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Busting up sexist views about women in the media

Microphone in front of spokesperson

You were probably as surprised as I was on Wednesday to see an article circulating from the Metro entitled ‘Theresa May’s husband steals the show in sexy navy suit as he starts new life as First Man.’ The hilarious account of the ‘First Man’s’ entry into 10 Downing Street contains all sorts of references that we’d usually expect to see applied to papped women. I quote:

“Stepping into the limelight as First Man, Philip May showcased a sexy navy suit with a flourish of pinstripe.”

And:

“Round glasses perched on his nose accentuated his amazing bone structure – no doubt one of the assets he used to help him to bag his wife.”

This is, of course, hilarious to read – perhaps a little baffling if you’ve never read the language of the Daily Mail celeb pages or picked up on the subtle cues in the broader media that often reduce a woman either to an asset of her husband’s or a good rack. And it’s done very well on social media – you may have seen it on my Twitter feed or the millions of others who shared and retweeted it. The hilarity of the Metro piece cleverly shines a very harsh spotlight on just how ridiculous the media is allowed to be when it comes to the way that women are talked about. That’s something I think is a lot more damaging than many of us give it credit for and it’s certainly something that impacts all the generations of women coming up behind us.

It’s also a sentiment shared by one Jennifer Anniston who has had her say on the same topic after being subject to intense press speculation (for ‘the bajillionth time’ as she says) as to whether or not she is pregnant. Anniston wrote a piece for The Huffington Post, published on Tuesday, in which she cleared up the rumours about pregnancy (she’s not, it was a burger) and went on to give her own very well informed opinion on how women who become the subject of intense media speculation are treated. She said “I’m not in pursuit of motherhood because I feel incomplete in some way, as our celebrity news culture would lead us all to believe” and made the point that women should be allowed to feel complete with or without a mate, with or without children and no matter what their bodies look like. Anniston also called out the warped way that the media calculates a woman’s worth and “The message that girls are not pretty unless they’re incredibly thin, that they’re not worthy of our attention unless they look like a supermodel or an actress on the cover of a magazine.” It was a powerful piece, made all the more impactful being from a woman who is intensely commented upon but never really comments back.

Together, I think these articles have made the traditional press look a bit silly – which is one approach to shutting down a sexist media. It’s great to read such articulate writing from stars like Anniston (and she totally nailed the subject matter) but will we ever be able to read phrases like ‘elongated pins or ‘poured their curves into’ again without thinking of Philip May? Probably not. But perhaps that’s no bad thing.

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