Katharine Whitehorn's article in the BBC News Magazine is about problems for women in media and journalism ‚ÄĒ including oversexualization. So why is this the accompanying photo?

The article, an overview of the findings of a recent conference, actually outlines a number of problems, including the dearth of women in the higher tiers of British journalism, their overrepresentation among lower-paid reporters, the extreme youth and tininess of models in fashion magazines, and "the near-pornographic portrayal of women in what were supposed to be mainstream magazines." It also celebrates how far journalism has come since the days when female reporters were relegated to a "women's page that concerned itself with clothes, a spot of cooking, an occasional nod towards a bit of undemanding culture."


Whitehorn also tells an instructive anecdote, about the coverage of a car expo for women:

One photographer immediately lined up several of the prettier ones gazing into the bonnet of a car. "Come on, dear, just hitch that skirt up a bit - yeah, thanks, that's grand." And the picture came out with a dismissive caption - that this was a day meant to interest women in the cars, but when something went wrong, they did what women always do - turn to a man.

We were all furious and I made a mental note that if the writer - Terry something - ever wanted a job on The Observer I'd do my best make sure he didn't get it. Only Terry turned out to be a woman. And you see the difficulty. If that's what the paper wanted and she didn't come up with it, the reaction would be that it's no good sending a girl, they never come back with the story you want.


She's trying to make a point about the need for more female higher-ups in journalism, but her own piece seems to suffer from the same problem. Although a good 75% of the article is totally nonsexual, somebody at the paper (maybe even her) has decided this is a story about sex, and given it a lead picture, headline ("Women on top"), and teaser ("An exposed bra. Skimpy hotpants. Does dressing like a soft porn star actually empower a woman, or is she simply exploiting herself, asks Katharine Whitehorn.") to match. Whether or not male editors are responsible for this choice, it's a little disturbing that someone felt the need to sex up an article whose only mention of sex is the complaint that women in the media are too sexed-up. Obviously we're no strangers to sex news here at Jezebel, but we hope we know the difference between "women in journalism" and "skimpy outfits."

Women OnTop [BBC News Magazine]