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Behmer: Misrepresentation in media

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Kim Kardashian West visited the White House a few weeks ago to discuss prison reform with President Trump.

Of course, this news was covered by many major media outlets and many people had many opinions. Regardless of your views towards the reality TV star, it does not excuse the New York Post saying that President Trump met with “rump,” also referring to Kardashian West as “Kim Thong Un.”

Bias in the coverage of women usually isn’t as gross and obvious as the New York Post’s bold move. It’s also usually not such an uncreative and lazy play on words. Most of the time, women and their accomplishments are described using highly sexist terms—“shrill,” “emotional,” “feminazi”—or are completely attributed to the men around them. Sometimes, a lot of the time, people just “don’t like” women for some reason. They just don’t.

There are reasons why media outlets like Women’s Media Center and Bitch Media exist. They focus on giving fair representation and voices to marginalized populations within media; otherwise, those voices would be absent.

Unbiased reporting is hard to come by. In terms of representation, women of all races fill only 20 to 40 percent of staff positions across media outlets. Women of color comprise a mere average of roughly nine percent. Those reporters who identify as women are subject to chronic harassment, stalking and, in some cases, threats as violent as murder.

A chronic group that terrorizes women is the “incel” (involuntary celibate) community—members of an internet subculture of young men who identify as celibate and expect sex from women online. When denied, incels resort to vile online harassment and put the lives of women with an internet presence in danger. Many recent gun-violence terrorists identify as incels, have histories of violence against women or both.

To see this phenomenon in action, look to what Teen Vogue’s Lauren Duca faced after combatting sexist interview questions from Tucker Carlson, or read “Who Does She Think She Is?” by columnist Laurie Penny.

Talking about women in sexist ways is old hat. Blame scapegoats like the Victorians or former President Ronald Reagan if you want to, but the underlying message is not new: women are held to, and judged according to, different standards from men. When those standards are not met, any means necessary can be utilized to put them back into their place.

Most of the world’s population is not cisgender, male, white and heterosexual. But most of the reporting is being done by and on them.

 

This article has primarily discussed cisgender, white women. However, all marginalized populations are victims of misrepresentation, bias, harassment and violence. Most are to a greater extent than white, cisgender women.

Sexism, discrimination and violence are perpetuated by misrepresentation in media.

We need to address sexist media bias and take every news report with a grain of salt, because horrendous acts of hatred are being perpetuated when we don’t.

Be aware of this bias, because no person, media source or organization is immune to it. Although our President identifies as a cisgender woman, Case Western Reserve University is not immune either.

Don’t let yourself be fooled. Do not fall into the trap. Educate yourself, check your privilege and be aware.

If you’re ever unsure, utilize my favorite pro-tip: switch any marginalized gender in an article with cisgender men. Would this be said about a man? Would this even make sense if the tables were turned?

You will be unpleasantly surprised.

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Behmer: Misrepresentation in media