The Sydney Morning Herald’s problem with women

There are two main images on this afternoon that are indicative of the way most online journalists write about women. In one, the woman is ignored. And in the other, something she did a long time ago is used to define her.

This is the first main image on

Main image on homepage, featuring Emma Stone and Seth Macfarlane

The caption reads:

As she looked on, there were groans – and a few laughs – as Family Guy creator put his stamp on the Oscars

As “she” looked on? Emma Stone has a name and it’s Emma Stone. Oh I know, it can be really difficult because sometimes she has red hair and other times she has blonde hair, but with a little effort, the tertiary-educated journalists at can probably figure out who she is. For example, they could turn to the person next to them and say, “hey, do you know who that is?”.

The story is Seth Macfarlane polarises Oscars audience, by Megan Levy. Here’s the image inside the story (for a crappy autoplay video):

Image of Emma Stone and Seth Macfarlane to illustrate video of Oscars nominations

The caption reads:

MacFarlane in Oscar trouble
Seth MacFarlane, host of the 2013 Oscars, is in hot water with a joke about Hitler at the announcement of the Oscar nominees.

Funny, I could swear there are two people in that image… Yep. I’ve checked a few times and there’s definitely two people there.

Another thing that’s funny is that, sure, Seth Macfarlane is hosting the Oscars and the story is about him making a Hitler joke (ooooh, controversial), but you know, there are two people announcing the nominations so it’s pretty dumb to pretend there’s only one person doing it. Particularly when we can see the other person.

The second main image on is this one: story about Indonesia politician Angelina Sondakh

The caption reads:

Downfall of a beauty queen
How Angelina Sandakh went from Sydney to winning Miss Indonesia to becoming a politician to ending up in jail.

The downfall of a pretty woman! A fallen beauty queen! An Australian connection! Exciting!

The story, How Angelina went from Sydney to Miss Indonesia to politics to jail, is by Michael Bachelard:

As former beauty queen and politician Angelina Sondakh awaited her fate in Jakarta’s corruption court this week, her defenders were extolling the intellectual feats of her long-past Australian girlhood.

A former beauty queen! Exciting! Oh wait. We’ve done that bit.

“Angie has many achievements behind her,” said one breathless article in the Harian Terbit newspaper.

A breathless article! Like this one by Michael Bachelard!

The rest of the article mocks the Indonesian media for being excited! By a beauty queen! In trouble! In Indonesia! Because the Australian media never ever does that. Noooooo, not at all.

According to the article (and you have to read a long way down to find it), Angelina Sondakh has been an MP since 2004. That’s almost a decade. But model! Breathless!

Defining Sondakh by a job she did almost 10 years ago is like calling me a checkout chick because I worked at Kmart as an undergrad in the 90s. It’s idiotic. It’s also fairly irrelevant: the story is about politics and corruption, not beauty pageants.

I called this post The Sydney Morning Herald’s problem with women, not because the journalists who work there are misogynists, or because they’re all “ew, women are icky”. Their problem is that they either ignore women altogether (and read Chrys Stevenson’s The Blokeyness Index on the SMH’s massive failure at having women on the front page), or they think that a woman’s appearance trumps everything else does.

9 responses to “The Sydney Morning Herald’s problem with women

  1. I must admit when I saw the picture of Emma Stone and Seth MacFarlane yesterday, I thought it was sexist and didn’t even bother to read further. Even the picture they have chosen annoyed me…a woman looking on coyly while the man takes centre-stage. Because, you know, we live in the 1920s or something. It’s interesting that SMH has journalists like this and articles like this and yet, has Daily Life as part of its circulation which has some great feminist writers.

    Oh and it’s not just SMH journalists who are misogynists (which I’m sure you’re aware about). After all, did the Daily Tele and the Australian vote for Black Caviar as the best female athlete of the year??? {I shouldn’t even get started on that one…makes my blood boil!}

    • I can see that they were trying to get both of them and the Oscar statue in it, but it made for a crappy photo.

      From my own experience as a journo, and conversations I’ve had with journos, most of them don’t realise they’re doing it. For example, the way they report violence against women. The first few sentences are always “a woman was attacked” and there’s barely a mention that someone attacked her. It presents violence as just something that happens to women, rather than as a crime that someone else commits. I blogged about this a lot last year and the year before, and got quite a few emails from journos saying I was right about their reporting and they’d never noticed it. They don’t often write stories that way anymore.

      Daily Life has improved a lot since it launched. But my problem with Daily Life is that they keep it all off the SMH homepage. It’s the bit down the bottom of the right hand side, that men are unlikely to see. A lot of the articles they have there should be on the main homepage, so everyone can see them, otherwise it’s just women talking to women about rape culture and equal pay and all the things that need fixing.

      I think the Tele/Black Caviar stuff was just to get a rise out of us. It was “hurr, hurr, we’re so funny and controversial” when actually, the rest of us just thought they were pathetic, predictable dickheads.

      Psych Babbler, welcome to the News with Nipples.

  2. Pingback: Welcome to Monday ~ 14 January 2013 | feminaust ~ for australian feminism

  3. Besides, Emma is so much prettier!!!

  4. How about, “Emma looks on as guy ruins Oscar presentation”?

  5. It’s not just the SMH.
    Tonight on both SBS and the ABC news we had Gotye winning a grammy. Who was that woman in the sparkly tulle winged dress, appearing on the podium beside him? At first, I thought she was the presenter of the award. No, she’s the woman who performed the song with him. Interesting that he thinks her contribution is important enough that she accept the gong with him but she’s invisible to everyone else.
    I would like a little emoticon with a hammer right about here.

  6. Pingback: Reporting Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp | the news with nipples

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