I rejoice the coming of March 8 every year, largely because I can open the papers and be greeted with pictures of female writers, rather than “kiss-and-tell” girls; celebrated athletes, not glorified anorexics; matriarchs, instead of WAGs. Because for our popular press, the other 364 days of the year are resolutely “National Men’s Day”.
There is a disparity between how woman is represented in our popular media and how she sees herself.
Something seems to have been displaced and rather than those with the most public exposure setting the example for us ordinary folk, it appears to be the other way round. The more column inches a woman has, the less you want the young women of Britain to emulate her.
Young women desperately need to be exposed to different role models, not the helpless, troubled sex objects that our media is obsessed with. Cheryl and Jordan are held up by men to pity, protect and lust after, but never to respect. Even political coverage has become sidetracked by the fixation on wives. It began during the election campaign with the relentless analysis of Samantha Cameron, Sarah Brown and Miriam Gonzalez Durantez’s clothes and hair, and has escalated to a point where it is now perfectly acceptable for The Evening Standard to print semi-naked pictures of the Speaker’s wife.
This blinkered media representation of women was highlighted when I recently attended a talk with Gigi Ibrahim, the citizen journalist and “face of the Egyptian revolution”. Her talk was passionate, inspiring and embracing. She spoke of fighting thugs on horses, preparing for battle and mobilising a whole section of society previously politicised.
When it came to questions, however, she audibly sighed as she heard the most prominent query on the tongue of the Western audience: “What was the presence of women in this revolution Gigi?”
The exasperated activist patiently explained that her revolution is above male and female roles – it is the people’s revolution, not some backdrop for re-emphasising gender differences. “It is the obsession of your media,” she answered. “They want to paint the Arab women in a certain way.”
Egyptian women were not excluded from the revolution; their presence was clearly documented, from short posts on Twitter to in-depth features on Al-Jeezera. But our media chose not to represent them. From the British media coverage it would appear that the only female face visible in the crowds of protestors was Gigi herself – the BBC’s beautiful and charismatic revolutionary go-to girl.
The role models are there. The female revolutionaries, artists, academics, politicians and scientists are active. It is just that our popular media refuses to write about them.