travesty that furthers the restrictive heteronormative, white nature of the society in which we live. As a woman, the mainstream media does not represent me or treat me with respect.

In fact, the mainstream media doesn’t represent or respect many people at all apart from a gilded elite who happen to be largely wealthy, white, heterosexual cisgendered men. This is a total joke and something that I hope the people-powered, accessible nature of the Internet can start to address. Online initiatives such as this one and the hundreds of others like it are working to redress the bias and underrepresentation of traditional media. It’s high time to make a change. If you don’t like what you see, do something about it; our voices and our words are powerful and we can make a difference.

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