Abuse of Women in/by the Media – Leveson Inquiry – Submission Two


Lord Justice Leveson opened the hearings on 14 November 2011, saying: “The press provides an essential check on all aspects of public life. That is why any failure within the media affects all of us. At the heart of this Inquiry, therefore, may be one simple question: who guards the guardians?”

I call on the Leveson Inquiry to establish a monitor for the Abuse of Women in/by the Media and to create a platform for this type of journalism to stop, as part of Module 4: Submissions on The Future Regime for the Press.

Following my previous submission and scores of responses to the posting of it on my blog, what has been revealed to me is that women (and men) have just accepted the abusive treatment of women by the Media as ‘normal’.

This is a clear reflection of the statistics from my first Submission; quoting The Crown Prosecution Service (UK) transcript – Domestic Violence: the facts, the issues, the future – Speech by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC (posted 12 April 2011) – that Women experience an average of 35 incidents of domestic violence before reporting an incident to the police”.

It shows that as a society, we rarely stand up for what is clearly a breach of our human and civil rights until it simply gets too much and we can’t see another way out. The Suffragettes were jailed (consistently) for deigning to want the equal right to a vote.

Women (and men) have become so complacent and conditioned to believe that abuse is normal. We make excuses and about the facts and the reality of what we have created as our western ‘civilisation’:

  • We have the right to vote, that counts for something
  • At least we don’t have forced marriages here
  • That’s just how men are, they’re rough
  • It’s just the way it is, nothing will change

An article from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “An Allegory of Journalistic Decline” from Aug 29, 2012 details the experience of a reporter who was on Rupert Murdoch’s, The Canberra Times in the late seventies. He gives detailed accounts of Mr Murdoch’s comments on the daily news – one point valid here is – Signed KRM, it says: “I think the worst fault was that the opening sentence was comment. By all means let’s have interpretive reporting but not until we have told the facts first.”

If, quoting Lord Justice Leveson,any failure within the media affects all of us” – what a slippery slope we are on.

The decline in the treatment of women in/by the Media has become accepted to such an extent that today, we are numb to the reality of the situation.

And the 2012 US Republican ticket has a deeply concerning party line that will further impinge on a woman’s right to choose. Mr Romney has said that employers will have the right to fire any women known to be taking the contraceptive pill and that abortion will be criminalized. And Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment has exposed the Republican Party’s true agenda and anti-women policies of the last several years.

We are derailing.

Today, the mainstream media splashes pictures of women celebrities in bikini’s on holiday, passes it loosely as ‘journalism’ and objectifies and opinion on their thighs, cellulite and god-forbid any tummy that is not a six pack – you will be crucified.

Simple mathematics again reveals our double standards and show that we do not have photos of men who have ‘let themselves go’ on the cover of tabloid magazines – its always women who are vilified and criticized for their physical appearance. Why not men? Why not a Page 3 man?

Male homosexual pornography has stayed in the licensed sex shops because we deem that to be a minority, which it remains, and some would still say ‘debauched’ (or worse).

Male and female pornography has always been around. Since Roman times, people have used external stimulation to connect in their numb existence. It used to be top shelf publications like Penthouse and Playboy – magazines sealed and sometimes only accessible in licensed sex shops of from behind the counter. Now soft porn is considered ‘normal’ and magazines with semi-naked women are clearly visible in all newsagents, petrol stations and supermarkets.

There’s no denying there’s a huge amount of revenue generated by the ‘trashy’ magazine market – supported largely by women who are in comparison and jealousy of other each other. Most girls are are brought up to pour over OK! and Hello magazines and judge other women by their figure/relationship/house/child/hairstyle/career/wealth. This is a deeper issue and will need re-education for all women to return to the harmonious, inclusive way of living we all crave.

This constant barrage of degradation of Women in/by the Media is having an impact on the lives of our children.

We are now experiencing the most accessible soft/pornography of all time and children all over the western world as young as 10 are “sexting” images of themselves to each other – they are your sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, nieces and nephews. The deepest concern for us all as a society is that these children think it’s normal to behave sexually with each other.

The United Nations UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child states that – “The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In 1989, world leaders decided that children needed a special convention just for them because people under 18 years old often need special care and protection that adults do not. The leaders also wanted to make sure that the world recognized that children have human rights too.” And, “It spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences …”

Do we then have a LEGAL OBLIGATION to protect our children “from harmful influences”?

The mark of a broken society is illness in women. We are rotting.

The Australian High Court passed a law on August 14, 2012 to remove branding from cigarette packets. Nicotine related lung cancer costs the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare A$107m per year. Domestic Violence and Childhood Sexual abuse costs that same Government A$8bn per year – an immense difference that we ignore. And the A$8bn a year doesn’t include the costs of ongoing counseling and healing – and the emotional costs for victims is unfathomable. From personal experience, having been a victim of childhood sexual abuse, I can honestly say, it’s a long process of true recovery. Is there a link between pornography and violence towards women and children? Absolutely – and it’s an area that our society doesn’t want to address.

Reviewing the FACTS of these figures, should it be soft/pornography that is removed from the shelves and not the brand labels on cigarettes?

According to Cancer Research UK (updated 10 May 2012), in 2009, there were 48,417 new cases of breast cancer in the UK – and that doesn’t include the cases already being treated. Consider for a moment that Wembley Stadium holds 90,000 people – fill it up with those new ‘cases’, and top it up with the husbands, children, parents and siblings of those women and every year you have that many NEW people affected by our rot in society and the complacency in our treatment of women. Sure we are seeking a cure to the symptoms, but how deeply do we want to address the cause?

“Pear shaped” and “tits up” are expressions commonly used by men and women express when something’s gone wrong. Our colloquial language reveals that the denigration of women is part of our psyche. A woman’s anatomy has been commoditised to parts.

The Leveson Inquiry has a responsibility to consider guidelines, recommendations and regulations on the Abuse of Women in/by the Media to ensure we arrest this ill momentum. We need to leave a foundation for our children and our future generations that respects women and shows that there is another, more caring way to treat women that will inevitably benefit men and our society as a whole.

By choosing to ‘let this slide’ we are choosing to allow it to continue – and we have for many, many years. We need to clearly underline that we will not allow this to continue to give the opportunity for future generations to see there is another way.

Yours truly,

Sarah Cloutier

8 thoughts on “Abuse of Women in/by the Media – Leveson Inquiry – Submission Two

  1. Sarah, this post is an awesome call for all to wake up, showing the rot that we are truly in. Your dedicated research into the facts, your weaving them to back up your points, and the sheer number of important points raised, has an enormous impact. Although I myself have looked into these things, by reading your thorough account I saw that it is so much worse than I had allowed myself to see. We indeed need to clearly underline that we will not allow this to continue and to give the opportunity for future generations to see there is another way.

  2. Wow Sarah you should have been a barrister and definitely a journalist. There is a complacency in society and within women to allow abuse, whether it be energetic, verbal or physical, which we can no longer allow. I too have been complacent when I have read the articles of abuse in newspapers, I have in the past read them in a detached way, it is only now that I can see i was not really connecting to me as a woman when I read them. Now that I am beginning to honour myself as a woman I am able to feel the full extent of the abuse. That is why your blogs are so amazing they are really getting the message out there that we can no longer accept abuse. Keep writing Sarah we do need to get it out there.

  3. “The decline in the treatment of women in/by the Media has become accepted to such an extent that today, we are numb to the reality of the situation”. Sarah – Really well said.

    The implications of American Republican stance of Mitt Romney (et al) and their associated impingement on a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body ARE frightening. And what a reflection of where we are at if together, we would allow people with such backwards views to lead in any country, let alone one that is amongst the world’s leaders.

    I also love your point about simple mathematics. Who really cares about what kind of wool suit a man might be wearing, where and how much he bought his shoes from and for, and whether or not his hairstyle is new. Also, in relation to your prior blog post, what is it about women that we devour this information? Are we mindlessly seeking this information without really questioning if that is indeed WHAT we want to see and read? Are we simply distracting ourselves from our own lives by absorbing that of those we call celebrities? Perhaps you do indeed have something when you state that the gossip magazine industry is ‘supported largely by women who are in comparison and jealousy of each other’. And what then is the message that other women get – our daughters, cousins, mothers and sisters, that is is ok to lynch other women because of how we critique them? How far of are we from the natural way of caring and nurturing for one another when this industry can be multibillion dollar and go so largely unquestioned. And how lacking are we in our own selves to accept this as not only ok, but normal. And like another reader of your prior post commented – this is something that has felt ‘off’ for me since childhood, but sadly, was one who engaged with this way of being towards women and became involved myself in perpetual abuse both towards myself and then outwardly towards others (particularly women).

    I love how you are sounding out these issues and feels to me like there will be so many who are able to identify with your words and the manner in which you speak.

    With deep gratitude,

  4. Sarah I am truly inspired by you and your writing. You are so wonderfully engaging and yet firm in the issues that are being ‘overlooked’ in what one can only describe as ‘a very sad world’.
    With your understanding and conviction you are a shining light in the quest for TRUE equality and an end to the abuse that has continued unchecked for so long.

  5. Awe-some writing Sarah. I agree with Alison, it is only now as I am beginning to honour myself as a woman, that I am really feeling how much abuse I have allowed in my life and how much the abuse of women in any form is still considered acceptable – in the media, everyday language and the inappropriate touching of women in many ways.
    There is much healing here for me personally, much healing for all of us – with all the amazing, articulate writings from women and men of all ages expressing so clearly on the blogs and letters to the media- really exposing the truth of the rot we are in, that is still considered “normal” and “acceptable”. Truly a huge WAKE UP call. Heart-felt thanks to you ALL – keep writing!

  6. Outstanding, go Sarah, for your expression is for all woman. I know that over the last few days I have deeply connected to the abuse I have allowed, considered normal, its part of growing up, there are others worse off than me, its accepted by others so why should I question it etc etc. There would actually be a very long list. This has also allowed me to feel that in accepting that it is ok to be treated a certain way I have allowed the behaviour to go unchecked, I have contributed to the abuse also. I have felt the sadness and devastation of this to the bone. Thank you Sarah for being able to write what I could not and to also express something I have felt very deeply. I am now standing up for myself and for all women as enough is enough and the harm has to stop.

  7. Once again Sarah, thank you. You have very clearly and firmly stated the truth of where we are at in society. It is a very powerful statement for any out there willing to listen. We do need to address these issues urgently and I do applaud that these highlighted issues will be taken to Leveson/Government.

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