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The Death of Page 3: Five reasons why the newspaper industry is still sexist

Has the Sun dropped Page 3? That’s the question readers are asking today (20 January), after the tabloid failed to feature topless women for the fifth day in a row. While campaigns like No More Page Three might be breathing a sigh of relief, the question still remains whether British newspapers are sexist. Here are five signs which show that gender inequality still exists in the British press.

Where are all the female reporters?

A study conducted by the Guardian showed that 78 per cent of all front page articles were written by men – and it’s the broadsheets that are the biggest culprits. Only nine per cent of the Independent’s front page articles were written by women over a course of four weeks, and despite the Financial Times coming out on top, only 34 per cent of its front pages had female bylines.

But it’s not just a lack of female reporting that proves British newspapers are sexist; there’s an absence of female sources too. Of 668 people quoted across titles, 83 per cent were men, the Guardian showed.

Women as female stereotypes

2014 was an empowering year for women in a lot of ways. Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize, the number of $10m-plus women-owned firms increased by 57 per cent, and Beyonce gathered “Beys” by the millions. But British newspapers failed and still fail to encourage gender quality by featuring sexist female stereotypes. Wives and mothers, female victims and women in passive roles dominate the press, and the women whose photographs appear most on the front page are Kate Middleton, her sister Pippa and crime victim Madeline McCann.

How do we report sexual violence against women?

The 16 month Leveson inquiry which examined the practices and ethics of the British press found that sexual violence against women was often reported in a “titillating” manner in British newspapers. The Sun, for example, has been one of many newspapers criticised, with its recent article on a woman sex trafficked to Britain invoking disgust from women’s groups. Conflating the terms “sex” and “rape” was one of the biggest complaints the Sun received. It also attracted criticism for a placing the investigation next to Page 3, which, End Violence Against Women said, was designed to arouse its readers.

Sexual objectification of women

It’s not just the Sun’s Page 3 that reduces women to sexual commodities; it’s the Daily Mail too. Many of their TV and Showbiz articles which feature stories like Jennifer Lopez’s appearance on The Tonight Show, and singer Amber Rose’s holiday snaps, primarily focus on the women’s bodies. The article on Lopez sexualises her breasts with the headline, “Jennifer Lopez puts her cleavage on display”, and photographs of Rose’s bum as she jet skis are turned into soft porn for the masses. Even Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s high fashion shoot for ELLE focuses on her “taught tummy”.

Suppression of women

If you’re looking for a British newspaper that suppresses women on the basis of their sex, then you’ll find a plethora of examples in the Mail Online. The tabloid frequently portrays women as simple and unambitious. One Mail Online article, which celebrates research showing that women finally become household cooks at 55, successfully reduces females to the outdated role of the housewife. Another report also suggests that women refuse to overturn male employers in order to succeed at work, and that they have only themselves to blame for career failures.

Share your examples or experiences of sexism by newspapers in the comment section below.