New Gender Study Asks: Who is Quoted on Women’s Issues in The Media?
As backward legislation and thought continue to erode women’s rights, we must wonder: Who are the experts on women’s issues in the media?
According to a study by 4th Estate, a research group that monitors campaign coverage, found that women accounted for only 31 percent of sources on “women’s rights” — a general category excluding reproductive issues — in major news outlets. Men accounted for 52 percent, while organizations made up 17 percent.
Here’s the breakdown for specific women’s issues:
- On abortion: 12 percent women, 81 percent male, 7 percent organizations
- On birth control: 19 percent women, 75 percent male, 6 percent organizations
- On Planned Parenthood: 26 percent women, 67 percent male, 7 percent organizations
The 4th Estate counted quotes from a sample of national print, TV broadcast and radio outlets covering the 2012 election from November through April. This was a dynamic period for women’s issues, as the Susan G. Komen controversy and Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke were in the press.
On Monday, The Washington Post quoted Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, who said, in response to the survey:
When Congress is only 17 percent female, when women are 3 percent of the CEOs and only 15 percent of [top corporate executives], you don’t have critical mass. What happens is that women aren’t there. We’re not noticed.
The study also uncovered that women are quoted far less than men regardless of the topic. In print, women were quoted 13 percent of the time, men — 79 percent, and organizations — 8 percent. On TV, the numbers were women — 16 percent, men — 81 percent, organizations — 3 percent.
The Post reported that female journalists are also the minority. Women make up 40 percent of TV news staffs, 37 percent of daily newspaper reporters and 22 percent of radio news staffs.
When men provide the majority of quotes in the media as well as make up the majority of journalists, society misses an important perspective — a female perpective. After all, we make up half the world. Still, especially frightening is that as men, through both their quotes and reporting, continue to shape the narrative on women’s issues, women are witnessing their rights dwindle away before their eyes.