Media oblivious to own role in problem

For an industry obsessed with itself (nothing like news of a journo being injured overseas to make the homepage of a website), the mainstream media has a pathetic lack of insight into its own behaviour. Today’s example, a Herald Sun story, picked up and made worse by News.com.au: Young Australians have no sympathy for sex victims.

So, let’s start with the headline: it should say “sexual assault victims”. “Sex victims” is meaningless. What, someone who is a victim of sex?

AN alarming number of young men and women feel sympathy towards footballers caught up in sex scandals.

They express the view that the women involved “knew what they were getting into”.

Then this:

Facebook, text messaging and spreading Lara Bingle-style intimate pictures of women will be the focus of The Line campaign, which recognises teenagers experiencing their first relationships are often confused about what is and isn’t appropriate.

Lara Bingle-style intimate pictures? You mean the ones where someone else takes a photo of you naked and then shows other people and then shows journalists who publish it all over the fucking internet? Wow, nice way to blame the victim for other people’s douchebaggery. I haven’t seen a single news outlet acknowledge that their behaviour was much worse than Brendan Fevola’s (the guy who allegedly took the photo and showed team mates and then gave it to a journalist), since they then published the photo to a massive audience. Oh, did I mention that News.com.au put the photo of Lara in the story? Nice.

The research also found:

– ALMOST one in five youths aged 12-24 think a female should not be able to claim she was sexually assaulted if she was drunk or drug-affected and leading people on.

– ALMOST one in six thinks that if a female is wearing provocative clothing she is “definitely looking for it”.

So, more than five in six thinks wearing “provocative clothing” doesn’t mean a woman is “definitely looking for it”. And what is this “provocative clothing”? Ah, she provoked the attack, so it’s her fault she was attacked.

Framing the story as “hey, everyone thinks this is ok” when the numbers don’t back that up, plays an important role in spreading the idea that it is ok to sexual assault a woman in a short skirt. Indeed, the way the story is written reinforces the idea that women ask to be raped.

In March, footballer Brendan Fevola was forced to deny he had distributed naked pictures of model Lara Bingle.

“Forced to deny”. Sneaky. Fevola is re-framed as the victim being forced to do something.

26 responses to “Media oblivious to own role in problem

  1. Ughh! Just ughh! The launch of a campaign about respectful relationships becomes another excuse to shit on Lara Bingle… *head-desk-head-desk*…

    When is the media actually going to start thinking about the words its uses and the harm it does to people by reinforcing cultural tropes that excuse criminal behaviour?

    Oh wait they don’t give a shit, sex and violence sells papers…

    The Fed gov’s The Line site looks much more snazzy than South Australia’s “Don’t Cross The Line” site… presume they had more money for web design…

    • But it doesn’t sell as many papers as it used to. You know, for an industry in crisis, you’d think they might actually consider that perhaps people are sick of what they are dishing up. Naah, that would involve self-awareness.

      • In all fairness, the journo probably lifted this straight from the media release…

        ALMOST one in five youths aged 12-24 think a female should not be able to claim she was sexually assaulted if she was drunk or drug-affected and leading people on

        I presume those figures are from the National Survey of Community attitudes towards violence about women… I can’t google now have essay to finish and final assignment to start… and have been translated from academic into public servant speak and then tweaked by the journalist…

        Most reports seem to use that format to give the snapshot figures…

        More to say but back to assignment…

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  3. In ‘related coverage’ on both the main news.com.au page and within the story they have: “Man’s torment: False rape claim”‘. The story is from the UK…

    Le sigh.

  4. Those results also sound a bit like the ones from the Assault On Our Future study by Michael Flood from a couple of years ago.

    But yeah I see what they’ve done there – it’s a bit like concern trolling. Express concerns about social issues in ways which actually perpetuate them. Perhaps if the media didn’t consistently report rape as sex, and perps as victims, then people of all ages would stop siding with the perps. This is not hard to figure out.

    • You know, I don’t think the language is deliberate. Journalists all write in the same way, in the way they’ve been trained to write, so you see the same sentences over and over again. Just the names and the numbers are different. In my newsroom we’ve been banned from using ‘slammed’ – so and so slammed the Government for such and such – because it is so overused.

      Problem is, if you can’t trust people whose jobs are words to actually think about what their words mean, then we’re in serious shit.

  5. I posted on this topic as well but I took a different tack firstly noting that the piece in question does not actually say how many of the surveyed people agreed with the headline proposition but if it is of the same magnitude as the other examples cited then we should be happy that such unacceptable opinions are in fact very much in the minority.
    http://iainhall.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/wrong-headed-interpretations-of-polling/

  6. But it must still be deliberate in some way? If they’ve been deliberately trained to write that way.

    Or am I totally misunderstanding you? lol I’ve been studying for a sociology zam, like ALL day! I’m going bonkers.

  7. I don’t think anyone sat down and said, ‘hmm, I’m going to create the journalese that all journalists will use that will be sexist and victim-blaming’, so in that sense it’s not deliberate. But newsrooms are still very male-dominated places, and dominated by middle-aged men (except online newsrooms, but that’s another discussion), who learned their skills from the old blokes, and then cadets learn the house style from them, and so the language is perpetuated without anyone really thinking about it. Which is strange, because all the studies about who journalists are show that they are more socially liberal than the rest of Australia, so you’d think that if anyone was going to be fair and balanced with language, it would be journalists.

  8. Yeah I do tend to assume that journos are quite socially liberal, but definitely not as much as they used to be. I guess that’s more to do with the shift toward a more conservative centre right climate, generally. Then again, male progressives never were all that concerned with the oppression of women in the first place. This is how the second wave started.

    My experience with “progressive” men has been that they’re usually unwilling to examine male privilege or their own sexist beliefs. It seems to me to be more of a case of them wanting to dominate public space and stake superior knowledge claims, than with any real desire for social justice and human rights principles. The fauxgressive dude likes to position himself as morally-superior to the hard-righters and the neo-cons, and therefore more deserving of getting laid.

    • That makes me sad. My experience has been the opposite – that socially liberal men are willing to do these things, and have already done them, but they tend not to be in positions of power. Those in positions of power are the ones who like to swing their dicks around. So I guess there’s a distinction there between being progressive, and being “progressive”. Men are not the enemy. Lazy thinking is the enemy. Take the type of guy who leaves comments on news sites about whining feminists wanting to destroy men. If you asked him if his sister and daughter and mother and girlfriend should have the same rights he does, no doubt he will say yes, of course. So it’s a problem of lazy thinking. Of saying shit that you haven’t thought too much about. (Perhaps this reply could also be accused of that…)

      • This paragraph from The Content Makers by Margaret Simons explains it:

        “News stories follow a pattern, almost like music, with set variations and little riffs, nothing held too long, no single melody allowed to grow boring… Any reporter who goes off the pattern – holds a shot for too long, interviews for too long, intervenes too much or too little, is wrong. Or they will be accused of bias precisely because of the choice they are making. It is not so much that the established formats are free of bias, it is that they are so accepted that their value judgements are invisible. Therefore the reporter is not held responsible for them, which is much more comfortable,” (2007, pp. 265-6).

  9. There really are no words.
    But luckily for me, I’ve found a picture which summarises it all.

    = clearly the only solution.

    No wonder why my case didn’t get far and all my “friends” stopped talking to me afterwards. Hahaha, jokes on me. No seriously, I hate everyone right now.

  10. I remember seeing and commenting on research like this out of the UK last year.

    What annoyed me about the article was the use of the word Youth. This implies that it was males that thought that way but the research sampled males and females and so the 1:6 was taken from both genders.

  11. Berryblade
    If you are such a misanthrope why do you bother to get up in the morning?
    Or why do you continue to draw breath?

  12. Pingback: 26th Down Under Feminists Carnival: The Leadership Edition « a shiny new coin

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