Photo: NS Newsflash / Flickr

The media needs to stop objectifying women

Only I, of course, would end up having an argument with somebody at a nightclub in the early hours of the morning about nothing less than the front page of the Sun.

The front page in question that we were discussing was from the 15th of February, the day after Oscar Pistorius allegedly shot his girlfriend. The headline reads: “3 shots. Screams. Silence. 3 more shots” and the accompanying front page splash is an image of the late Reeva Steenkamp wearing a bikini, on the background of a swimming pool.

I was telling the man I was speaking to how I thought it was totally wrong to display that kind of image of a woman who has just been killed. He then turned round and said: “I’m not saying it isn’t wrong, but it sells copies, right? At the end of the day, even if they put a photo of Princess Diana in her underwear on the front page of the newspaper I’d still buy it.”

It is this sort of ignorance which makes me angry, and at times makes me embarrassed to be a part of this country’s society. Columnist Suzanne Moore called it “lechery over a corpse” and I completely agree.

As both a woman and a journalist I found the man in the nightclub’s comment especially offensive. To publish a photo of that kind of nature straight after a woman’s death is not exactly tasteful as it is, but after a murder, particularly when it is possibly through a severe case of domestic abuse, it is extremely disrespectful.

Many have argued that surely it is better that the focus remains on the victim with this story. Well, yes, but the Sun has definitely gone about this in completely the wrong way. Firstly, the image certainly did not need to be of her half-naked – being a model I’m sure there would be a number of beautiful photos of her wearing more clothing – and secondly, I don’t know if anyone noticed, but her name was not even mentioned on the front page.

The focus in this case is not on the victim herself; the focus is on her body. This kind of media pushes the objectification of women to extremes. I’m not saying those photos of her can never be seen again, yet just after the tragedy, emotions are a little too raw for that to be anywhere near acceptable. And when combined with the abuse allegations, the irony of the Sun‘s front page is appalling – how can domestic violence ever stop when this newspaper encourages men to see women as something they can control and objectify?

This brings me further on to the issue of the media. No wonder journalists are being seen in an increasingly negative light after the Leveson Inquiry. As a student journalist, I personally try my best to remain honest, and sensitive to the story I am reporting on. It’s all well and good people saying that it doesn’t really matter, yet I can imagine her parents would be less than impressed with the way their daughter is being portrayed.

Finally, the one thing said to me that has stuck in my head is: “I’m not saying it isn’t wrong, but…” Surely if you see something as being wrong and then continue to buy the Sun‘s newspapers, it is even worse? Sexism in society, which is still clearly an underlying issue, will never be stopped unless people begin to make a stand. And no, one person not buying the issue certainly won’t prevent the Sun from publishing similar articles. However, if enough people don’t show appreciation for that type of journalism, it’s enough to make a small step towards putting a stop to this unnecessary objectification altogether.

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