Saturday, 5 March 2011

Where are the women?

Where are the women?

The Watershed, Sunday 6th March, 2pm

Panel discussion with journalist and broadcaster Bidisha. Hear the evidenced, debate what is to be done

Brought to you by the Bristol Fawcett Society, Bristol Feminist Network, The Festival of Ideas and The Watershed

If you thought the battle for gender equality had been won, this event will make you think again. A quick glance at the current state of women’s representation in the media clearly illustrates how far we have to go before men and women have equal status in the media and the arts. Whether it’s the shocking statistic that 71% of the artists who performed at Glastonbury in 2010 were men, to the fact that only 7% of mainstream film directors are women, it isn’t hard to see that there is a troubling absence of women in our culture.

Over the past four years, the Bristol Fawcett Society and Bristol Feminist Network have investigated how women are represented in the media. They found that except as idealised, narrowly-defined beauties, women were disturbingly absent:

• there were no women comedians performing on the Bristol comedy circuit in November 2008.
• during November 2009 154 films were shown in Bristol – but only 14 were directed by women
• A detailed sampling of terrestrial TV found that at weekends a man would appear on the screen 64% of the time, women only 13% (23% of the time a man and a woman were present)
• Over one month the Guardian sports pages carried 1048 images – of which a mere 28 were of women (and they included shots of wags and a cartoon!)
• magazine covers provided a tsunami of by images of young, white, smiling women, celebrated for their youth, good looks and glossy hair. Older women? Women with power? No-where to be seen.

In May 2010, we went to the polls to vote for our new coalition government. Whilst the newspapers reported on Sarah Brown’s pedicure and Sam Cam’s pregnancy bump, women politicians were out of the spotlight. And when the votes were finally in, women were out. The Cabinet is now home to more graduates of Magdalen College than it is to women.

Why does this matter? Who cares if men are more visible in the public eye than women?

It matters because any sense of what is possible for women is shockingly limited when they are only visible as idealised, young and narrowly-defined beauties. Women’s confidence is undermined and young women are deprived of strong role models: a recent survey found that 68% of 16 year old girls wanted to be glamour models. It reinforces a message that the wider world of creativity, politics and power are for men and men alone.

If women lack political power, then women’s issues don’t get political attention. If women’s stories aren’t told and celebrated in film and literature, then women’s history and culture are not heard and male history and culture remain ‘the norm’, and set as the default.

Where are the women of intelligence and political clout, the sports women, the women who ‘do’ and create? We know that they are out there, but far too rarely represented in the media – and this matters.

Join writer, critic and commentator Bidisha, Dr Sue Tate, Senior Lecturer in Visual Culture at UWE, Philippa Diedrichs from the Centre of Appearance Research and Sian Norris from BFN at the Watershed on the 6th March to discuss the absence of women in the media and what can be done to combat it.

When: Sunday 6th March, 2pm-4pm
Where: The Watershed
Cost: £4.60/£3.60

http://www.watershed.co.uk/exhibits/2807/

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