The Representation of British Female Politicians in the Media

Women have often suffered from limited representations in the media and breaking this stigma is an ongoing issue that many attempt to resolve.  Sadly, in 2015 the issue is still burning. Stereotypically, women are often linked to domestic situations such as motherhood and marriage, or as sexual objects displayed to titillate a male audience. Even in non-fictional media, women’s roles tend to be fewer and smaller to their male counterparts, and this is without mentioning the countless television shows and movies where men of varying body types date women of just one body type. This is touched upon in Laci Green’s SEX OBJECT BS video.
Due to the patriarchal nature of our society, women are very rarely the source of leading news stories, and on the rare occasion a women is at the forefront of the media for reasons other than advertisement, she is mocked and sexualized. Why? Because she’s a woman, and we can’t take them too seriously, can we? The media, like most industries, is male dominated.
Another clear and particularly scary example of male dominance is within politics. If you happen to be in the United Kingdom and have been following the build up to the General Elections, you should be aware of the number of female political leaders. In the BBC Debate last week, a national political platform on prime time TV, the women outnumbered the men. It was an insight to what British politics could and should be like: a showcase in gender equality. Natalie Bennett (leader of the Green Party), Nicola Sturgeon (leader of The Scottish National Party),  Leanne Wood (leader of Plaid Cymru), Ed Miliband (leader of the Labour party) and Nigel Farage ( leader of the UKIP party) took the stage for the BBC debate and answered important questions from the public surrounding our future.
The differences between genders was overwhelmingly apparent; Bennett, Sturgeon and Wood all argued points of change – anti austerity, a public NHS, a fair economy with free education and affordable housing. They defended their policies ferociously and professionally, they listened to each other speak and nodded along in agreement when discussing the left wing future we deserve and need. When Miliband was questioned on Labour’s manifesto, the majority of his sentences began with ‘unlike the Tories we…’ or ‘unlike Cameron I will…’, an obvious and pitiful attempt to push himself up by pushing others down. Despite the overall mutual aim for a Conservative free government, Miliband and Farage were the only two to use the name blaming tactics. This may be a result of their political inclinations and beliefs, as opposed to their gender, but it’s worth noting. It could be seen as suggestive of the fact women may have had to work harder to get where they are, clearly displaying a more developed approach to debating in this instance. The rest of Farage’s racial slurs I will not dignify with a mention.  
Arguably Sturgeon won the debate, with such a strong manifesto her points were delivered sternly with no hesitance in defending both her party and herself against the opposition. Yet the First Minister of Scotland is still not taken seriously, to which I ask why?
In 1984 this quote was used towards Hilary Clinton :
 “What if she is supposed to push the button to fire the missiles and can’t because she’s just done her nails?”
 Although in over 30 years we could argue the progression of feminism, this quote symbolizes the uphill battle we still fight to this day. Was this quote reflecting society or shaping it?
Rupert Murdoch’s downmarket tabloid The Sun released an unashamedly sexist image of Sturgeon’s face Photoshopped onto Miley Cyrus’ body wearing a tartan bikini and riding a wrecking ball, calling her ‘Tartan Barmy’. There’s no doubt that Murdoch, who backed the Conservatives in the last General Election, and his empire are threatened by Sturgeon and in attempt to strip power from her, they strip her of her clothes.
Sturgeon herself said it was a sad state of affairs that she had grown used to these types of portrayals and said it put even more obstacles in the way of women being able to succeed in politics. On ITV’s This Morning, she expressed her concerns.
“Some of things that are said about women in politics, the way you are characterised, the way you are described, the focus on how you look and what you wear. It is tough. I think it is changing for the better, and the more women we have in senior positions in politics the more that will change and the faster it will change. It does make me angry on behalf of younger women, because if a young woman who might think politics is something they are interested in, if they write something about me that is really derogatory, really personal, if that makes them less likely to want to come into politics then that is a real shame. I don’t want to sound too pious about this, but if I can help change that for the women coming after me then I am really keen to do that.”
In any which way her credibility can be stripped, it will be, whether it is by tabloids exploiting her body, newspapers and blogs sexualizing her accent, forum upon forum discussing her ‘fashion mishaps’,  or avoiding her policies and how she could change the UK for good.
The representation of female politicians in the media is harrowing and the foul play must be acknowledged. We must stop contributing to the publications which sexualize them, humoring the opposing parties that are outwardly racist, condone hunting, and tax our periods. It is crucial that the women in politics are taken with the same seriousness as their male counterparts. Not only because it’s common sense but also because the conviction with which they delivered their blows in the most recent debate was triumphant. Perhaps years of feeling berated in a traditionally male environment has multiplied their resolve.

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hannahannprizeman @hannahprizeman

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