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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Issue 8. April 1976]


Salient is running a number of articles this year on some of the not so obvious values and biases coming through our local newspapers. This one investigates the unseen sexism contained in the press.

Notable features of newspaper reporting are;

a)the priority accorded to male activities, and
b)the priority accorded to male activities, and the predominance of male perspectives - i.e. the lack of reporting featuring women at all, and the relative significance ascribed to women's activities when they do appear.

Examples that follow are drawn mainly from the daily newspapers - all the observations made apply a fortiori to the Sunday papers.

The contention that women seldom appear in "significant" (male-defined) news items is supported by the very existence of a "Women's Page". Most of the newspaper is concerned with vital public affairs, and directed towards men, but a small portion is devoted "the women", whose world, it seems revolves around cooking, childcare and personal grooming. (Check the content of tonight's "Women's Page" if you doubt this).

One obvious case of completely "writing women out of the news" appeared in the Sunday News of 21/3/76, where the headline announced: "Gays Immune", and the body of the article declared: "There is no such thing as male protitution", and no such thing as female homosexuality either, it would seem.

The inability to think beyond stereotypes permeates reporting, e.g. in the Evening Post of (6/4/76 there were no less than three items (accompanied by hotographs, of course) about women - one of them a "leggy dancer", who had "scopped the pool" in finding her "No. 1 man". I doubt that the press is catering for lesbian women in running features on attractive young women.

Consider an article that might run:

"Good-looking 20 year old John Bloggs, a postman, stole the show in a figure-fitting pantsuit at his marriage today to Diana Marvell, assistant manager of the Ritz Restaurant. John, a tall, hazel-eyed brunette, holds a diploma in public speaking, but claims he's a shy boy at heart". Enough said.

Further examples of the use of women as entertainment in the press are the inevitable photos of unusual articles for auction, (hardly coincidentally) "being admired by" young female assistants.

One example, from the "Evening Post" of 8/3/76, is captioned "To Be Displayed During Festival", which presumably refers to the woman depicted as well as the artefacts she's holding. Something like a model sprawled across the bonnet of a car at a motor-show, perhaps?