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Name it Chage it: Press Conference Statement

November 4, 2010

The Women’s Media Center works to amplify women’s voices and women’s representation in all media platforms – in newsrooms, on air, in print and online as sources and as subjects. 

We are proud to be a partner of the Name It Change It campaign, shining a light on examples of sexism in the media vis-à-vis women candidates that often go unnoticed.

Just as Celinda Lake’s research demonstrates that sexism diminishes voter confidence and harms campaigns of women candidates, these attacks negatively impact all strides towards equality.

The Women’s Media Center is committed to ensuring accountability in the press regarding coverage of women candidates. 

We monitor the media for sexist commentary and depictions of women candidates and our rapid response network responds to unfair portrayals of women candidates. 

Since September, the Name It Change It campaign -- and our supporters – have responded to over 20 sexist incidents from major media outlets and sent over 4,000 letters to media outlets that generated sexist coverage and commentary. 

The Name It Change It campaign makes history in two ways:

1. It systematically calls the media to account for sexism against women candidates, holding media outlets responsible for their part in the hostile environment in which women candidates run for office.

2. It points to a new approach for women candidates to respond and repair the harm done by sexism.

In light of the fact that Tuesday’s election results were the first time in 30 years that we have lost overall numbers of women in Congress, it is more important than ever that our Name It Change It research be shared with the media and that we have an accountable media covering elections. 

This project demonstrates what we suspected – that women's campaigns are not immune to media sexism, and an environment that values a woman politician's shoes over her views will not produce a representative government.

On behalf of the Women’s Media Center founders – Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Robin Morgan – along with our board and staff -- I want to thank the media who are participating in this call for your interest in this issue and hopefully for your help in shining a light on the harm that media-generated and promoted sexism can cause to voters’ perceptions of women candidates.

The media has the power to tell the story, but it also has the power to change the story.

In the women’s movement of 70’s, Ms. Magazine published a regular column called “Click Moments” that featured women’s stories of the moment they realized sexism still exists.  The stories named the sexism and inspired individuals and groups to change the story.

Today, the platforms to discuss “click moments” are far more diverse.  Social media, Internet news sites, blogs, and cable news, join broadcast news, radio and print as platforms to discuss sexism generated by the media and sexism generated by political campaigns. 

In the 2008 presidential election, prominent media coverage of Hillary Clinton’s campaign was rife with sexist commentary on her appearance and qualifications.  For many of us – despite which candidate we were supporting -- this was a “click moment” on the prevalence and continuation of sexism at a time that we thought respect for women and support for equality had made great progress.

This year, we were surprised at the sheer number of instances of media-generated sexism related to women candidates.  The report we are distributing today covers mild to severe examples of media sexism. 

For example, the report notes that the Huffington Post and Washington Post devoted literally thousands of words to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s hairstyle just days before the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.  Another example features a radio show endorsement of a candidate based on her “banging little body and tight little butt.”

We hope as you learn more about our research that demonstrates the harm sexist generated media can cause to women candidates, that you will also have a “click moment” and help us make sure media coverage of women candidates is accountable and that the playing field for all candidates is an even playing field.

We are pleased to join with our Name It Change It colleagues to release this post-election rundown of media-generated sexist coverage of women candidates and to present the Name It Change It Awards for Most Sexist Media Coverage in the 2010 Elections.

It took 144 years for women in America to get the vote. We’re here to ensure that it won’t take that long to get sexist characterizations of women and women candidates out of our media and news coverage.


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Women’s Media Center (WMC) was founded in 2005 by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem to positively impact the visibility of women in the media, amplify women’s voices on key issues in the national dialogue, fight sexism and bias against women in the media, and increase professional opportunities for women across all forms of media. Through training, advocacy, and the development of original content, WMC is breaking through the status quo so that media more accurately represents the perspectives, positions, and priorities of women.

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