Katharine Whitehorn's article in the BBC News Magazine is about problems for women in media and journalism โ€” 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."

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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.

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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]