Women are still underrepresented in many domains, but the tides are slowly turning. And indeed, women are steadily becoming a significant portion of news readers. In politics, many more women are running campaigns to level the gender ratio. When Hillary Clinton lost her presidential campaign in 2008, she stated "Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it." Despite significant gains, that glass ceiling is still largely intact, partially supported by the media.
The Washington Post reports the media is making sexist comments directed at women running in the 2010 US midterm elections, which could significantly affect women's ability to compete against men. In response to slanderous yet culturally accepted talk, several women's groups launched NameItChangeIt.org this past week, which will rely on crowdsourcing to alert the public when derogatory remarks appear in the media.
The Women's Campaign Forum, Women's Media Center, and Political Parity claimed women in politics undergo a significant amount of gender discrimination in media reports. This ranges from the media's excessive focus on a women's appearance and family responsibilities to plainly sexist remarks. "Sexism against women in the media has become normalized and accepted in a way that they would not be if the comments were racist," says Jehmu Greene, president of the Women's Media Center. "It dramatically affects women candidates."
This "toxic media environment" has significant effects on women's ability to rise during a time where they are underrepresented. "The United States ranks 86th in the world for representation of women in political office," writes Krissah Thompson, a reporter for the Washington Post. "Women make up 51 percent of the nation's population but hold only 17 percent of the seats in Congress and 24 percent of the seats in state legislatures."
There is a strong need for more women officials, and thus women's groups are investing $250,000 into Name It, Change It. Part of the money will be used to create a smartphone application that will allow users to alert the organizations of sexist comments by the media. Normally news organizations use crowdsourcing tools for their own stories, so it's interesting other organizations are using the same tools to act as a watch dog against the media.
Newspapers need to watch what they say about women because those "harmless" comments have real social ramifications. Greene suggests to the media "Don't talk about if she's had some plastic surgery unless you're going to talk about the fact that he's had hair-plugs. Don't talk about if she's a fit mother if you're not going to talk about whether he's a fit father."
Better yet, how about newspapers keep to the important issues? Newspapers were recently accused of creating unnecessary hype around the mosque in New York City by inaccurately reporting it as the "Ground Zero Mosque." Instead of focusing on flashy news and stereotyping, journalists should try to stick to the facts. What guidelines need to be implemented in newsrooms to avoid publishing sexist comments?