Hey journos, stop defining women by what their uterus has done

When a woman gets a newsworthy job or promotion, if she has children – and even though it’s completely unrelated to the newsworthy thing – you can bet a million bucks that a journo will refer to it at the beginning of the article. She’ll be described as “mother of two” before we even learn her name or what her qualifications are for the role. They never do this when writing about men. When’s the last time you read “Father of seven John Singleton”, or “Gerry Harvey, who has four children from two marriages, has retreated from his attack on online shoppers” in a news story?

Which beings us to this story in the Herald Sun: Peta Searle lands assistant coaching job at Port Melbourne. Her name is mentioned in the extended headline for SEO purposes, but here’s how it’s presented on the homepage:

Herald Sun defines professional women by what they do in their private lives

Herald Sun defines professional women by what they do in their private lives

When you list her role as a mother ahead of her professional qualifications that got her the job, it makes it look like she won the role in a competition.

A MELBOURNE mum has made history by becoming the first female coach in the VFL.

Mother of two Peta Searle landed the assistant coaching job at VFL premier Port Melbourne yesterday, ahead of two male applicants, after coaching in the Victorian Women’s Football League.

So what if there were “two male applicants”? Would the journalist, Angus Thompson, have mentioned that if the job went to a man? No, of course not. I can’t decide whether that bit was included to say “wow, she must be good if she beat two men”, or to dogwhistle “this is political correctness gone mad because she was clearly picked because she’s a woman”.

It’s not until you get to the 11th paragraph – in a 14 par story, so it’s the fourth last sentence – that Thompson bothers to report her qualifications:

A school teacher, Searle has played women’s football for more than 15 years and coached Darebin Falcons to five successive premierships in the VWFL.

(I love that they’re called the Falcons! That’s our gang term for vaginas and strong women. You have a falcon, but not all women are falcons.)

There are no comments published on the story yet, but if yesterday’s perthnow story is anything to go by, we can expect some complete idiot to hit the publish button on things like this:

No Way Posted at 7:46 AM November 29, 2011
Surely not….hate to sound sexist but back in the kitchen where you belong and leave the Footy to the fella’s. and…oi…bringmeabeerwillya

King Warrick Posted at 7:53 AM November 29, 2011
No Thank You, studies have shown that women haven’t got the mental strength to be able to make tough decisons, maybe we could send her to a rival team and let them manage them as some kind of sabotage

hodgo of perth Posted at 7:55 AM November 29, 2011
Stick to Netball and Rounders

jay Posted at 8:00 AM November 29, 2011
Here we go…..more women’s lib BS!!

munted of cooby Posted at 9:21 AM November 29, 2011
This is the end of football as we know it.Stick to cutting up the oranges sweetie.

Mick Posted at 9:51 AM November 29, 2011
Stay home with your kids , leave the football to the blokes

Anchor Posted at 10:25 AM November 29, 2011
Don’t think so love. As if males in the high level VFL are going to listen to a women giving them advice on AFL. Not way not in my lifetime would i take a females opinion on AFL

gus Posted at 10:36 AM November 29, 2011
Could you imagine the shame and humiliation of having your team coached by a girl? The endless sledging from other supporters. Look girls it is time to respect the boundaries. You dont see men encroaching on your laundry day or mothers club or house-cleaning…stay out of our area.

Angelo of WA Posted at 11:48 AM November 29, 2011
GO AWAY! It is a man’s game. It is enough that we have adopted namby pamby girl rules…it used to a great action game to watch – a bit of biffo and a few punches…it was exciting. Now it may as well be netball and they can start handing out skirts to the players… They are killing Australian Rules Football.

alive and kicking of the lucky country Posted at 4:28 PM November 29, 2011
doesnt she have dishes to do

And those are the ones that the moderator thought it was ok to publish.

41 responses to “Hey journos, stop defining women by what their uterus has done

  1. Good to see Herald Sun doing its job – pandering to white male readers.

  2. Perhaps, in the interests of fairness, they should start all articles that way. Like, “Jane Bloggs, who has a barren, empty husk of a womb”…”Joe Bloggs, father of two and secret father of three kids that his wife doesn’t know about yet”… “Jason Bloggs, father of none who apparently shoots blanks…” Because that’s all completely relevant to every story, right? Right?

    And I presume from the photo that the head next to “A Melbourne mum” is one of her kids? Heaven forbid that she should be in a photo without them – then people wouldn’t know which box to shove her in.

    • Not to mention “Jane Bloggs, who has no children because she selfishly put her career before family”.

      Surprisingly, there are no children in the photo in the story. Very surprisingly.

      • Maybe, if we’re very lucky, there will be a story on TV about her – hopefully, one that shows her cooking dinner whilst watching the kids play footy in the backyard (as she shouts coaching tips through the window). And then a shot of her folding the washing… which includes a football uniform! See what I did there? She really can HAVE IT ALL.

      • So – since photos of successful women who happen to also be mothers must involve their children, will photos of the selfishly barren involve an empty fruit bowl?

  3. I don’t believe I have seen any articles explaining indulgently how lovely it is that a simple father of kids has become a coach! A real, live coach. *pat on head*.

  4. The fact that a woman has landed a serious VFL coaching job is worthy of being reported (it’s a significant step and probably the best thing I’ve heard all day) but I completely agree about the motherhood thing. It shouldn’t even be mentioned.

  5. I sat here and thought (for just a millisecond) I wonder, if the reporter had been a woman maybe she would have made the story about the qualifications and the years of work, knowledge and passion that led her to becoming the first woman to coach a VFL team. But then of course, reality stabbed me in the eye with a fork when I realised it was a News Ltd paper…

    • Someone good and very un-Herald Sun-y is moderating comments today. Apart from a couple of “feminists are ruining EVERYTHING” and “bloody women, next they’ll demand to be on the team and I’m not going to watch AFL anymore because there’s a lady coach”, everyone is saying congratulations.

  6. First time visitor (thanks MX free paper at Macquarie Park) – love the site, and particularly this article (and the laughing at Kyle one, good shit!). I recognise sexism all over the place, particularly against women, but had never noticed that women are defined by whether or not they are parents when it has nothing to do with the article (probably because I spend so long trying to be a mother, secretly coveting the title of ‘mum’). Anyway, thanks for the good read, thumbs up!

  7. How to ensure your readers don’t think for themselves 101: Ensure a newsworthy story about the progression of women in the workplace still panders to the sexist and archaic views of the ol’ boys. Thanks, News Ltd, for encouraging this bullshit and refusing to force your readers to think.

    • From conversations I’ve had with journo mates, most of them don’t even realise they do this.

      • You gotta’ be kidding me…”they don’t realise”…..what crap.! Of course they do! They have already been brainwashed – they already think they are media gods.

        • That’s too simplistic. And, as someone who worked in the MSM, simply not true. The majority of journalists are good people, usually leaning leftwards (yes, even at News Ltd), and they use the language they have been taught to use. The language that all journalists use to describe certain events. And most haven’t actually thought too much about the words that they use. Hence this blog.

          • Yeah, well Ok. But if I was a journalist (and you don’t know that I’m not) I would not be writing the way ‘I was taught’. That is the root of the problem – everyone does just what they are taught, because they are too scared to break the rules. A good journalist steps outside the box and follows their gut instinct.

      • Wow. How horribly disappointing. 😦

  8. I get angry at this article because :

    (1) Her position as the first woman coach at this level is news-worthy, and probably should be the focus of the headline.
    (2) Whether or not she has children is part of peripheral ‘colour’, and should be in the zillionth paragraph, along with who she barracked for growing up.

    I’m strongly reminded of the moronic comments when Kelli Underwood had the gall to actually be knowledgeable about football and commentate on AFL matches. Of particular hilarity were the idiots calling into SEN and saying “I’m not sexist, but women shouldn’t commentate footy. Their voices sound all wrong”.

  9. I must admit I get cranky about reporting of this the media, and at work too. But I have a couple of observations related to the topic:
    1) Reflecting on myself, I realise that I have at times defined myself in this way as well. I have pointed out that I have X kids, with X needs – but I think part of the reason I do this is because I wish to point out that I do my job as well as, if not better, than the man standing next to me who does the same job without any of those other complexities in his life.
    2) It has struck me that people never say, ‘Isn’t Joe Bloggs amazing – he has three kids as well as a full-time job!’ But they do say it about Josephine Bloggs, who actually has exactly what Joe has – a partner willing to put their career on a go-slow for family reasons.
    I love that Peta Searle has landed that job which is steeped in the sexism and machismo that characterises many of the comments you noted. I hate reading those comments and realising that the road to equality is so very, very long.

  10. live ignorantly, fuck the news.

    • But. But. But how will I know what’s going on in the world?

      • Well, you know, I used to worry about what I missed in the NEWS, but the more I read, the more depressed I got. I don’t really give a rats toot about who did what to whom and didn’t pay for it. The media is an industry that thrives on your inadequacies. “The grass is always greener on the other side” only because the dude lays down more shit and has a better mower.

        • You realize that sexism doesn’t go away if we just shut our eyes to it, right? Because that’s what the patriarchy wants us to do, and it’s a pretty standard bingo point to silence people.

  11. Imagine the furore that the appointment of a single lesbian mother with adopted children would have created.

    It’s embarrassing to read some of the comments that were made when the original article appeared online.

  12. Alli Christians

    I am a woman. I am not a mother. I not ever going to be a mother.
    Would it be as incredible if I became a coach?

    • Probably. You know, being a woman and all. It’s disappointing that there’s so much comment about a woman coaching men, but when men coach women no one blinks. Alli Christians, welcome to the News with Nipples.

  13. “I don’t really give a rats toot about who did what to whom and didn’t pay for it.”
    What a privileged perspective to be able to have. This is where advanced neoliberalism has brought us. Fortunately, there are still some of us left who care about social justice for all, not just for ourselves.

    • Well I certainly seemed to hit a nerve. My apologies if you are offended. Maybe I should have put it this way – “I will not buy into the sensationalism that weak journalism creates in order to boost circulation to the morons who buy their publications.” Everything has been dumbed down to appeal to the masses of ignoramus’s. Unfortunately, the majority rules. They account for a minimum 51% of the population – so they win. I do care about social justice – BUT THE MEDIA DOES NOT REFLECT THIS – THEY ONLY WRITE WHAT SELLS.

  14. As women we are the largest minority (the majority). I’m fuming so much I had to write a blog so thanks for the inspiration!

  15. I had to comment (sorry to be so late!!) because this is exactly the sort of language The Australian uses when talking about Julia Gillard. Absolute misogyny. It’s Rudd or Abbot, but it’s Julia for Gillard. Or even “Julia’s dad sees turnaround for embattled daughter” as a headline. And rarely Prime Minister Gillard. And her hairstyles and lack of kids and not married etc etc etc as if any if those have anything to do with her qualifications or drive to led the government. Absolutely vomit-making. Sigh.

  16. I see what you’re saying. But what about single mothers? Eco Tan’s founder has received quite some attention. This article in particular focusses on the idea that her business achievements are so much more spectacular because she’s also raising two girls on her own… http://ecotan.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/gold-coast-mag-page-2.jpg (Zoom in.)
    I’m not arguing, just curious to hear your thoughts. Love, love, love this blog by the way.

    • Hi claretod, welcome to the News with Nipples. It’s not accurate to compare the two articles because one is a news story and the other is a profile. In the news story – about a woman getting a job – her personal life was reported waaaaay before her qualifications for the job were reported. I like to give these things the Caitlin Moran test: do journalists write this way about men? The answer is no, and so it is sexist reporting.

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