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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Shocking, stunning, horrifying, unmissable. Guardian report on female invisibility.

282 replies

Bidisha · 05/12/2011 00:00

The Guardian's Kira Cochrane has produced an exhaustive, serious and very informative, though devastating, study about the representation of women in all walks of life, from politics and the media to comedy. Full disclosure: I am quoted in it briefly. The article is the result of several months' study by a diverse group of researchers and gives a complete picture of just how strongly women are pushed out of the public frame - and how this impacts on girls and young women's sense of their own voices and possibilities.

I would urge anyone who cares about this to get onto the Guardian comment thread and talk, give your own experiences, encourage other women, participate positively and in solidarity. This is a hugely important article and it's all about us and our place and space. Don't let the derailers and trolls dominate!

Here's the article:

OP posts:
kickassangel · 05/12/2011 00:26

Thank you for that - very good article & easy to read.

I find the idea that once women take up about 1/3 of 'spaces' in an industry, it's seen that they've done their bit. It's like the fact that women get away with talking for 1/3 of a conversation. Once they've done that, any more is seen as too pushy.

KateMiddIeton · 05/12/2011 00:47

I tweeted this article this afternoon for the #frothers. Good stuff.

Alicious · 05/12/2011 03:17

Read with interest, thanks for the link.

chibi · 05/12/2011 05:45

ha ha i have been driving dh loco with this for some time. you would think that women were this teeny fringe group, like ginger zoroastrians, comprising only a demographic sliver

also re:quotas and 'quality not quantity' there is already a quota which has ALWAYS existed for (mainly white establishment) men and it's a bit disingenuous to pretend otherwise

somanymiles · 05/12/2011 06:07

Thanks for sharing this. Oh depressing.

Pantofino · 05/12/2011 09:16

Great article. You're right it is depressing!

AyeSmagic · 05/12/2011 09:26

Ah, but don't you know that if women aren't visible, it's because it's their choice not to be?

Another interesting article - Girls should learn about sexism "Dr Helen Wright, president of the Girls' Schools Association, said many men only paid lip service to beliefs in equality, and said girls should learn some men still hold old-fashioned views about women. ... Describing persistent sexism, she said: "You only have to scratch the surface of many successful men's beliefs to find they still think men are the breadwinners, and it is only the done thing to say they believe in equality."

thunderboltsandlightning · 05/12/2011 11:12

I've just been reading Andrea Dworkin's "Our Blood" where she points out that in a patriarchy only a penis makes a person real - phallic reality.

So it's no wonder they can't see us unpenised ones or that we don't appear in their newspapers or media. Without a penis you're not really there.

OneHandFlapping · 05/12/2011 11:54

It's not only the view that men are the bread winners, but also the view that childcare is womens' work that holds women back. Woman are as guilty as men of the latter view.

While we carry out the majority of childcare, are the only ones who get a significant amount of maternity/paternity leave, and find our careers have been chopped off at the knees by the time our child-rearing duties are done, we are not going to be free to take an equal role in public life.

MillyR · 05/12/2011 12:01

There is no reason why childcare should hold a career back, other than the prejudices of society. There is plenty of time before retirement to fit in both roles.

Asides from which, media is massively oversubscribed in terms of applicants. Most people who want to be journalists, producers and appear on tv shows will never get to. There will easily be enough high quality women candidates applying for journalism jobs to fill half the available places.

As for tv panels, if somebody really wanted to, they could fill a show every week with highly articulate, intelligent women with specialist knowledge, but nobody does want to.

MMMarmite · 05/12/2011 12:05

In the article, Today programme editor Mr Ceri Thomas says that this is something that is being persued actively, but also says "and I'm bound to say to you, it almost never comes up as an issue from the audience... I suppose it might be one or two letters a year, or something of that nature." I've just added my email to that number, contact details are here:

ElderberrySyrup · 05/12/2011 12:29

Thank you MMMarmite, I have done just that Smile

brawhen · 05/12/2011 12:44

Very good article.

One of the best questions in the comment section is why is this filed under Life & Style > Women?

Come on guardian, why is it? It's important to the whole of society, and it's much bigger than a lifestyle question, surely?

Beachcomber · 05/12/2011 12:50

Thank you for drawing our attention to this very good article.

aubergineinautumn · 05/12/2011 12:53

It will take a generation to change this. As soon as they go to school girls learn that the boys take up more of the teacher's time, talk more, interupt more, have more self-confidence. The girls are rewarded for being quite and complicit. It is so normalised that they cant even see it.

By the time women are adults it is often too late to rectify.

ElderberrySyrup · 05/12/2011 12:54

I thought this was quite telling - Daily Mail 'Women elbow out the men in BBC Olympic coverage.
There will be 6 women and 5 men in the main BBC Olympic presenter line-up. Great. And given that it's only 1 more women than men, you would expect it to happen very frequently if coverage was anything like equal.
And yet it is 1. given a whole article because it is so unusual and 2. framed as if it's nasty aggressive women going too far and trying to make men invisible.

sakura · 05/12/2011 12:56

thank you for this!

ElderberrySyrup · 05/12/2011 12:57

Chibi - ' there is already a quota which has ALWAYS existed for (mainly white establishment) men and it's a bit disingenuous to pretend otherwise'

Exactly. Invisible quotas already exist.

alexpolismum · 05/12/2011 12:58

Here's a radical plan:

Since women have roughly a 16 percent representation on the BBC, how about we pay 16 percent of the licence fee?

WoTmania · 05/12/2011 13:02

Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

C4ro · 05/12/2011 18:13

Yes, that Ceri Thomas bit that "no-one ever said anything about it ever before" made me cross too. I sent a 3 sentence email in saying well me-4 then since you think if it's not said, it's not a problem.

MMMarmite · 05/12/2011 20:53

Thanks Elderberry and C4. Now he's received a whole year's supply of letters just from us. :)

thunderboltsandlightning · 06/12/2011 09:46

Hey, this is a discussion of the day.

It's also worth pointing out that Mumsnet has pretty much driven through that female invisibility thing and got itself a place at the table. That annoys quite a lot of people in the media.

hackmum · 06/12/2011 10:08

thunderboltsandlightning: "It's also worth pointing out that Mumsnet has pretty much driven through that female invisibility thing and got itself a place at the table. That annoys quite a lot of people in the media."

Yup. To the extent that whenever it's mentioned, even (or especially) by female columnists who should know better, it's invariably done in sneering tones, as if everybody on Mumsnet is a well-off SAHM absorbed in obsessing about her own offspring. (Not that there's anything wrong in being a well-off SAHM, btw.) There's no recognition of the rich variety of opinion you get on Mumsnet, or the support it offers to a lot of women who feel isolated and lonely.

I find the female invisibility thing annoys me more and more as I get older. In the 1970s and 80s, it felt as if things were gradually going to get better, with more women on tv and in public life. But it seemed to have reached a plateau (a pretty low one) and stopped. Recently I've got fed up with watching things like QI where the panel is always either 75% or 100% male. And that seems like a trivial example, but imagine if it were the other way round - if the panels on things like QI and Question Time and Mock the Week and all the rest of it were frequently 100% female. I bet there'd be complaints then.

hackmum · 06/12/2011 10:10

Here's one that made me really angry the other day. I watched a programme presented by Rankin about the photographers who worked for Life magazine. He interviewed several of them - all male. But right at the beginning he mentioned one female photographer. What did he say about her? That she was really attractive and quite promiscuous. Did he talk about any of the men in terms of their sexuality? No prizes for guessing the answer to that one.

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