A New(s) Kind of Gender Gap
By Julia Krupski
I turned on the television a few days ago to see images of Kate Middleton and Prince William flashing across the screen. I watched as the reporter told the details of Middleton’s topless photo fiasco. I continued to see the story on numerous magazine covers and across the internet. In contrast, when a study was published by the 4thEstate.net about how women were being quoted significantly less than men in the 2012 political campaign coverage, the news hardly made a stir.
In May the 4thEstate.net published a study which measured the frequency with which women and men are cited in the coverage of the Presidential Campaign. The study found that overall women were quoted less about the campaign in newspapers, radio shows, and television programs. Only 15% of quotes in both The Washington Post and The New York Times were from women, compared with 65% of quotes taken from men. Similar results were seen on the Sunday news programs: women were quoted only 31% of the time on Meet the Press and 22% of the time on Face the Nation. The cable news shows also displayed this same gender gap in campaign coverage. MSNBC’s Hardball had 15% of quotes from women while 81% of quotes were taken from men, and 15% of Fox News’ Special Report quotes were from women while 77% were from men.
If you think these are extremely dismal statistics, it gets worse. The study also found that women were quoted even less than men on women’s issues. Unbelievably, only 12% of quotes on abortion, 19% of quotes on birth control, 26% of quotes on Planned Parenthood, and 31% of quotes on women’s rights were from women.
I’m saddened to see these statistics. The fact that women’s opinions aren’t being heard on national issues is unacceptable, but the fact that more men than women are being asked about women’s issues is unbelievable. The sad reality behind this lack of female representation is that it subtly teaches women that men have more authority than women, and that men have the right to be the spokespeople for women’s issues.
Unfortunately, this idea is subconsciously drilled into women’s heads throughout their whole lives. Girls grow up seeing beautiful Disney Princess and scantily clothed models, but don’t see a balanced representation of women in authoritative positions or learn women’s perspectives in the media. Less than 1/3 of speaking roles in children’s movies are female. This trend continues as girls grow up and begin watching more mature movies. A study by The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media from 2006 to 2009 found that while only 32.4% of characters are female in G rated movies, this percentage decreases to 30% female characters in PG movie and only 27.7% female characters in PG 13 movies.
By the time young girls reach the age where they become interested in current events, they see that there are only seventeen female senators compared to eighty-three male senators, and seventy-six women in the House of Representatives while there are 362 men in the House. The 4thestate.net’s study also illustrates that girls are seeing even fewer women in media coverage. This is not surprising as the American Society of News Editors found that only 36.9% of full time workers on newspapers staff are women. So not only are there fewer women proposing and voting on the country’s laws, there are fewer women reporting on and giving their opinions on these decisions. As a result, as girls grow up they continue to see fewer powerful women voicing their opinions and more and more skinny, sexy, and more importantly silent women.
It seems to me that everywhere we turn, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood, women are being taught that women’s opinions are not as important as men’s opinions. Until there is a larger representation of women in all occupations and the media stops focusing on a woman’s appearance rather than on her brains, Kate Middleton’s chest will continue to cause more of a stir than the lack of women’s representation in the media.