Women’s Groups Call on Media to Focus on Issues-Based Coverage of Female Candidates

Jodi Jacobson

Name It. Change It., a collaborative campaign run by WCF Foundation, Women's Media Center, and Political Parity, is praising Virginia District 1 Democratic Congressional Candidate Krystal Ball for "confronting a violation of her privacy and for calling out outlets who don't respectfully cover candidates based on their political views and platforms."

See our original article on this issue published on October 6th, 2010.

Name It. Change It., a collaborative campaign run by WCF Foundation, Women’s Media Center, and Political Parity, is praising Virginia District 1 Democratic Congressional Candidate Krystal Ball for “confronting a violation of her privacy and for calling out outlets who don’t respectfully cover candidates based on their political views and platforms.” The campaign was created earlier this year to work toward ending sexist and misogynistic coverage of women candidates by all members of the press–from bloggers to radio hosts to television pundits.   

A right-wing media site published six-year-old photos of Ball and her husband at a Christmas party.  The sight of Ball in a tank top and Santa hat giving “eskimo kisses” to her then-husband (yawn) was enough to have NBC’s Virginia affiliate questioning her fitness for office.

The blatant sexism evident in the treatment of Ball has riled women’s groups working to elect more female candidates, not least because the media had previously basically ignored Ball’s position on key issues.

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“We urge all media reporting on this story to focus on the real issues that Ball’s campaign addresses, rather than rely on exploitative and detrimental coverage,” said a statement from Name It. Change It.

We echo the call for all photographs to be pulled down. Further, we commend Ball for her bravery in addressing this issue publicly, paving the way for other women who have been deterred from running due to a hostile media landscape.

The campaign effort is based on evidence produced by Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. Lake’s research on the effects of media sexism on 800 likely voters revealed the negative effect sexism in the media can have on women candidates and the benefits of rapid response.

Lake explains “Our polling clearly revealed that sexism, even in its mildest form, had a very damaging effect on the political standing of female candidates – and proven negative impact on voters’ likelihood to vote for women candidates. However, when the candidate responded, they neutralized a lot of the damage.”

“Our mission,” stated Siobhan “Sam” Bennett, President of the Women’s Campaign Forum “is to eliminate attacks on women candidates that aren’t based on their platforms or capability as leaders, and to create a fair political environment  in which women run for office – based on qualifications, free of sexist attacks.”

“The media needs to be accountable for the negative impact unfair coverage has on candidates,” said Julie Burton, Interim President of the Women’s Media Center.

We urge all news outlets to reject exploitative portrayals of women candidates and to focus on the real issues at play in this election – jobs, the economy and education.”

The Name It. Change It. campaign will release a post-election analysis of how women candidates were covered and highlight specific reporters, broadcasters, and online media who demeaned women candidates and their campaigns.

[Post-note: I like the suggestion by our reader, BeenThere72 (see below), that if we’re interested in this kind of thing, we just ask all those guys in Congress to own up on their frat and bachelor party pix].

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