6 Feb | Posted by Kate Lyon | no comments |
If You Wouldn’t Report Something About a Man – Don’t Report It About A Woman – a/k/a Avoiding Sexism In Election Coverage
Last week, I read two articles about Kamala Harris – one in Politico with a headline using the term “ruthless” and the other in the New York Times with the headline “tough progressive”.
Both articles referenced what sounds like an unremarkable incident had it been about a male candidate from almost 20 years ago involving a police union rep (who supported the death penalty which she did not), whom she asked to support her campaign while pointing her finger at him.
This brought home to me the fact that headlines and articles can do big damage to candidates. Think of how the media pilloried Hillary on her “likability”.
Already the 2020 election has 4 women running for the democratic nomination and there may be more.
Given past media sexism, it’s time to set some ground rules. So, for better or worse, here is a non-journalist’s stab at doing just that.
Appearance – Avoid comment unless appearance is germane to the story.
Motherhood, grand motherhood or not – Avoid comment except for general coverage of family status
Age – here again, women can’t win – they are either too old (Hillary) or too young (AOC). Young men are considered up and comers whereas young women are considered lightweights. Older men are given the benefit of the doubt about their age related health whereas older women are not.
Background – who really cares what silly or sophomoric things she did in school unless perhaps drunken sexual assault as in our recent SCOTUS appointment. BTW, it could backfire anyway (see AOC dance!). Prior romantic relationships and/or marriages should also be off limits unless relevant – like the governor who left his office for a few months to rendezvous with his girlfriend in South American. Moreover, who cares about past family member missteps? Most folks have a drunk uncle or some other ne’re-do-well relative so this is not news and we really don’t care.
Bottom Line – Don’t report on something about a woman that you wouldn’t report about a man. To do so is sexist and unacceptable whether intentional or not.
For a more in depth look at the difference in media coverage take a look at Columbia’s Journalism Review’s subtle sexism in political coverage can have a real impact on candidatesLet’s work together to recognize sexist language in our coverage of political candidates.
Call out sexist coverage when you see it. Let everyone know in 2020 we expect women to be covered fairly for their qualifications and experience, not their appearance or family status.
We’re #ReadyFor2020, are you?
Anne M. Haule, Run Women Run Volunteer