30 Dec 2011

Report on sexism in the press submitted to Leveson inquiry

A report detailing claims of widespread sexism in British newspapers is submitted to the Leveson inquiry by the women’s group, Object.

Charlotte Church at Leveson (R)

When Charlotte Church gave evidence at the Leveson inquiry into press standards in November she described her anger at a clock on the Sun newspaper’s website that counted down to her 16th birthday, marking the moment she would be able to have sex legally.

“It was just terrible, she told the court, “I was a 16 year old girl and was uncomfortable with it.”

Now, several womens groups have submitted evidence of what they say is serious and widespread sexism in the press to the inquiry, arguing that any examination of ethics in the British newspaper industry should also tackle misogynism and sexual objectification of women.

Feminist group Object, together with the Turn Your Back on Page 3 campaign, have published a report, outlining ‘A week in the life of the Sun, The Daily Star and the Sport’. The report details what the groups say is evidence of a constant stream of sexist reporting.

Examples in the report from the Sun include an article about Kelly Brook in which they say the actress is “essentially reduced to a pair of breasts” and one alleging that Prince harry ‘gropes’ Pippa Middleton’s bum while dancing with her. The group say this “eroticises sexual harassment”.

Women jockeys are interviewed wearing only their underwear, wives are advised to ‘cook dinner in just your lingerie once a week’ as well as what the report calls “hyper sexualised” images.

The Star is criticised for its sex phone line services and also for what it says is a sexualised photograph and a report into the a murder of a young woman. The report attacks the Sport for “a consistent theme of eroticising and trivialising news stories, including the reporting of rape and murder”.

‘Inadequacies of self-regulation’

The group makes several recommendations in their submission, including applying pre-watershed restrictions, such as those used on television, to newspapers, and applying the Equality Act 2010 to print, saying: “Images and messages which would not be considered suitable for the workplace…because of the hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment that they can create, should not be printed in universally accessible national newspapers.”

They also called for the replacement of the Press Complaints Commission, saying the self-regulation system has proved “inadequate”.

News International said it would not be commenting on the report.