For die-hard reality TV fans, the latest UK series of 'I’m a Celebrity…Get me Out of Here' was much anticipated news.
Now in its 13th season, the show makes for amusing (albeit mindless) TV viewing. But this year, when a light-hearted debate on the subject of beauty left one contestant, British Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington, in tears, it made the country stop and think.
Why is such a successful woman so insecure about her looks?
This insecurity doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident either. It’s not the first time we’ve heard women in the public eye voicing vulnerability about their appearance – the likes of Megan Fox, Sandra Bullock, and even Kim Kardashian (despite her recent scantily-clad scenes in Kanye West’s 'Bound 2' music video) are all quoted as having felt insecure or inadequate about their looks at one time or another.
Undeniably, the pressure on women to look a certain way is deeply ingrained into our culture. It’s an issue that we’ve seen the likes of Dove try to address when launching its 'Real Beauty' campaign, which touched a nerve around the globe.
But who is fuelling the fire? Arguably, the media we consume plays a pivotal role. A UNESCO report found that news sources in the Western world tend to categorize women in five different ways when referencing them in articles:
• The ‘sex kitten’
• The ‘sainted mother’
• The ‘devious witch’
• The ‘hard-faced corporate’
• The ‘political climber’
(Apparently, you can’t be a hard-faced corporate and happen to be sexy too. That would just be impossible, right?).
According to the Global Media Monitoring Project, 46% of news stories reinforce these gender stereotypes, while only 6% of stories try to challenge them. You’d think celebrity stories are the driving force, but it is in fact stories on crime (50%) that play the biggest role, followed closely by showbiz and political articles.
But is the media solely to blame for cementing these stereotypes? As PR professionals, we should also be mindful when it comes to producing creative campaigns for our clients – ones that offer up ‘‘media-worthy’’ news based on female stereotypes will only muddy the waters, creating a vicious cycle.
While most sisters are doing it to themselves, there are still some - particularly in the land of celebrity - that choose to play to media stereotypes; Miley Cyrus writhing around on a wrecking ball or Courtney Stodden’s kiss & tell on her ex-husband Doug Hutchinson, are just a couple of recent examples making the rounds on the internet.
So, ladies, before we get carried away with trying to reclaim feminism with such extreme antics, let’s remind ourselves of the official Oxford English definition:
Feminism [mass noun]
The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
Equality; that is all we want. No more, no less.
Either way, the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst and Susan B. Anthony would be turning in their graves at the state of today’s affairs. What if today’s media coverage had existed in their time? Could you imagine!
Oh, wait… you can.
Sophia Vanezis is an account manager specialising in consumer brand PR at Ketchum UK.