Opinion | The treatment of women in the media needs to change

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By Ben Carpenter, Second Year, Film and Television

‘The way that people treated her, to be very high school about it, was like she was the school slut and he was the quarterback.’ This quote from The New York Times in relation to the break-up between Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake perfectly epitomises the media’s treatment of the figure of the female celebrity.

Since viewing ‘Framing Britney Spears’ last month, it is this first quote that has stuck with me most prominently. The media often makes a point of building women up, praising them, yet sometimes has been known to turn on them with little to no evidence – and in this, the noughties proved truly vicious.

In retrospect, growing up surrounded by the shameless media circus of the noughties was slightly desensitising. The brutal criticism of famous women seemed just as normal as brushing your teeth in the morning. In researching this piece and talking to my peers I began to notice the irony of a male writer such as myself writing a piece on how male dominated media fields worked to destroy the reputation - and whether inadvertently or not, the wellbeing - of so many women.

It is with this understanding in mind that I have no intention of talking on the behalf of women, as of course I could never fully understand the weight of sexism and misogyny that women experience. However, even from my point of privilege it’s pretty simple to see that something drastic needs to change in the media’s treatment of women.

Even in today's culture, a culture that is allegedly supposed to be much more sensitive than it was in the noughties, you don’t have to look far to find something horribly misogynistic printed about female public figures. It doesn’t take long to see that many women in the public eye, are often torn to shreds by the media to this day.

This is something a quick google search of the vast majority of female celebrities will demonstrate. Yet, it can also be very quickly seen that this is not something that is mirrored in equal measure or even to the same extent in relation to male public figures.

I could never fully understand the weight of sexism and misogyny that women experience

Celebrities, particularly female celebrities, appear to not be allowed to be anything short of perfect and those who on rare occasion have fallen short of that standard, have been dragged through the mud under a number of pretences, even for something as simplistic as seeming ‘cold’ or ‘fake’.

Of course, this is something we see so frequently we hardly notice it anymore. We remember the name associated with the smearing that week and move on.

As students and the potential journalists of tomorrow, the question that invariably arises is: ‘how do we fix this?’. That is where this gets tricky. In a world where patriarchy sadly stands strong and the inclusion of a woman in any position of power is still deemed diverse and game-changing, to alter the way women are treated in the media is to change the way women are treated by society.

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Despite the rise of modern feminism and a slow yet steady improvement in society's acceptance of women, women’s bodies and their personal choices, it is astounding that in the grand old year of 2021 we need to ask ourselves these questions. However, like many others I would like to believe there truly is a light at the end of this very dark tunnel.

With the media painting itself as the mirror and voice of our culture, there is hope for us yet.  As students and as part of a generation with the keys to our culture literally at our fingertips, it is ultimately up to us to continue to question the negative representation of women in the media.

It is up to us to make the changes we want to see and it’s time we started treating female celebrities with the respect they deserve, because that is truly the bare minimum.

Featured Image: Unsplash / Charisse Kenion


Do you feel that female celebrities are treated differently in the media? Let us know!

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