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


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 and at


Are you a reporter?  Check out 
If you see something in the news that needs a response, please let us know.

Covering domestic violence in the media

This is just a snippet from one of the resources in the previous post:

Source: Covering Crime and Justice Chapter 12 Covering Domestic Violence

In 1999, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence published a handbook for journalists, in hopes of helping them cover the issue and survivors in a more meaningful way. The coalition spoke with a group of local women, Sisters Overcoming Abusive Relationships, about their perceptions of the media. As a result of those interviews, the organization came up with a list of recommendations from survivors. Among them:

  • Do ask questions which help readers understand domestic violence.
  • Do educate people about what they can do to stop domestic violence.
  • Do explain why batterers batter.
  • Do explain the dangers associated with leaving.
  • Do interview survivors and describe the process of becoming a survivor.
  • Do pay attention to language; word questions so they are not judgmental.
  • Do consider the safety of the person being interviewed.
  • Do strive to protect children’s privacy.
  • Do know the difference between news business and triggering trauma.
  • Do screen sources carefully and recognize the possible reluctance to speak ill of the dead.
  • Do correct errors.
  • Do respect the victim’s family.
  • Don’t focus on gore.
  • Don’t push for more revelations than survivors are ready to give.
  • Don’t assume certain cultures or classes are more violent than others.
  • Don’t treat survivors like victims.

The group also suggested some questions that could help during an interview:

  • What made it hard for you to leave? (An alternative to why did you stay, which puts the guilt on the victim of the abuse)
  • What advice would you give someone in a situation similar to the one you were in?
  • If a woman is not ready to leave, what should she do to get ready?
  • Whom did you call for help, where did you find help or did anyone try to help you?
  • Were the police involved in your case, and if not, could the police have helped you?

I’d add a few things to this:

  • Ask questions about custody arrangements – who had custody; what type of custody was it (sole; joint; unsupervised or supervised visitation; overnight visits) If the biological mother did not have custody, ask why.
  • Use kind words about victims; all too often there are more positive words for the perps than there are for the victims.
  • While advocates cringe at calling perps “nice guys;” please don’t refer to them as monsters either out of respect for the family members.

I’ll add more posts on this subject as much as I can.