Tuesday, December 24, 2013

When Ya Gonna Let Me Get Sober?

Hope no one's been partying too much to be able to read this. (Just kidding.  Bear with me.)

A slew of articles and TV reports warning that women are drinking too much -- way, way too much, so much so that we appear to be teetering on the edge of a public health crisis -- have turned out to be unduly alarmist, according to an analysis by a George Mason University academic that shows how careless reporting, sloppy handling of data and an inability to resist sensationalizing news have poorly served women and those who care about them.

The statistics show that males continue to consume alcohol in larger amounts than women and tend to binge drink more often, but they're not getting the amount of attention for their excesses that women are.

No one is saying that women, particularly young women experimenting with alcohol, aren't ever binge-drinking.  But distorting the data in the course of reporting about the problem delays finding a solution. George Mason's Rebecca Goldin, who wrote the analysis debunking the media reports, says journalists have to be more careful and more thorough when reporting on public health data. "Scare-mongering headlines suggesting that females are suffering worse than males or that the female trajectory is one that will invariably land them in rehab or to death are a misleading use of statistics," Goldin write.

Furthermore, media reports about the so-called increase in binge drinking about women in part blame feminism, with its championing of women's independence, for women's infatuation with the bottle, says Amanda Hess in a piece for Slate.  She was particularly irritated with media reports implying that liberation leads to liquor. "Many of these stories imply that female binge drinking is a problematic side effect of equality for women," she said.

"The fact that we are actually having this conversation shows that men and women are not yet on equal footing where drinking is concerned: When men drink, they don’t also risk calling their civil rights into question," Hess said.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Getting Less Respect in the Sports Pages

Maryland men LOSE to Ohio State in basketball and get covered on Page One of the Washington Post sports section. On the same night, the Maryland women BEAT Ohio State in basketball and get covered on Page 3.  I'm fuming.

Both the men's and women's teams were playing in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, which set up a series of contests between teams in conferences that usually don't play one another.  And get this: among women's teams, Maryland remains the only team from either conference that is unbeaten in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

And for this they got Page 3?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

New Video Documents Media Sexism During 2013

An example from "How the Media Failed Women in 2013":
an ad for Carl's Jr. hamburgers.
From Jennifer Siebel Newsom's "Miss Representation" project comes a year-in-review video of media treatment of women. "How the Media Failed Women in 2013" is a capsule of misogyny, with examples from sports, advertising, movies, television, and politics.  The four-minute video opens with heartening examples of female role models appropriately showcased by media, then moves into the realms of sexism, sexual innuendo, sexual violence, ageism and an assortment of putdowns of women that range from juvenile to patronizing to threatening.  Sure to prompt discussion when shown in a classroom or corporate setting. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Another Banned Book, Another Failure to Crush the Human Spirit

Pakistani authorities announced Nov. 10 that they were banning Malala Yousafzai’s book, I Am Malala, from private schools and libraries throughout Pakistan.  Calling her “a tool of the West,” insufficiently respectful toward Islam, and too sympathetic to religious minorities, the authorities have banned the book from more than 40,000 schools.  In so doing, they’ve enlarged the target on Malala’s back.
Malala visits President and Mrs. Obama and their daughter,
Malia, in October.
They probably have also set in motion a response that will increase sales of the book and heighten the determination of those who believe this brave young teenager’s message deserves to be heard. 
Remember Reading Lolita in Tehran?  It’s a great example of why removing books from classrooms usually has the opposite effect of what the banners intend. But then — the Taliban and its cronies in Pakistan probably haven’t read that one.
I Am Malala is on the New York Times bestseller list and is likely to stay there for a good while.  The young author joins a long and illustrious list of writers whose books were banned, burned, or pulped.

James Joyce (Ulysses), The Arabian Nights, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (required reading when I was in high school), Darwin’s Origin of Species, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and of course, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.  Among the most ludicrous was the ban on Anna Sewell’s youth novel about a girl and her beloved horse, Black Beauty, banned in apartheid South Africa because the word “black” was in the title.  (A wonderful source for banned book titles is http://www.postdesk.com/banned-books-list-reasons-why-censorship.)
The fact that the interest in, and loyalty to, banned books is heightened by the attacks on them  continues to be lost on communities, and community groups, that believe suppression of information solves a problem for them.  It never does.  Nevertheless, efforts continue around the world, led not just by political leaders but also by groups of all sizes.  Their persistence gave birth to Banned Books Week.
Banned Books Week is the national U.S. book community's annual celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. Banned Books Week 2014 will be held September 21-27.
Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982. According to the American Library Association, there were 464 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2012, and many more go unreported.  For a list of the most challenged books of 2012, go here: http://bannedbooksweek.org/about
It is sad that the children in so many of Pakistan’s schools will not be able to read Malala’s book. But I imagine they will know about her story regardless of the ban. As of this writing, I Am Malala is No. 5 on the New York Times list. Millions of people know that.  And there’s not a thing the Taliban can do about it.
  — Sheila Gibbons, Editor
This commentary is reprinted from the Fall 2013 issue of MEDIA REPORT TO WOMEN.  For details about that issue and how to subscribe to this quarterly  news journal, visit www.mediareporttowomen.com

Saturday, November 2, 2013

No Good Answer to Daughter's Question: "Why Aren't There More Women on the Front Page?"

Nine-year-old Mellie Ahearn, reading The Washington Post over breakfast (way to go, Mellie!), turned to her mother and asked, "Mommy, why aren't there more pictures of women on the front page of the newspaper?"  This conversation, recounted on today's Washington Post reader feedback page, led to Mellie and her mother, Laura, conducting a study on the frequency with which the Post featured photos of women and girls on the front page.  The results:  20% for the month of August, their study period.

"I kind of thought it would be lopsided," Mellie said, "but not that lopsided."

This kind of continuing imbalance is damaging to the way girls see themselves, Laura Ahearn says -- and it can't help the Post with selling newspapers to women.  Indeed, women, as a proportion of newspaper readership, have been declining for years.

Read about the Ahearns' enterprising study here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Turning Women into Drawings and Passing Them Off As Real"

Blogger Laura Willard, on her Upworthy site, posted a video that purports to show "the power of Adobe Photoshop" by converting a lovely woman into a Barbie-ish version of herself -- all with Photoshop software and a mouse.

"I want to show my daughter, over and over, why the images of so many women she sees aren't realistic," Willard writes. "And what I really want is for us to stop turning beautiful women into drawings and passing them off as real."

In 37 seconds, the woman in the video is made up, bewigged, and then with the wonders (or horrors) of Photoshop, has her contours reduced, her eyes enlarged, her mouth turned into a pout, her legs lengthened and her skin lightened.  The result is an all-too-familiar image type that dominates fashion and feature photography images of women and girls.  The nicest thing one can say about it is that the image is unhealthy.  The  more honest comment is that it's sick and feeds devastating thoughts about self-image.  See it for yourself.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Google's Autocomplete Tool: Sexism at Your Fingertips

Adweek Magazine has published a powerful campaign by UN Women to demonstrate how insidious sexism is by how much of it is embedded in user searches.  Conducting an actual search on one day in September 2013, it became apparent that negative beliefs about women -- their rights, their image, their aspirations -- are so prevalent that Google's autocomplete can anticipate them and provide them as a search choice.  

"These ads do a stellar job driving home the daunting fact that enough people around the world share these vile opinions that Google has come to expect them," Adweek says.  Check out the results in Adweek's article here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Keep Your Clothes On, Girls, Says Welsh Recording Star Charlotte Church

Charlotte Church
Another veteran musical performer has weighed in with advice in the wake of singer Miley Cyrus's recent sexually explicit live and video performances.  Charlotte Church, invited to give the annual John Peel Lecture October 14 to broadcasting executives at Britain's annual radio festival, made some of the same points as Sinead O'Connor in cautioning young female performers about crossing over the line into performance pornography.

"The irony behind this is that the women generally filling these roles are very young, often previous child stars or Disney-tweens, who are simply interested in getting along in an industry glamorized to be the most desirable career for young women,” Church said in the lecture, as reported by The Telegraph. (No joke:  Miley Cyrus starred in the Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana";  another child star turned musical sexpot is Britney Spears, a veteran of Disney's "Mickey Mouse Club.")  "They are encouraged to present themselves as hyper-sexualized, unrealistic, cartoonish, as objects, reducing female sexuality to a prize you can win," Church said.  She endorses a system that would give age-appropriate ratings to music videos.

Church, 27, has described being whipsawed in her own career by differing visions of her sexuality as she went from a breakthrough classical vocalist at age 11 to an adult musical interpreter with crossover appeal. In an interview with the BBC, Church said that early in her career,  "There was a big clamour to cover my breasts as they wanted to keep me as young as possible. Then it became, "You should definitely get them out, they look great."

Church talks about this worsening issue for popular female musical performers, her own career, and women in music in this interview with the Women's Hour of the BBC, which happily includes many other women active in the music industry.

Monday, September 30, 2013

An Honest Look at Source Gender Balance in One's Own Reporting

Bryna Dabby of Women in Games in a 2011 interview in Vancouver.
Hats off to Adrienne LaFrance, who had a math whiz at the MIT Media Lab analyze a year's worth of her own reporting for gender bias in sourcing.  A feminist alert to the widespread pattern of male voices dominating news sourcing in every medium, she put her own work to the test -- and came up dissatisfied with her performance. In 136 articles, LaFrance mentioned or quoted 2,075 persons, of whom 25 percent were female, she says.  That put her right at the average for reporters worldwide, according to the Global Media Monitoring Study, which has been tracking these numbers for two decades, as have other groups before it.

LaFrance writes a thoughtful piece on the problem. "Underrepresentation of women in media is one of those topics that’s so big and so multifaceted that a lot of people don’t really know how to begin to talk about it, let alone do anything to make a difference," she says, adding that saying "Journalists are simply reflecting the imbalance that exists all around them" is a poor excuse that makes it possible for nothing to change."

She has written one of the most thoughtful pieces on the subject I've ever read.  She concludes that both sides of the equation have to work harder -- journalists to track down appropriate sources who are female and women being willing to be quoted.  LaFrance notes a reticence among women that is less of a problem with men she contacts for interviews -- she's not the first person to notice this or wonder why it is the case.  Her account is a good example of why we're still talking about this and why we need to get on with fixing the problem.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why Are Women Still Being Told They Must Overcome Their Personality Traits to Succeed in the Workplace?

This is a discussion well worth having -- but it's amazing, and awful, that we're still having it.

The gender disparity in news media management and so many other fields persists and people at the top don't even seem embarrassed about it, let alone motivated to do anything about it.

So when Australian newspaper editor Kylie Davis unpacks the problem for us, lays out the research showing how well women manage life in general as well as their work place responsibilities, you have to wonder about the management decisions that leave so many of them behind.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A First For the National Book Awards

For the first time, the National Book Awards" "5 Under 35" picks are all women!  Read about them and their work here. The 5 Under 35 program, now in its eighth year, honors five young fiction writers selected by past National Book Award Winners and Finalists.  Congratulations to Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans; NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names; Amanda Coplin, The Orchardist; Daisy Hildyard, Hunters in the Snow; and Merritt Tierce, Love Me Back.

Some highlights about this quintet, announced Sept. 12:

-- The group includes two Stegner fellows— Molly Antopol is a former fellow who now teaches at Stanford and NoViolet Bulawayo is a current fellow.

-- Molly Antopol’s story collection, The UnAmericans, is largely based on her family’s involvement in the Communist Party.

--  NoViolet Bulawayo was born and raised in Zimbabwe. She won the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing and her novel, We Need New Names, is shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

-- Daisy Hildyard is pursuing a doctorate on scientific language at the University of London.

--  Amanda Coplin won the 2012 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for The Orchardist, for which she drew from her experience growing up in Eastern Washington.

-- Merritt Tierce received a 2011 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. Her first published story was selected for inclusion in the 2008 edition of New Stories from the South by ZZ Packer, an inaugural 5 Under 35 author in 2006. She is also executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, a reproductive rights nonprofit for low-income women.

Past 5 Under 35 writers include Danielle Evans, Keith Gessen, Amity Gaige, Nam Le, Dinaw Mengestu, Téa Obreht, Karen Russell, Justin Torres, Claire Vaye Watkins, John Corey Whaley, Tiphanie Yanique, Paul Yoon, and Charles Yu.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fascinating Discussion About the News Business -- But Diminished by the Dearth of Female Voices

A fine retrospective on the decline of newspapering and news distribution as we once knew it has been released by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy and the Nieman Journalism Lab, both at Harvard University.  Titled "Riptide: What Really Happened to the News Business," the analysis is based on interviews, some of which appear in this report in video form, with 55 media leaders who traveled through the transformation from legacy media methods to today's digital, on-all-the-time information world.  But once again, women represent a small segment -- only 10 percent -- of those interviewed.  Many media watchers are incredulous that this number could be so small in this day and age.  You can see the lineup of those interviewed and begin reading the report here.

The five women included in the report -- all great selections, by the way -- are Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington; Kathy Yates, former Knight Ridder executive; Betsy Morgan, former CEO of the Huffington Post; Caroline Little, CEO, Newspaper Association of America; and Chloe Sladden, head of media for Twitter.

The report's authors -- John Huey, Martin Nisenholtz and Paul Sagan -- explained their choices this way:

"We started by identifying the institutions that we believed were central to the Riptide story — the change of news through the rise of digital technology, beginning around 1980. Then we sought to interview many of the key people at those institutions. At that time, they were, regrettably, overwhelmingly white and male.

"Riptide was always intended to be an organic project that would be expanded over time with other voices exploring more and more parts of this story. That’s why we created it as a website. We welcome suggestions for voices or topics that could now be added to Riptide. Please feel free to post them below or send them to us at Shorenstein_center@hks.harvard.edu."

So fire way, readers.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Forbes Magazine Picks 100 Best Web Sites for Women

Forbes has published its fourth annual list of the best web sites for and about women, winnowed from more than 2,000 reader nominations.  Lots of variety in the list, with Forbes saying this time it's excluding health content sites, leaving that subject area to the discretion of readers. A third of the 100 sites haven't been included in previous Forbes lists, and they are marked as new.  Its a robust list, though like all lists, it won't please everybody.  Comments piling up on the Forbes page suggest other sites readers would have liked to see included and displeasure with some of the choices that, to at least several readers, seemed patronizing to women.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Consider the Source: Wikipedia Still Unable to Attract Female Contributors

Writing on a Wall Street Journal blog, Riva Gold outlines the persistent problem Wikipedia has in balancing the gender of its contributors.  Fully 87% of its contributors are male, Gold reports.  Further, it has acquired the reputation of being "deletionist" in its treatment of entries about women (as well as segregating entries about distinguished women in gender-based categories, i.e., "American Women Writers" instead of "American Writers").  Gold describes a sexist environment at Wikipedia HQ where women are very much in the minority and don't have long tenures at the organization.  She also notes that Wikipedia, aware of the gender imbalance among contributors, has made efforts to recruit women as contributors.  Given Wikipedia's popularity as an information source, this is a serious situation that doesn't look as if it will improve anytime soon.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Women Journalists in the Windy City: Still Working the Issues

Up today:  A report in the Chicago Reader marking the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Chicago chapter of the Association of Women Journalists, reflecting on the reasons for its founding (sexual harassment by sources and colleagues, unreasonable pressures on moms, gender influences on assignments) and assessing if/how things are better today.  A mixed bag, says the article.  Very mixed.  It's a good read about women in journalism and where they are today in a city long-known for bold newsgathering and scrappy reporting.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mexico's Female Journalists Include Courage Among Their Newsgathering Skills

The danger that shadows Mexico's journalists is well known.  They face constant harassment, intimidation, and worse.  Increasingly, women are becoming targets -- especially women who have succeeded in reaching top jobs in the profession.  The cruel irony is that their success brings them more visibility and less security.  This report from the "Journalism in the Americas" blog at the University of Texas, Austin, illustrates just how terrifying the situation is and how strong Mexico's women journalists are.

Friday, July 12, 2013

ESPN To Air Documentary on Women Sports Journalists Who Fought for Professional Access and Treatment

"Let Them Wear Towels" -- Directed by Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern.  Airs on ESPN Tuesday, July 16, at 8 pm EDT

Lisa Olson was just trying to do her job as a reporter for the Boston Herald in 1990 when a group of New England Patriot players sexually harassed her in their locker room by exposing their genitals and making lewd and vulgar comments. Even though a subsequent NFL investigation concluded that Olson had been "degraded and humiliated," the 25-year-old continued to be tormented by Patriot fans -- so much so that she temporarily moved to Australia to resume her career.

The incident touched off a national debate about the presence of female journalists in the male sanctum of the clubhouse. That debate should have been settled 12 years earlier, when Melissa Ludtke of Sports Illustrated successfully challenged Major League Baseball after she was kept out of the Los Angeles Dodgers' locker room during the 1977 World Series.

Why has equal access for women reporters remained such a hot-button issue? That question is asked in "Let Them Wear Towels," a history and examination of females working in the man's world of the locker room. Through interviews with such pioneer women as Ludtke, Claire Smith, Lesley Visser and Christine Brennan, you'll hear stories of raw behavior and humorous retaliation, angry lawsuits and remarkable resolve.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We Were All Laughing, But Actor Dustin Hoffman Wasn't

In "Tootsie," actor Dustin Hoffman portrayed a man masquerading as a woman in hopes of landing a better job. In this interview distributed by the American Film Institute, he says he wanted to play a beautiful woman in "Tootsie" -- but the makeup artists told him, it ain't gonna happen.  You're just not beautiful.  Hoffman was crushed.  In the AFI interview, he describes, emotionally, what he learned about his own attitudes toward women -- and how much he regrets using traditional male standards of beauty in judging a woman's value. (Hoffman was nominated for an Academy Award for "Tootsie," released in 1982.  Now I want to see it again!)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

UN, Geena Davis Institute Partner to Study Film Roles for Women

Geena Davis has long lent her starpower to advocacy for improved cinematic depiction of women and girls.  Now the United Nations has gotten on board, announcing a partnership with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media that will produce a study cataloguing patterns of depiction and stereotyping -- and breakthrough roles where they occur.  The study will be ambitious in scope, examining the top-grossing international movies in Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain and the United Kingdom.  Results are expected in 2014.

I'm not getting my hopes up. For the most part, the most successful of 2012's top-grossing films from U.S. studios again delivered superhero fantasies, lots of weaponry, and action sequences valued most by male teens and male young adults.  The good news is that some of these powerful heroes were female (The Hunger Games and Brave come to mind).

Here are the Top 10, with the date of release, name of studio, film type and rating.  The dollar figure is the gross; the next number is the number of tickets sold.

1 Marvel's The Avengers 5/4/2012 Walt Disney Adventure PG-13 $623,279,547 79,601,474

2 The Dark Knight Rises 7/20/2012 Warner Bros. Action PG-13 $448,139,099 57,233,601

3 The Hunger Games 3/23/2012 Lionsgate Thriller/Suspense PG-13 $408,010,692 52,108,645

4 Skyfall 11/8/2012 Sony Pictures Action PG-13 $289,600,000 36,985,951

5 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 11/16/2012 Lionsgate Drama PG-13 $286,039,065 36,531,170

6 The Amazing Spider-Man 7/3/2012 Sony Pictures Adventure PG-13 $262,030,663 33,464,963

7 Brave 6/22/2012 Walt Disney Adventure PG $237,236,938 30,298,459

8 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 12/14/2012 Warner Bros. Adventure PG-13 $222,703,000 28,442,273

9 Ted 6/29/2012 Universal Comedy R $218,665,740 27,926,659

10 Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted 6/8/2012 Paramount Pictures Adventure PG $216,391,482 27,636,204

Saturday, June 22, 2013

No Room in Women's Magazines for Serious Journalism?

Journalist Jessica Grose, writing in The New Republic, notes how infrequently women's magazines receive plaudits from the American Society of Magazine Editors' National Magazine Awards.  Why, she wonders?  Lack of meaty content?  Snobbish dismissal of the magazines themselves?  A separate and not equal notion of journalism for female audiences?

The late, great Ruth Whitney, editor of Glamour from 1967-1998, made a point of publishing brain food between the beauty tips.  Under her leadership, Glamour won four National Magazine Awards. (It has continued to excel, named magazine of the year in 2010.)  It's fair to say, though, that some of the journalistic heft in women's magazines began to fade as they became more tied to niches in which they delivered specific reader demographics to advertisers, and their "general-interest" material became, well, less general.  Fiction has all but disappeared.

Elle editor in chief Robbie Myers weighed in on the debate, taking on directly the comment to Grose by ASME head Sid Holt, who said "serious journalism" is not the mission of women's magazines.  Myers described Elle's longtime publishing of in-depth pieces, citing an important one on politics and culture (a profile of then-Senator Barack Obama written by a writer who accompanied him to Kenya) and issues such as the rise in selective reduction in pregnancies of twins.  Not exactly journalism lite.

Grose discusses the resistance of some female writers to write for women's magazines, concerned about being ghettoized and less marketable to titles with large male audiences.  Not a helpful attitude, perhaps, but one can't blame writers for seeking what they believe is the best environment for showcasing their work.

So let's see what the editors of women's magazines do in response to this conversation.  More brain food would certainly be welcome.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Facebook Responds to Petition Regarding Mastectomy Photos

This just in from Change.org:

Facebook has published a written policy allowing mastectomy photos after holding a meeting with breast cancer advocates including Scorchy Barrington, a NY-based woman struggling with Stage IV breast cancer who started a Change.org petition with 20,000 signatures, and photographer David Jay, founder of the SCAR Project.
Barrington’s petition called on Facebook to publish a policy allowing mastectomy photos like it previously did for photos of breastfeeding mothers. Within a few days, the petition gained thousands of signatures, prompting
Facebook’s VP of global public policy to proactively organize a conference call with Barrington and Jay.

Facebook just notified Barrington that it has published the following policy on post-mastectomy photos:

Does Facebook allow post-mastectomy photos?

Yes. We agree that undergoing a mastectomy is a life-changing experience, and that it's important to share photos to raise awareness of breast cancer and support the men and women who are facing diagnosis, undergoing treatment, or living with the scars of cancer. The vast majority of these kinds of photos are compliant
with our policies.
However, photos with fully exposed breasts, particularly if they're unaffected by surgery, do violate Facebook's Terms. These policies are based on the same standards which apply to television and print media, and that govern sites with a significant number of young people. The policy can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/help/318612434939348/.

Barrington learned about the policy directly from Facebook representatives and provided this response: “For some time now, Facebook’s policy regarding mastectomy photos was loosely defined, and offered no real assistance to Facebook users posting images and little guidance to Facebook staff tasked with responding to images that were reported. As a result, numerous photos were removed from The SCAR Project page,
and David Jay, an internationally known photographer and founder of the project, was banned from posting for 30 days. Anne Marie Giannino-Otis at Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer was also asked to remove post-mastectomy photographs from her Facebook page.

"But after thousands of people signed my Change.org petition, Facebook’s policy team told me they are committed to clearing up any internal or external confusion regarding images of mastectomy and have clarified their policy. From now on, these powerful visual testaments to the real impact of breast cancer and the
resilience of breast cancer survivors will be welcomed on Facebook, as they should be.

"For me, a woman with Stage IV breast cancer, this is a victory I share with the 20,000 people who have signed my Change.org petition and the countless men and women who have this disease and who are newly diagnosed each year.  We want the world to know that breast cancer is not a pink ribbon – it is traumatic, it is life-changing, and it urgently needs a cure.”

David Jay of the SCAR Project also responded to the new policy: "I am very pleased that the Facebook team has reconsidered their current policy regarding images depicting the scars of breast cancer. We will be closely
monitoring the implementation of these policies. For those that gain an immeasurable amount of support and hope through the images of The SCAR Project, this is an immense victory."

Facebook released the following statement to press: “We have long allowed mastectomy photos to be shared on Facebook, as well as educational and scientific photos of the human body and photos of women breastfeeding. We only review or remove photos after they have been reported to us by people who see the images in their News Feeds or otherwise discover them. On occasion, we may remove a photo showing mastectomy scarring either by mistake, as our teams review millions of pieces of content daily, or because a photo has violated our terms for other reasons. As a reminder, our terms stipulate that we generally do not allow nudity, with some exceptions as laid out above and here, consistent with other platforms that have many young users.”

This is only the latest in a string of Facebook-related content victories sparked by Change.org petitions. In February, Facebook removed a series of pages that joked about rape and pedophilia following a Brazilian petition on Change.org. In Australia, a petition led Facebook to remove a derogatory “Aboriginal Memes” page. And last year, Facebook removed several anti-gay pages following a Change.org petition.
There are currently more than 750 open Change.org petitions directed at Facebook.

Live signature totals from Scorchy Barrington’s petition:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Male, Pale, and Unperturbed About It All

For the last word on the future of print media, here's a no-girls-in-our-treehouse take on it all from Port, courtesy of Jim Romenesko's blog.  What is so distressing is that the people putting together these "as seen from here" features don't seem to notice that their viewpoint is huffily exclusive, ignoring an astonishing number of women, who make up more than one-third of journalists working in print.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sunday Morning TV: Same Time, Same Place, Same Guests

In this New York Times article, Jennifer Steinhauer doesn't directly address why so few women appear on the Sunday morning public affairs television programs.  But her analysis of who does appear, and the egregious repetition of guests, explains at least in part why so few women are invited to be on the shows.  One example:  Senator John McCain has appeared on at least one or more of the shows on 60 Sundays since 2010.  On "Face the Nation" alone, McCain has appeared more often than any other person, Steinhauer reports.  It's a classic example of the insiderish, Washington echo chamber that keeps discussion going in a circle because of the lack of diversity of the conversation's participants.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Journalist Phyllis Richman Corrects the Record -- With Harvard

"Married women find it difficult to carry out worthwhile careers in planning, and hence tend to have some feeling of waste about the time and effort spent in professional education."  That's a fragment of a letter Harvard Professor William Doebele, Jr., wrote to acclaimed journalist, editor, author and restaurant critic Phyllis Richman as she was applying to colleges, Harvard, among them, in 1961.

How very much he underestimated what the young women of that era and what they set out to achieve.  Richman did not ultimately make a career in urban planning, but she distinguished herself in journalism, which she was drawn to as she began raising her family and looking for fulfilling -- and lucrative -- professional work.  Richman eventually became adept at disguising herself as she dined at restaurants throughout greater Washington, DC, testing their offerings and writing up her findings for The Washington Post. A Richman review could make a restaurateur's day or send him or her home with a migraine, or worse.

Richman has now answered Doebele, not unkindly, but firmly, in an essay that is worth sharing widely.  Here it is.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Why Journalism Needs Women to Report and Edit

In the Washington Post, "She the People" columnist Melinda Henneberger pays tribute to an iconic journalist, Mike McAlary, the central figure in "Lucky Guy," a Broadway play starring Tom Hanks, written by another iconic writer, the late Nora Ephron.  "'Newspapering is the greatest,' the McAlary character says, 'because you work in a profession that can make the world just a little bit better.' And I still believe that so strongly that I’m forever arguing with those who only see our mistakes," Henneberger writes.  She then sketches the lives of women journalists who've enriched newspapering and the lives of their writers.  It's a great reminder that journalism is only as good as the variety of people doing it.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Video: Reversing Sex Roles in Advertisements

Kudos to University of Saskatchewan students who produced this video on the destructiveness of gender roles in advertising -- and then flipped the ads to show males in the place of the female sex objects depicted in the ads.  Great job!  Watch it here.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Spring Issue of Media Report to Women is out!

Not a subscriber?  E-mail sheilagibbons@communication-research.org for a sample copy.  Media Report to Women is a 24-page newsmagazine published quarterly, packed with research, news, and commentary about the relationship of women and girls with media.  It's available to subscribers as a color PDF sent via email, or a B&W hard copy sent by U.S. Mail.  Founded in 1972, it's been a unique voice in the delivery of information that creates awareness of media's powerful role in our lives.  This blog is a between-issues companion to the newsmagazine.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Disney Bows to Protest Pressure

After a petition on Change.org gathered 200,000 signatures, entertainment giant Disney has pulled the "princess" image of its character, Merida, and restored the original Pixar version.  You can see it -- along with the other Disney princesses -- here.  Jezebel has a terrific write-up on the controversy and a lineup of the characters as they appeared in the animated films and after they were "princessified" for after market products.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Disney Gets Pushback Over Sexualization of Popular Character

We’ve gotten the word about a petition on Change.org that’s quickly gaining steam as fans of Disney’s “Brave” call on the company to “Say No to the Merida Makeover.” The Merida character is known for her independent and adventurous spirit, her curly red mane, and her trusty bow and arrow. But for her debut in the Disney Princess Collection, she now wears a sparkly gown and makeup, has a smaller waistline and more curves, and her curls have been smoothed. Carolyn Danckaert, co-founder of A Mighty Girl, a girl empowerment website, launched the petition on Change.org in early May, collecting 15,000 signatures in the first three days.  Her viewpoint: "Merida inspired countless young girls by showing them that they too could go off on adventures and save the day; that it's not about how you looked that matters but what kind of person you are. With Merida, girls finally had a princess role model that looked like a real girl, complete with the 'imperfections' that made her such a unique and appealing character. By redesigning her to fit the mold of the Disney Princess line and making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in her appearance, Disney is sending the message that for girls and women to have value -- to be recognized as true princesses -- they must conform to this narrow definition of beauty. With our petition, we're calling on Disney to return to the original Merida that we all know and love and to keep Merida Brave!” The petition is here: https://www.change.org/petitions/disney-say-no-to-the-merida-makeover-keep-our-hero-brave

Sunday, May 5, 2013

GOP Tries Micro Niche Advertising on Women's Web Sites

USA TODAY's Susan Davis has written an interesting piece about how political advertising has come to "mommy blogs" and commercial sites with large female readership, such as Ikeafans.com and MarthaStewart.com.  This past week, the Republican party "geo-targeted" 100 web sites in hopes of moving Democrat-leaning women in those areas to the right in advance of the 2014 election.  The ad buy is only $20,000 -- chump change in the world of political advertising -- but it will be interesting to see if this level of niche advertising to female audiences takes off in the months ahead.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fantastic Books on Gender/Media/Journalism/Communication Now For Sale!

We've decided to put the best of the MEDIA REPORT TO WOMEN library online for sale.  Among the books are classic works (like the one shown here) and hard-to-find titles that capture the best work of researchers looking at the relationship between women/girls and the media.  We'll be adding other titles, some of a more general nature in communication and select trade books, over time.  We think this a wonderful opportunity for scholars to acquire books in first-rate condition.  Please visit the YouCanReadHere storefront here.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Get Mad AND Get Even

Journalist Lynn Povich, author of The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace, last week talked with Newseum interviewer John Maynard for the Newseum's YouTube channel about the historic fight Newsweek women waged in 1970 for equal opportunity at the magazine.  Povich was among the leaders of the group fed up with Newsweek's practice of steering women into low-paid researcher jobs and men into the higher-paid and higher-status correspondent and editor positions.  In a frank interview she described instances of sexual harrassment, including stalking, along with the dead-end job pattern.  Sixty women ended up suing the magazine for discrimination.  Their war room?  The ladies' room at the magazine. It took a second lawsuit for real progress to be made.  Povich became Newsweek's first female senior editor in the magazine's history.  You can see her interview with Maynard here.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

New History Tracks Flight Attendants and the Sexual Sell

Hot off the University of Pennsylvania Press: The Jet Sex: Airline Stewardesses and the Making of An American Icon takes readers from a time when the first flight attendants had to be trained nurses to today, when they have to be intensively trained for security as well as for cabin service. In between were the years when they were hyped as gentlemen’s companions in airline advertising that suggested the business traveler would get some eye candy with his martini.

Victoria Vantoch’s book is a welcome history of a career that got a lot of women off the farm and out of dull offices, promising glamorous travel (never mind the low wages) and the opportunity to meet “interesting people” (i.e., potential rich husbands during the years flight attendants were required to be single). Vantoch shows how ad agencies pushed the sexualization of flight attendants in advertising, with the airlines cooperating by vamping up the stewardesses’ apparel. Vantoch’s book contains a terrific collection of ads that show how the military-style stewardess uniform was shed in the late 1960s in favor of mini-dresses, “hot pants,” and go-go boots. The advertising copy made sure you didn’t miss the point:  An “I’m Cheryl. Fly me” ad showed a National Airlines stewardess in close-up, with a come-hither look. In 1974, Continental Airlines introduced the slogan, “We really move our tails for you.”  Porn movies featuring stewardess characters inevitably followed.

The airlines' sexual sell in the 1960s and 1970s was intensifying as the women's movement was gaining ground.  Inevitably, there was a collision.

Flight attendants rescued their dignity through their union, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and legal complaints. They eventually succeeded in striking down the no-marriage rule, the no-pregnancy rule, the age limit, and unreasonable height and weight restrictions.  And the you-must-be-female rule, too.  The steamy airline advertising faded away.  Finally.

Monday, April 22, 2013

On the Story, In Her Wedding Gown

Television anchor Chen Ying was beautifully dressed for her wedding this past weekend, but the day didn't turn out as planned.  It found her reporting the story of an earthquake not far from where her wedding was to be celebrated.  Stilll in her bridal finery, she interviewed survivors and reported from the scene.  No word from the groom, but her quick response to the disaster brought a lot of admiring comments from her audience.  See the ABC News report here and a photo of Chen Ying right here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dove "Beauty Sketches" Reveals Women's Toughest Critics: Ourselves

Beauty product manufacturer Dove has, for several years, had a campaign to recognize and celebrate the natural beauty of its customers.  In this powerful video produced for Dove, we're reminded of how artificial standards of beauty pushed by the fashion, makeup, and personal care products industries, and much of the media supported by them, have distorted women's and girls' views about themselves.  Share widely.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What Can We Expect from the New York Times Book Review's New (Female) Editor?

New York Times Book Review features editor Pamela Paul is vaulting into the editor's seat in May after being hired in 2011 to handle reviews of children's books.  Paul is the Times’ 20th book editor and only the second female book editor. The first was Rebecca Sinkler, who served from 1989-1995.  The question:  Where will she take the NYT Book Review, which typically publishes more than twice as many male as female authors and a dearth of minorities?  Some good insights here in her exchange with Poynter's Mallary Tenore.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Hillary's Future: Do We Have to Talk About Her Hair?

Maureen Dowd penned a column speculating about former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's political plans, published in the New York Times April 7.  While full of intriguing insights, why, oh, why did Dowd have to dish about her hair?

"Hillary jokes that people regard her hair as totemic, and just so, her new haircut sends a signal of shimmering intention: she has ditched the skinned-back bun that gave her the air of a K.G.B. villainess in a Bond movie and has a sleek new layered cut that looks modern and glamorous."

Shimmering intention?  K.G.B. villainess? Bond movie?

Dowd also informed us that Clinton was wearing a hot pink jacket and black slacks.

Still waiting for the day when coverage and opinion about powerful women doesn't always include a fashion statement.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why Sexism Lite Is Still Sexism

Kudos to Dan Solomon for posting on The Frisky about why men who abet sexism (in this case, authoring an article called "The Top 40 Hottest Women in Tech") shouldn't be surprised to be met with a backlash that years ago they wouldn't have encountered.  Solomon also suggests that men who think they're engaging in a little harmless ogling in print need to take another look at the environments they work in -- and at themselves.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Battle of the Bylines: Bright Spot for Women in Magazine Award Nominations

Mother Jones co-editor Clara Jeffery keeps a close eye on the issue of byline parity for female and male writers.  Last year, she and co-editor Monika Bauerlein lamented the poor showing of women writers in nominations for the National Magazine Awards.  Yesterday, she reported that nominations of women are up sharply:

"Whether by chance or by collective soul searching, this year has seen dramatic improvement within the reporting and writing categories (public interest, reporting, feature writing, essays and criticism, columns and commentary, and fiction). Last year, women were only nominated for seven of the available 25 slots, and were completely shut out of four categories. This year, they've garnered 17 of the available 34 spots, and women are nominees in every category."

Of course, this is just one awards competition for one year, and being nominated isn't the same as winning.  But it's great news and I hope it's a sign of things to come. The winners will be announced May 2.

Monday, April 1, 2013

So Here's How It Should Have Read in the First Place

The New York Times, having stirred outrage in its obituary of scientist/inventor Yvonne Brill, quietly amended the obituary for its archives in response to comments by readers and media watchdogs.  Brill, inventor of a propulsion technology in wide use today, was described in the obit's first line as an inventor of "a mean stroganoff" -- not of the system she devised that keeps satellites in orbit.  Many readers felt that the early emphasis in the article on her domestic abilities took away from her considerable professional achievements, and failed the test of comparability with a hypothetical obituary of a male scientist. Would such an obit, of a groundbreaking inventor, lead off with the beautiful results of his lawn mowing? You can see the edits made to the NYT's article on Brill here, thanks to NewsDiffs, which tracks how articles are modified by their editors.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Egyptian Media Have Mixed Record on Portrayal of Violence Against Women

A disturbing report published March 27, 2013 by Sarah El Masry of the Daily News/Egypt offers examples of how TV entertainment -- particularly soap operas -- and print media may be furthering violence against women by the way they depict it in dramatic series and report on it in a news context.   Women are often blamed for "provoking men" to violent acts, she says -- even if the so-called provocation is a woman demonstrating at a political rally. News media have increased their reporting about violence against women, but shy away from reporting incidents of domestic violence -- even though entertainment television often depicts them graphically (and not necessarily negatively). While few experts El Masry interviewed were in favor of outright censorship of media, at least one noted that when censorship does occur, it is directed at sexual content, not violence.

Sherin Moody, an adjunct professor in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the American University in Cairo, commented to El Masry about the selectivity of censorship policies. “The interesting thing about the process of filtration that happens to drama and movies is that they cut out the content that has most to do with sexuality, leaving in violence and pervasive language. They think sex is more dangerous than violence while in fact they are very interrelated. Those people are blinded like horses with blinkers; they don’t realize that violence could escalate to rape, for example,” Moody said.

Given the volatile climate in post-revolutionary Egypt, women remain vulnerable.  CBS Correspondent Lara Logan's horrific experience at the hands of a mob in Tahrir Square is well-known; so is the stripping of the "blue-bra" woman by males outraged at her presence at a political protest there.  El Masry has given us an overview of how embedded violence against women is and asks a fair question: Are the media complicit?

Read her full report, "The Coverage of Violence Against Women."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Male Pen Name Lives On, Incredibly

I missed this article when it came out a few months ago.  I discovered it doing research on women as authors.  I'm both fascinated and infuriated that male pen names, and book marketing carefully crafted so as not to offend male sensibilities, continue to obscure the genuine abilities and talents of female authors.  Read it and weep: Why Women Writers Still Take Men's Names.