Sexism in the media is putting girls off politics

Girls speak out - small

​Research shows girls are being discouraged from engaging because of the way they are portrayed in the media 

5th May 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Sexism in the media is putting young girls off politics, new research has found.

Girlguiding Scotland - the charity for girls and young women - is calling for action following concerns sexist coverage of female politicians is leaving girls feeling side-lined from the political conversation.

Research by the charity revealed two fifths (41%) of girls age 9 to 16 across the UK think there has been a rise in media sexism in the last six months.

While members welcomed the rise of high-profile female leaders including female prime minister Theresa May and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, girls warned sexist attitudes risked putting them off politics.

However, at a time when they should be feeling more engaged in politics than ever, girls say outdated and sexist treatment of female politicians in the press is making them feel excluded from the political conversation.

Over a third (39%) of girls who reported seeing an increase in media sexism said it has knocked their confidence. 

The infamous ‘Legs-it’ headline, editorial features detailing politicians’ outfits and articles questioning their motherhood choices are clear examples of this, said the organisation.   

Now, with the General Election around the corner, Girlguiding Scotland is calling for media to engage girls on in the conversation, recognise diversity and represent female candidates fairly, focusing on their policies and manifestos, not their pointy heels and make-up

The call has won the backing of female politicians and campaigners across Scotland.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “These figures must serve as a wake-up call to people of all parties and all those involved in covering politics.

“It is unacceptable that women and girls continue to face sexist attitudes that are putting them off playing a full role in our society and it is incumbent on all of us to work to change that.

“That doesn’t just mean an end to sexist attitudes but an end to the focus on appearances and family life and to the macho aggressive language that is used far too often in politics. 

“I want to see as many young women and girls involved in politics as possible and as First Minister I know I have a responsibility to lead by example.  I want to send a strong message to all girls and young women in Scotland – that if you work hard, the sky is the limit, and there should be no platform off limits to any young girl.”

Everyday sexism towards female leaders definitely gives me second thoughts about pursuing a career in politics - Hannah Brisbane

Talat Yaqoob, chair of the Women 50:50 campaign for equal representation, added: “It’s deeply concerning to hear girls say media sexism is denting their confidence and making them feel like politics is off-limits.

"With women still making up just 35 per cent of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament and 29%  of MPs at Westminster we need real action to hold sexism in media to account and ensure the opinions of women politicians make the news, not their wardrobes or bodies." 

Girlguiding Scotland’s young members have backed the call for change.

Hannah Brisbane, 20, a member of Girlguiding Scotland’s Senior Section, from Glasgow said: “Now should be a really exciting time for girls to get involved in politics and make their voices heard but sexist coverage for female leaders and politicians is leaving us feeling side-lined from the conversation.

“As a politics student the kind of everyday sexism towards female leaders definitely gives me second thoughts about pursuing a career in politics if my looks are going to be considered the most important thing about me.”

Katie Horsburgh, 16, from Edinburgh, said there are so many issues affecting girls and young women lives, it is important their voices are heard.

"But every time the media choose to focus on what a women looks like or what she’s wearing – instead of her policies and ideas – it sends girls a message that politics isn’t a space where we can have our voices heard and the issues we care about taken seriously."

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