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Finally a response from the BBC … but don’t get too excited …

Here’s what the BBC sent me last week in response to my complaint. It took over 11 weeks for them to come up with this.

Dear Ms Moore

Thank you for contacting us regarding ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ broadcast on 19 December 2010. Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying. We know our correspondents appreciate a quick response and we are sorry you have had to wait on this occasion.

I understand you felt there wasn’t enough coverage of female sporting achievement during the programme, and believe it came second after coverage of male sporting success.

There were two segments in the programme dedicated to the sporting achievements of both male and female athletes. The piece titled ‘Girl Power’ praised their determination, power and stated they are the pride and joy of Britain. It was a celebration of female athletes and did not mean cause any offence.

Overall we do feel female sporting achievement was adequately represented but we appreciate you take a different view. Please be assured that your complaint will be added to our audience log, a daily report of audience feedback that’s circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.

The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Needless to say I’ll be taking this further.

 

 

The latest from the BBC and their lack of response

A quick update here on what the BBC has said to me – or not as the case may be:

Dear Ms MOORE

Reference CAS-596258

Thanks for contact us regarding ‘BBC Sports Personality of the Year’, broadcast on BBC One on 19 December.

I understand that you are inquiring to the status of a previous complaint, reference CAS-555819 regarding the programme.

I can assure you that your complaint is still being investigated by one of my colleagues. I am sorry for the delay, and we hope to get back to you shortly regarding it.

Thanks for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards

Mark Roberts
BBC Complaints
http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

A small word about the offside rule

How heartening to see the reaction from established sports personalities to the appalling remarks made by Gray and Keys regarding Sian Massey. Kenny Dalglish and Rio Ferdinand we are grateful to you both for voicing your support for her and your disgust at the two commentators’ attitudes.

 

But let’s not forget that the ubiquitous and rampant sexism within the field of sports is going to take more than this event to break down. I‘m still waiting for a response to a letter I wrote to the BBC regarding their patronising and pathetic attempt to feature women’s sport in the Sports Personality of the Year programme  before Christmas. A 40 second slot devoted to women’s sport under the title ‘girl power’, within a two hour programme. No mention of our successful Cricket, Rugby, Football or Hockey teams; language such as ‘golden girls’ being bandied about. The BBC has as much to answer for as Sky does. And it seems to be having some trouble in coming up with a response.

 

Sky should sack both Keys and Gray for their insults to women. If it has any business sense –  not to mention ethical and cultural sense – then it will . But we need to look much deeper at the attitudes we have to women and sport and address them head on. This means giving girls every opportunity to take part, to celebrate their role models (and know who they are), and to be allowed to compete and be rewarded in the same way that boys and men are. This means taking to task the boardroom culture which dominates sport and getting more women in top positions. And it means that we finally need to wake up to the fact that women are informed and engaged consumers of sport in all its forms.

 

BBC Sports Personality of the Year

Letter sent to the BBC today

I would like to make a few points about last night’s Sports
Personality of the Year. I think you would agree that this programme is important and iconic and is now a traditional part of the Christmas schedule. It is also a celebration of sport. It creates heroes and role models for our young people. And it showcases young sports people, as well as ordinary people who devote their lives to sport. In short it is a hugely influential programme with the power to inspire and excite.

So I’d like to know why the BBC thought it appropriate and adequate to run a section on the programme devoted to women’s sport which lasted 40 seconds? 40 seconds!? On women’s sport? Out of a two hour long programme? I could forgive the lazy use of the tired old phrase ‘girl power’ if it was at least giving something substantial on women’s achievements. But it did not.

This section of the programme perfectly illustrated the BBC’s attitude to women’s sport. It is second in line to men’s. It is unimportant. It can be shoved into a special little section of the programme which lasts just moments. It is not even worth talking about. (None of the women featured got to speak. Many of them weren’t even named. Although they were patronisingly all referred to as ‘golden girls’.)

Just to top things off, the section at the end which so poignantly
celebrates the lives of sportsmen who have died in the year – well sadly I can say sportsmen because there wasn’t a single woman included in this section. Have no sportswomen of note died this year? Really? I don’t believe you. Or is it just that their lives are not worthy of being celebrated in the same way as the men’s?

Let me see if I can guess what your response to my points will be:

1. Women’s sport just isn’t as exciting as men’s, hence it doesn’t
attract the interest that men’s sports get.

Really? Do you think all of the women around the country who regularly take part in all kinds of sports think this? Do Jessica Ennis or Amy Williams think this? In the US women’s soccer is huge and draws in massive crowds as well as sponsorship and investment. Without giving exposure to women’s sport (which is as competitive and as exciting as men’s) then it will continue to be sidelined, underfunded and thought of as second best.

2. Our women haven’t been all that successful this year – the show only focuses on success

Have our women’s national cricket, rugby, hockey and football teams not recently all had incredible success? Shouldn’t we be celebrating this? Our footballers and rugby players reached the finals of the world cups for goodness sake! Where were they last night? They were completely invisible.

(Mind you we were treated to a long sequence about how awful the men’s football team were this year! What an injustice and an insult to our national women’s team.)

3. It doesn’t matter because both men and women enjoy watching men’s sport

It does matter. Women’s participation in sport is on the decline.
Girls need to be encouraged to take part in sport. They need role
models. They need to see what success in sport looks like and they need to be inspired. Last night’s show only showcased two women in two hours. If women’s sport doesn’t get the exposure it deserves then it will continue to be an after thought. The BBC has a responsibility to its audience and it must lead the way in ensuring that women are given the air time they deserve.

Finally, I think it’s sad that only two women were shortlisted for the award. And the team of the year shortlist included no women at all (see above re the Rugby and Football teams).
Does your team of 30 expert sport editors know and understand anything about women’s sport? I’d be interested to know how many women were on that shortlisting panel?

I look forward to hearing from you with a response

Yours sincerely

Emma Moore

I await their response with baited breath

Early Learning Emergency – revisited – one year on

It’s a year since we launched our Early Learning Emergency campaign which tackled the gender stereotyping which is evident everywhere you look by the high street giant, the Early Learning Centre. That campaign made every national newspaper in the UK, TV, radio and blogs galore, and ended up in print in 43 countries around the world. Surely the Early Learning Centre must have noticed that we touched on a subject which stirred up a huge amount of emotion and which gathered support from thousands and thousands of parents, teachers and children around the world?

To celebrate the anniversary we thought we’d go back and see if we could detect any changes made by the retailer in terms of products, labeling and the store experience. In other words let’s see if they’ve learned anything over the last year …

ELC report cardSo here’s the Early Learning Centre report card. We’ve used the dressing up clothes pages as a barometer here. These pages are especially powerful in terms of the imagery, language and the products on offer to girls and boys as they define the boundaries between each and plant those all important ideas about what the future might hold for them.

Images

Last year we pointed out the ELC Christmas catalogue was hugely segregated in terms of the way it portrayed girls and boys. Girls were seen in passive roles throughout and were noticeably absent or playing only small parts in any action, adventure and discovery type pages.

In particular we noticed that the dressing up clothes were so outrageously gender specific that girls were pictured only as princesses and fairies (with an old fashioned nurse being the only exception) while boys were pictured as super heroes, a range of professionals and as adventurers. Last year in the spread entitled ‘things people do’, there was one girl (old fashioned nurse) and 7 boys all playing at different professions (police officer, firefighter etc).

This year there has been some significant positive change! Things people do is now called ‘ when I grow up’ and guess what? There are now girls being a police officer, a fire fighter and a vet (blue not pink) alongside the boys.

We are thrilled about this. And it’s a great start as well as clear recognition of the points we made this time last year and most importantly action!

Language

The language used within the catalogue was a real problem last year. Time and time again the word pretty being used to describe girls. Pretty princesses, pretty in front of the mirror, pretty, pretty, pretty. What does this tell a girl about what she’s worth?

Well this year, again there has been an effort to move away from this adjective. While there is still an abundance of pink princess dresses and sparkles the language in the catalogue has changed. I struggled to find the word pretty this time. Instead, the wording is very carefully gender neutral – even in the most pink pages – it’s your child and not your daughter who is being encouraged to play and make believe.

So again, a good effort but still more to do and further to go.

Products

The product lines still have a way to go. We are very disturbed by the vanity mirrors which are sold as toys for three years and older. Placing a three year old child in front of a mirror is nothing short of sexualisation of girls. We have to see it as this and we need to remove this from catalogues and stores across the retail world.

Sadly as well, the in-store experience remains a highly gendered segregated affair. In my local store I was hid hard by the prominence of these so called vanity mirrors – of which I counted at least three different models – stacked high and in prominent position.

So, in summary we are really pleased that the Early Learning Centre has taken on board some of our concerns and have made a really good start in making their catalogue more inclusive and more positive for girls and boys.

So we are awarding them a C+ this time round.

“Good effort ELC. You still have a long way to go but we are pleased that you are listening the concerns of parents and taking positive steps forward.”

Today’s papers were full of the news that the Government is launching an inquiry tomorrow which will examine whether new rules need are needed to prevent retailers stocking inappropriate items to pre-teens. So this is just the start. We think that ELC along with all other retailers need to take responsibility and live up to these responsibilities. We’ll be following these developments closely and look forward to being a part of that process.

Sugar and spice and all things nicely stereotyped

It’s that time of year again. Christmas catalogues are dropping on door mats, and packaging up a nice bit of gender stereotyping seems to be as high on the Christmas menu as it ever has been.

Susan Whitehouse wrote to us recently, after the Cancer Research catalogue she received literally “sickened” her: with gender stereotyping like this, who needs the Disney princesses?

“For the Fashionistas and Creative spirits in your lives”

Fairies, crowns, embroidered, ribbons, tea sets, knitting needles and sequins.

“For sporty gadget fans and wannabe scientists”

Robots, detectives, power, torch, mechanical, monster and puppets.

No prizes for guessing which page is for girls and which for boys? In fact they don’t even bother trying to be subtle about it.

The Cancer Research Christmas catalogue

We might be forgiven for thinking this was a catalogue from the last century, but unfortunately not. Insulted?  We are! how many of the scientists working on a cure for cancer are women? I don’t have the answer but I’d wager there are a fair few. The Women in STEM group that I met recently would have a thing or two to say about this that’s for sure.  Loaded with messages, is this really how we want to label our girls? Fashionistas? At the age of four?

Ahhhhh Boots – I can admit that I didn’t have high hopes for you, and I’d be right!

The top ten toys for “little princesses”* – that’s ‘girls’ to you and me – include toys to make dreams come true, toys for budding fashion fans, Hello Kitty chocolate (we’ll come back to these shortly) a selection of Disney Princesses and a baby doll. Over the page, Miko make-up (with a similar looking cat to the aforementioned Hello Kitty) is marketed along with a picture of a little girl, no older than four years old. With the words “little girls who love accessories and grown-up make-up”. Grown up make-up? For four year olds! That’ll be for the fashionistas right? And on the next page another selection of make-up called “glitter babes” with some choice adjectives again including “sparkly, celebrity, spangly, trendy and gorgeous”.

For Boys –  allowed to be called boys clearly: Scary, Speedy and Sporty describes the top ten toys. Lego is clearly FOR BOYS, and Playmobil, whilst featuring a girl in the picture, is in the ‘boys’ section, or immediately following the Boys’ page, and therefore off the radar for girls.

Boots Christmas catalogue

Whatever happened to simply TOYS?

We’ve been thinking about the Early Learning Centre as the one year anniversary approaches of our first campaign the “Early Learning Emergency”, and hearing from you too about how it continues to simply not live up to its logo or name, or indeed the new tv ad.

So in response, and with determination, maybe we can all encourage our four, five, six, seven year olds, and enable them – through play – to forget fashion, prettiness and sparkly celebrity gorgeousness. To search inside their fashionista self, and to release the real-girl … the free, alive, loud, challenging, funny, quirky true and wonderful **_________ girl inside.

I’ll end with a link to this fantastic performance by Katie Makkai on the dreaded “prettiness” epidemic.

*their words not mine

**insert your own adjective

***the film contains strong language

We’ll be back soon with more on the ELC …

Wired – You’re Fired

There’s been a lot of rumblings around the latest cover from Wired Magazine over the last couple of weeks. I read Wired every month and was appalled instantly when I saw it. So I complained to the editor. Didn’t get a response but was pleased to see that somebody did. Here’s the blog from Cindy Royal (with he infamous cover shot) and the response from Chris Anderson – the Editor of Wired.

Here’s his response:

Cindy,

I’m the editor of Wired, and thank you for your post; I take your points. This is an issue we wrestle with all the time, and it reflects a combination of things, ranging from not enough high-profile women in the tech industry who are recognizable to sell a cover (every month we cover test a list of names to see which ones people know well enough to want to read about them), to your sense that if we go outside the tech industry for women that this somehow doesn’t count.

First, I have to correct one point: this cover story was not about tissue engineering, it was about *breast* tissue engineering. Of all the covers with cleavage out there, it’s hard to find one more editorially justified than that.

Second, this problem goes beyond women: we have trouble putting *people* on the cover. It’s the same reason: they have to sell, and what sells for us is either big ideas (sans people) or well-known, likable people with interesting things to say. The problem is that there aren’t enough geek celebrities, so we often end up going with celebrity geeks instead. Our Gates and Zuckerberg cover didn’t sell as well as our Will Ferrell cover. I’m glad we did both, but at the end of the day, we have to work on the newsstand to be a profitable business.

But we do take risks with people we really admire. For instance, I’m a huge fan of Martha Stewart, both as a businessperson and media innovator, to say nothing of her presence in the DIY movement. So we put her on the cover, heading an issue focused on her passion, and included . I knew that it would’t sell well (it didn’t), but did it anyway, including a Q&A with her. But you don’t count that one, because it’s “jokey, thematic”.

So when we put women on the cover, it must be only be for serious profiles? Okay, then I could use some help with suggestions. We love up-and-comers, but they don’t sell magazines if they don’t already have a relatively high profile and are leading a company people want to read about. For instance, Carol Bartz is a great CEO, but I just don’t think a “wither Yahoo” cover would work right now. I know this sounds like a chicken-and-egg situation, but the time is long gone since people needed magazine covers to become famous. Witness our Julia Allison cover, which was entirely about her accomplishments in self-promotion, which we applauded as a key 21st Century skill. But you don’t like that one because she has “come hither looks.”

Finally, I’m glad you liked our feature on Caterina Fake, but do you really think it would have worked as a cover? Hunch is still a small startup, yet to prove itself, and Caterina left the company a couple months later. I think if we had put her on the cover, we would have been accused of hyping Hunch beyond its due in the first month, and then clueless the next month when she left.

In other words, suggestions please!

This was my response to Cindy’s blog:

Dear Cindy

I was so pleased to see your blog re Wired and the cover they have chosen this month. And I am completely in agreement with you.

I also wrote a stinking letter to the editor the moment I saw the cover – in fact I didn’t even read the article – I don’t care if it’s about boobs and boobs only. I just think the cover is wrong and gratuitous and offensive.

So I was ‘pleased’ that the Editor has finally decided to grace us with a response. I am sure we are not the only ones who have complained. I found at least one other woman on Linkedin who felt the same.

So, his response. Well I guess I shouldn’t be surprised but I am disappointed.

“this is an issue we wrestle with all the time” – what? Whether or not to put some tits on the cover??

“it reflects a combination of things, ranging from not enough high-profile women in the tech industry who are recognizable to sell a cover” – great so let’s put some tits on the cover shall we that will sort things out!!??

“Of all the covers with cleavage out there, it’s hard to find one more editorially justified than that.”

It’s like saying – we’ve done an article on child porn so that justifies putting some child porn on the cover!

Or we’ve done an article on torture victims so let’s put some torture on the front cover. Good grief!

I can’t really be bothered to go on with it but I guess you might feel slightly the same. My relationship with Wired is hanging on a tiny thread and it might be dead. I am shocked that so called ‘intelligent’ people still don’t see the point.I  publish a magazine in the UK for charities. We too have a nightmare with our cover shots. We have about 50 quid to sort ours out. I reckon Wired’s budget must be about 100 times that.

I’m still so insulted by this.

Sadly I was of the opinion that Wired magazine offered us information, entertainment, education on an equal basis (although even before this cover that’s debatable). The editor’s letter just confirms that we have a million miles to travel yet before we can actually realise that dream.

I currently can’t find the energy to ‘give him suggestions’. Except perhaps use your brain and earn your money. And stop making excuses for degrading women and alienating your readers.

Would be good to hear your thoughts on how to respond. Thanks so much for your blog.

Cindy then responded as follows:

Thanks for your email. Based on the comments I have been getting, most people, both men and women, thought the cover was inappropriate and a cheap shot.

I agree that Anderson’s response was initially off-putting. In an email, after my response, he said this “In the meantime, I’d love to brainstorm some names with you. I can’t promise we’ll get them on the cover, but just commissioning more features about women would be a start. This is a chronic problem in the the tech industry, but I agree with you that we should work hard to fight it. You’ve got the Editor’s ear, so I suspect your time won’t be wasted.”

So, at least he acknowledges that they have to try harder. But my experience is that they already have pat answers to why they will or won’t do certain things. I’m skeptical at best.

But I am encouraged by simply the attention that this is generating. That’s got to be good… right? While I have gotten a few mean-spirited comments, for the most part, the discourse has been civil and overwhelmingly supportive.

I love what you said below, that Wired should use their brains and earn their money. It’s such an easy thing to throw it off on someone else, only to shoot down every idea that someone sends. I don’t have the time or energy for that either. But, you are doing great work with your publication, and that’s where your energy needs to go.

Thanks so much for writing and supporting the piece.
Cindy

And then the group called Women That Tech are also on the case.

Hey There:
I have boobs and I’m proud of them :). But when magazines like Wired, who focus on technology and innovation, Photoshop a pair of perky boobs to highlight their lead story on tissue regeneration, it irks me. Does it irk you too?

I feel like Wired is just using our boobs to sell their magazine to their target audience – men. And hey T&A sells, right? Putting men’s genitals on the cover would never have sold. I wonder how many times this photo was cropped under the watchful eye of Wired Editor Chris Anderson, to find just the right angle to ensure that the issue did not have to be covered in plastic before it hit mailboxes? I understand that Wired needs good covers to sell their magazine so that they can stay in business, but this was a lame move by Wired.

Wired, like many other tech focused magazines and blogs, often ignores their female readership and takes very few steps to cultivate us. I’m tired of it. Will you help me compile a list of suggestions to WIRED Magazine Editors about how they can connect with more women in tech and women entrepreneurs? Just hit reply and email me your ideas and suggestions. Easy peasy!

Chris Anderson over at Wired has asked for suggestions of women in the space they should cover. But I think he needs extra advice like how Wired should engage and connect with more women readers in our space. There’s a ton of us out there, but Anderson and others at Wired clearly have not gotten it. Let’s help them out a bit. He says he’s ready to listen. Email me ideas and I will compile them, credit you (or if you prefer, you can remain anonymous), and send it directly to Chris and the other editors at Wired. I will also post an article that includes our collective ideas.

You can find out more about Women Who Tech on Facebook.

My suggestions however to Wired – really? They need suggestions do they?? How hard can it be!

1. Stop using degrading images of women on your covers

2. Have some respect for your women readers

3. Try harder and earn your money

Apologies for the length of this one but it’s so important to challenge this kind of lazy and damaging journalism. The more of us that do, the better chance we stand of making any changes.