Are women fairly represented in mainstream journalism?

It’s undeniable, though, that journalists often use sartorial choices as a way of imparting information about women they’re writing about. And that’s a device to which male subjects probably don’t have to worry about as much, a point on which I’d welcome some statistical evidence. Media organizations covering Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster last month zeroed in on her pink sneakers — admittedly a killer detail, but as Name It Change It’s Allison Adams has noted, different from the treatment Rand Paul got when he employed a similar tactic in the U.S. Senate.

Wired’s profile of Google engineer leads with anecdotes about her wardrobe by Andrew Beaujon

In basic news writing lessons, we are taught to describe the appearance of our subjects. There are multiple reasons for this method. Concrete details about a person can be helpful and in the terms of features, those details help make people have more personality. And I think clothes are interesting. They can reveal a lot about a person. I don’t mind reading about what someone is wearing but it’s not news. A killer pair of pink tennis shoes is fun. Is it lead worthy, in that sort of story? No.

Why is it that we hear so much about Michelle Obama’s dresses and Hillary Clinton’s pant suits? I’ve never read a story about the color of Obama’s tie or G. W. Bush’s receding hair line? It’s obvious that women and men are covered and described differently in the news. In a profession that’s supposed to be striving for objectivity, that’s not cool.

I took a look at the difference in the photojournalism in two similar news situations. There are at least two shoe pictures and much more full body shots in the Wendy Davis story than the Rand Paul ones.



2 thoughts on “Are women fairly represented in mainstream journalism?

  1. To me, I think the sneakers for Wendy Davis are actually really important. She knew that she was going to have to stand for 13 hours straight — not counting the time leading up to the filibuster — in order to make her statement. (Which, in my opinion, is ridiculous in any circumstance, but I digress.) I feel like those sneakers actually represent what she tried to do and is still working to do. So in her case, I understand the sneakers. Her sneakers are symbols of her literally standing up for the right for a woman to have a choice.

    That said, I agree with you as far as the wardrobe discussions. I mean, I appreciate a solid outfit as much as anyone else, but — and I think it happens even more around elections — I’m tired of hearing about the metaphorical flag pins.

  2. I agree with that aspect. I thought about that, tennis shoes were practical and necessary. But if they make a story more about her pink tennis shoes (a feminine color and less “pretty” kind of shoe), then her story has a chance at getting lost. Personally, I think her shoes were hard core and made her relatable and practical. I guess it’s up to interpretation. But I still don’t think a man’s practical shoe choice would make a difference at all… granted I wouldn’t be inspired by his choice for the same reason.

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