Women Make the News 2012

UNESCO, once again, calls on its media partners to ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment remain on the forefront of their agenda, through its Women Make the News (WMN) 2012 initiative. Launched annually on the occasion of International Women’s Day (8 March), WMN is a global policy advocacy initiative aimed at promoting gender equality in and through the media.

Much has been achieved since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995). Yet the Global Media Monitoring Project (2010) finds that still only 24% of the people questioned, heard, seen or read about in the written and audiovisual media are women; 76% are men. Only 16% of stories focus specifically on women.

The UNESCO-supported Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media(2011) reveals that women are underrepresented in the media operations in 73%, 50% and 46% of the countries surveyed in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Oceana, and the Americas, respectively. This is indicative that there is much more to be done.

Read more here.

Press Release: Media Guide for Gender-Neutral Coverage of Politics

Press release, in its entirety:

WMC Releases Media Guide for Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates and Politicians

March 26, 2012

Contact: Rachel Larris at rachel@womensmediacenter.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Today the Women’s Media Center releases a new Media Guide for its Name It. Change It. Project, which works to identify, prevent and end sexist media coverage of women candidates and politicians. The Women’s Media Center’s Media Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates + Politicians (click to download) shows members of the media how to avoid injecting sexism into their own coverage and how to spot sexism in other’s.

Julie Burton, President of the Women’s Media Center, says “This guide was created to show journalists and other media professionals how the use of even subtly sexist language affects woman candidates’ success in the political arena.”

The Name It. Change It. project, a joint partnership between the Women’s Media Center and She Should Run, addresses sexism in the media directed at women candidates, politicians and high-profile individuals.

“With the release of this guide, the Women’s Media Center hopes to make the use of all sexist language both recognizable and unacceptable in politics,” Burton says.

Gloria Steinem, Co-Founder of the Women’s Media Center, says, “Studies show that like bullying, the trivializing sexism used against women candidates makes voters not want to associate with them. The problem is that sexism itself is viewed as trivial. This guide makes its seriousness clear, and helps reporters be fair by using parallel language for both female and male candidates.”

The Women’s Media Center’s Media Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates + Politicians features groundbreaking research by Celinda Lake on the affect of media sexism on women candidates, as well a glossary of terms from Rosalie Maggio’s Unspinning the Spin: The Women’s Media Center’s Guide to Fair + Accurate Language, which provides definitions, background information, and suggested alternative uses for many loaded and politically incorrect terms.

Robin Morgan, co-Founder of the Women’s Media Center says, “Media sexism is used against women candidates and elected officials of all political viewpoints; it isn’t limited to one political party, and the Name It. Change It. project fights that sexism wherever we find it. We hope that members of the media sign our pledge to treat all subjects with respect, regardless of gender, and to create an overall media culture in which sexism has no place.”

“This shouldn’t be a radical notion,” Morgan says. “Giving women unequal treatment in media coverage is plain bad journalism–and its bad for democracy. Hopefully with this guide and the continuing work of the Name It. Change It. project, more members of the media will understand why this is important to them.”

The Women’s Media Center’s Media Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates + Politicians is available for free download onWomensMediaCenter.com and at NameItChangeIt.org.

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If you see something in the news that needs a response, please let us know.

Media Coverage of Sexual Violence in Brazil

Journalistic Coverage of Sexual Violence Against Children in Brazil

Excerpt:

IMPACT

  • News coverage on stories involving sexual abuse/exploitation of children was found to evolve 200% in 10 years (from 2,004 news stories in the year 2000 to 6,024 in the year 2009).
  • In 2009, 18% of stories in the Tim Lopes Journalistic Contest included references to legislation, as compared to other news sources sharing information on sexual violence in general (9.7%) or children’s rights in general (5.7%). [See Slide 20 for more data]. Also, there was found to be an impact of this contest on the journalistic culture – e.g., winning journalists “gain a much deeper understanding of the problem and commit to it even if [they] change outlets/jobs” and they “become focal points within their newsrooms.”
  • The Tim Lopes contest has also been found to have impacted public policies/the state system. For example, there was an improvement of ECA (Brazilian Bill of Children’s Rights) through Amendment 485 regarding child pornography on the internet.
  • Although sexual exploitation is difficult to measure, due to the specific nature of the problem (e.g., it is an illegal activity, and many victims prefer to remain silent) and based on the “agenda setting” approach, ANDI believes that the level of public awareness on sexual violence against children in Brazilian society has grown in recent years due to more qualified media coverage.
  • ANDI cites accomplishments such as the following: public awareness about the National Day to Combat Sexual Violence, May 18, has grown annually; President Lula made the issue a priority regarding his social policies; a congressional investigation panel on the issue was established; and there was a significant growth in the number of calls to the national hotline (4,494 in 2003, compared to 29,756 in 2009).

Joseph Grenny: The Media as an Accomplice in School Shootings

I’m reposting this from the Crucial Skills Web site (scroll half way down). It’s written by Joseph Grenny.

Monday I watched in horror with most of America as the story of the Chardon High School shooting unfolded. But my horror was twofold. The first misery came as I heard the names and numbers of victims and thought about the pain they and their families will endure for the rest of their lives. The second dose came as I held my breath—hoping and praying the media wouldn’t amplify the violence.

But they did.

They did exactly what they needed to do to influence the next perpetrator to lock and load.

1. They named the shooter.
2. They described his characteristics.
3. They detailed the crime.
4. They numbered the victims.
5. They ranked him against other “successful” attackers.

School shootings are a contagion. And the media are consistent accomplices in most every one of them.

There’s really no useful debate on the point. The consensus of social scientists since David Phillips’ groundbreaking work in 1974 is that highly publicized stories of deviant and dangerous behavior influence copycat incidents. Phillips’ and scores of subsequent studies showed, for example, that suicide rates spike in the week after an inappropriately publicized celebrity suicide. Contrast this trend with no increase in suicides in the week following a media strike that unintentionally suppresses such coverage.

The same is true of school massacres. On Groundhog Day, February 2, 1996 a 14-year-old boy walked into his Moses Lake, Washington, Junior High School algebra class and started shooting. He killed his teacher, two classmates, and severely wounded another student. The media obsessed over the color of his clothes, his insidious planning, and the inventory of his arsenal. In addition, they practically offered a how-to guide for concealing and deploying weapons in a coat. But what got the most attention was the fact that after shooting his teacher, he delivered a line from the Stephen King novel Rage with charismatic panache. Suddenly, the invisible adolescent was a cultural icon. Within a week, another shooting occurred that clearly echoed that of February 2. Then another on February 19. Another on March 11. And yet another on March 13. More than one of the apparent copycats also cited King’s novel as a creative resource in their crimes.

Of course, when the Rage pattern became clear, the media scurried to get King’s reaction. King could have defended his right to free speech and used the “guns don’t kill, people do” argument—claiming the problem was the perpetrators’ mental health not his book.

But he didn’t. He apologized for writing the book. In an interview he said, “I took a look at Rage and said to myself, if this book is acting as any sort of accelerant, if it’s having any effect on any of these kids at all, I don’t want anything to do with it.” Then he insightfully added, “Even talking about it makes me nervous.” King understands that attention is influence. He asked his publishers to pull Rage from publication and let it fall out of print shortly thereafter.

The challenge our society faces is balancing the need to not cause additional mayhem through known influence methods with the right of free speech. As is the case with all complicated issues, there are multiple values to consider here.

It’s time to ask if we should find a way to stifle such reports, limit the anguish, and disallow one form of speech, for the greater good.

One thing is for certain—those who write about, talk about, televise, and otherwise report on school shootings need to take their lead from Mr. King by examining their own motives and methods—given that when news outlets include certain details of a crime in their reports that act as a virtual workshop for would-be acolytes, they are likely to incite similar actions.

Surely, media specialists feel the tension between their own values and staying in business. And yet, they must realize that their goals to get more air time, sell more ad space, and earn more attention don’t justify the potential to create new pain and sorrow.

The obvious first step is to talk openly about all sides of the issue—including the latest research. Media outlets need to examine their own tactics, impact, and motives. It would be wonderful if the entire industry started regulating certain aspects of what is reported. This could only be accomplished through collaboration between competitive entities and so far, we haven’t seen any progress in this direction.

Perhaps it’s time for legislators to start their own dialogue. Perhaps we now have enough scientific evidence to suggest that it’s time to take action before more lives are lost. It’s time we matched responsibility with influence.

 

 

A Teachable Moment? At what cost?

My letter to the editor of the New York Times did not get published – here it is:

Dear Mr. Feyer,
The headline “A Teachable Moment” (Feb. 20) connotes the idea of imparting knowledge and, I’d add, in an ethical fashion. Mr. Jones did no such thing.
Domestic violence is not mutual, as Jones implies. According to credible sources, like CDC, males perpetuate intimate partner violence 85% of the time. Police reports, shelter statistics, and court records provide further proof. And while boys can also be sexually abused, more often it is by older men – not women. Moreover, women are more likely to be murdered and stalked than are men, not vice versa.
Accurate information allows us to focus our resources, including financial ones. Remarkably, Jones refers to this as being “profitable” to organizations that help victims ‘projected as homosexual or female.’ What kind of teacher does this?
We can sympathize with male victims, but not at the cost of misleading society or disparaging organizations that assist victims.
Here is what I responded to:

To the Editor:

Charles M. Blow aims to provide readers with a “teachable moment” regarding the suspension of the CNN commentator Roland Martin after a gay rights organization complained that his Super Bowl tweets advocated violence against gays (“Real Men and Pink Suits,” column, Feb. 11).

Noticeably absent from Mr. Blow’s and others’ commentary was any criticism of the numerous graphic acts of violence — slaps, head butts, kicks, punches — depicted against heterosexual males during the Super Bowl commercials in the interest of humor.

Many commentators, politicians and advocacy groups tend to cast victimization with a homosexual or feminine identity under the guise of advancing equality and social justice. While profitable and politically expedient, such projections not only marginalize the significant number of heterosexual male victims of violence, neglect and abuse, but also recast them as victimizers.

Domestic violence is just as likely to affect men as women; one in five males in the United States has been sexually abused; males account for nearly half of all missing persons; the number of male and female child prostitutes is essentially equal in major cities; and more than half of confiscated pornography depicts boys, not girls. In short, no group has a monopoly on suffering.

We should condemn all public endorsements or mockeries of violence. Our rebuke should not turn on whether the victim is heterosexual or homosexual, male or female, or a member of a group to which we belong, but whether there was an offense made against a person’s human dignity. Unless we, as a nation, hold ourselves to such a standard, we will only substitute one brand of social injustice and bias for another, and compromise our moral authority.

SAMUEL V. JONES Chicago, Feb. 14, 2012

The writer is an associate professor of law at the John Marshall Law School.

Media bias in the UK

http://platform.twitter.com/widgets/hub.1326407570.html

Leveson Inquiry Must Address Sexist Media Stereotypes, Say Women’s Groups

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/jan/24/leveson-inquiry-sexist-media-stereotypes?CMP=twt_gu

The Leveson inquiry must address “sexist stereotypes” in the media, which could “condone violence against women and girls”, according to a group of key women’s organisations.

Speaking at the Leveson inquiry on Tuesday, a representative of the group accused some media outlets of feeding into myths about rape, which they argued could prevent some women coming forward to report the crime.

The media creates, reflects and enforces attitudes in society. Those who work in the media should be conscious of this and should actively seek not to reproduced attitudes which condone violence against women or girls,” said Marai Larasi from End Violence Against Women, a coalition of  40 women’s organisations.

Representatives of the women’s groups Equality Now, Eaves, Object and End Violence Against Women called on Lord Justice Leveson to ban highly sexualised images in newspapers, which they argued would not be broadcast pre-watershed on television.

Newspapers including the Sun, the Daily Star and the Sunday Sport were criticised for “relentlessly” objectifying women, portraying them “as a sum of sexualised body parts”, said Anna van Heeswijk, from anti-objectification of women organisation Object.

“We have to ask ourselves what kind of story does it tell to young people when men in newspapers wear suits, or sports gear, are shown as active participants, while women are sexualised objects who are essentially naked or nearly naked,” she said.

The groups are calling for any new regulation of the press to ban pictures of naked or semi-naked women in newspapers, arguing that the images would not be allowed in the workplace and should not be sold in an “unrestrained” manner at “children’s eye-level”.

Van Heeswijk accused tabloids that carry photographs of semi-naked women on page 3 of “creating a culture of fear which silences … anybody speaking out against the portrayal of women as sex objects”. She cited the example of former MP Clare Short who was branded a “fat” and “jealous” “killjoy” by the Sun when she spoke out against Page 3.

Several newspapers were singled out for criticism during the evidence given by the women’s groups. The Daily Telegraph was criticised for a report which they said suggested a man had murdered his wife after she changed her Facebook status to “single”, and said too often media reports of violence against women focused on the behaviour of the victim.

A Daily Mail report about six footballers being jailed after gang raping 12-year-old girls in a “midnight park orgy” was criticised for the use of the word “orgy” and for referring to the victims as “Lolitas”. Larasi told the inquiry: “Put the word ‘orgy’ in something and what you immediately do is grab the attention, it’s becoming titillating. The focus stays on the woman and what she did or didn’t do.”

When asked previously about this article a spokesman for Associated Newspapers said it appeared on Mail Online, not in the Daily Mail, and was based on a court report from a reputable news agency that contained the words “orgy” and “Lolitas”.

The groups also called on Leveson, charged with investigating the regulation of the media following the phone-hacking scandal, to replace the Press Complaints Commission with an independent body “with teeth” that women and women’s groups could complain to directly. The reporting of violence against women and girls needs to be more balanced and more context needs to be provided about its frequency, they added.

Journalists should also receive training on the “myths and realities” about violence against women and girls, and there should be a code of practice for the way “case studies” are dealt with, the groups said.

Jacqui Hunt from Equality Now said the groups did not want to curtail the freedom of the press but wanted more responsibility. “Freedom of the press, yes it’s really important, it’s key but we have to find a way of making sure that women are not sidelined [and] objectified,” she said.

No excuse but one for Josh Powell – He was dangerous

According to the Associated Press (printed in the Washington Post), Josh Powell’s note was…”a farewell to the world after two years of being scrutinized in the media, hammered by police and questioned by judges, prosecutors and social workers, living his life under a microscope since the day his wife vanished.” Really? Life was so hard for him he blew up his two young children? Poor guy.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/explosion-at-wash-home-kills-josh-powell-husband-of-missing-utah-woman-2-young-sons/2012/02/05/gIQAk3dmsQ_story.html

According to another Associate Press article, writers Brian Skoloff, Gene Johnson, and Mike Baker called the case a “salacious saga of finger-pointing and accusations of sex and lies.” So did the tawdry circumstances lead him to kill his children?

http://news.yahoo.com/fire-kills-husband-missing-utah-woman-2-boys-041211345.html

Worse yet, q13fox.com quotes a prosecutor that believes it was the psycho-sexual evaluation that led Powell to murder the kids:

Just last week, the court ordered the boys’ dad, Josh, to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist thinks that may have been what triggered Sunday’s fire.

“Those tests are highly intrusive, highly thorough,” Lindquist said. “They cover a person’s entire life history, sexual history and there’s a polygraph involved.  That was a good choice to get at information.  Clearly it was something Mr. Powell feared and wasn’t about to go through.”

http://www.q13fox.com/news/kcpq-could-more-have-been-done-to-protect-powell-boys-20120206,0,4410383.story

Are you kidding me?

Apparently, the only adults who recognized that Josh Powell, the only suspect in his wife’s disappearance, was dangerous were Susan Powell’s parents. They feared something like this would happen – if only we allowed fear-based suspicions to be used, we’d avert a lot of murders. At a conference on femicide at John Jay College in New York a few years ago, an expert indicated fear was the best indicator for a woman’s murder. Couldn’t there be a fear test just as there is a psycho-sexual test? Couldn’t we put trust into people’s knowledge of the suspect and their instinct? These murders are not unpredictable.

Nor are they an “extreme anomaly” as Carol Gage was quoted saying in an article (“Powell case raises questions about custody laws”) by John Hollenhorst.

http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=19139856

Actually, the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence estimates 58,000 children a year go into unsupervised visitation or sole or joint custody with a physically or sexually abusive parent. Although Powell, the primary suspect in his wife’s disappearance, had supervised visitation, it was at his father’s home — in Washington state (although the children had previously lived in Utah). I’m sure his pro bono lawyer helped him achieve that – quite a feat since many battered women don’t even have legal counsel when they go into court. This is one reason women who allege abuse can lose custody; another is the current climate that stresses contact with both parents. Parental rights shouldn’t – but often enough they do – trump children’s safety, as this case clearly illustrates. For more examples of custody-related homicides like these, the blog Dastardly Dads is one of the few sources keeping track of these tragedies: http://dastardlydads.blogspot.com/  They occur far more often than the media will admit .

Aside from context, headlines should also correctly place the blame and read something like this – Josh Powell, suspect in wife’s disappearance, sets fire to home, kills self, two sons. It should include his name and perhaps his status in the case. It should identify him as the person who set the fire, in an active voice (not “Fire kills husband of missing Utah woman , 2 boys” ). And, he should be identified as the father of the children. I’ve noted several cases of “father absent” headlines on my blog in the past.

The media can help raise awareness of custody-related cases of murder by providing accurate headlines and basic context — and most importantly, by correctly identifying the cause of murder – in this case, a dangerous father with malicious intent.

 

 

What drives a father to kill?

Does this sound like the guy is trying to rationalize a father’s violence or be sympathetic to it? Kinda creepy.

What drives a father to kill?

The typical profile of a family annihilator is a middle-aged man, a good provider who appears dedicated, devoted and loyal to his family. However, he is usually quite socially isolated, with few friends and with profound feelings of frustration and inadequacy. The tipping point is some catastrophic loss or impending tragedy that threatens to undermine his sense of self and amplifies his feelings of impotence and powerlessness. In individuals for whom their family is an integral part of their identity – part of themselves, rather than a separate being – murdering the family is akin to a single act of suicide. It is a way of regaining control; of obliterating the impending crisis. This explains why men will often not only kill their partner and children, but also pets and destroy their property by setting fires. It is an eradication of everything that constitutes the self.

In addition to this, they are often motivated by bitterness and anger and a desire to punish the spouse; while killing the partner is an act of revenge, killing the children is an act of love as he believes he – and therefore they – will be better off dead than face the imminent loss of power.

While this points to severe psychological problems with underlying personality issues and maladaptive coping strategies, this, in itself, does not necessarily constitute a mental illness. However, professionals are divided as to whether these men can be held truly culpable for their actions. For the few that survive, jurors tend to find them responsible for their actions and therefore guilty of murder, but some end up detained in secure psychiatric hospitals indefinitely.

Experts, such as Jack Levin, Professor of Sociology and Criminology at the Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts who has studied family annihilators, have argued that they typically do know right from wrong and points to the fact that they are well planned and selective and that if a friend came along, the father wouldn’t kill him or her – instead, he kills his children to get even with his wife because he blames her and hates her.

Others, such as Tony Black, former chief psychologist at Broadmoor, are more circumspect. Black has argued that for anyone to commit such a heinous crime, there must be something fundamentally wrong with them and it is unhelpful just to simply think of them as ‘bad’. But what can be done to prevent such atrocities? Is there the possibility of intervention before such murders take place or ways to identify at risk men?

Scott Mackenzie, a consultant forensic psychiatrist in Essex who has assessed family annihilators for the criminal justice system, feels that often there are underlying anti-social personality traits and fundamental issues with rage and anger management. But these psychological traits are not uncommon in the population, and most will never go on to murder their family. ‘Those who act are often angry and resentful individuals. There is often a prior pattern of domestic abuse. But predicting with any reliability who will suddenly flip and resort to this kind of behaviour is incredibly difficult, if not near impossible. After any such incident there are inevitably questions asked if anything could be done, if someone could have intervened or spotted the signs. Tragically, in most cases, the answer is no.’

Wrong answer! Here is how we prevent it:

  • Look for the red flags (anger, resentment, abuse, control, coercion)
  • Take threats seriously
  • Believe women when they express fear
  • Do NOT provide leniency in domestic violence
  • Treat domestic violence like other crimes
  • Educate society on domestic violence (myths vs. reality)
  • Don’t be silent about abuse – it can lead to shame, victim blaming, tolerance for this crime
  • Change how the media present stories – the “nice guy”‘ murders wife – does not provide the context to understand DV
  • Change the culture – violence against women is not inevitable

 

Today Show’s major media bias in psycho ex-wife case

The Today Show has showed major bias against battered mothers in the past – yesterday was no different – but, if possible, it was a bit worse than usual. Bonnie Russell posted her interview with Allison Morelli on this blog:

@Bonnie Russell…Allison Morelli…The follow up: What was the Today Show thinking?

Someone sent it to Allison and she contacted me. I subsequently learned in the five hours TODAY Show free-lance producers spent with Ms. Morelli, much which was very important didn’t air.  Turns out the Today Show piece was worse than most could have imagined.

Not mentioned

That the Psycho Ex-Wife did not solely slam Allison Morelli.  The site also featured posts that were highly critical of both boys. Criticism that will not be repeated here.  That was not featured in any part of the interview regarding a court system that is supposed to oversee the best interests of the children.

Read Russell’s interview with Morelli here.