Read this story about the weather presenter who’s colleague handed her a cardigan live on air because he thought her dress was too revealing.
Notice at the end of the post, which she says is her ‘explanation’ of what happened and to clear up any confusion, she includes links to some of the mainstream media coverage of the incident.
Much of that media coverage was along the lines of, ‘what right does a male co-presenter have to tell a female colleague what to wear?’ but it also sparked an online discussion about whether or not her dress was too revealing for a weather presenter.
All this equals clicks and page views and traction. And for the presenter herself, it meant interview requests, increased attention and a higher profile. She seems to be OK with that, given her decision to post links to the news coverage the episode received.
The cumulative effect of all this is yet more media coverage of a woman based on what she wears, and how she looks and nothing about her ability to do the job. The media knows this kind of story generates strong feelings, sparks debate and will be one of their ‘most clicked’ stories. That’s why they all run it.
There’s a terrible risk that debates about equality and the position of women at work get reduced to polarised debates which still involve images of the woman being widely shared and comment being passed on her looks. That’s not equality. It’s certainly not news.
No, it’s the position of women in society being used as clickbait and I can’t be the only one that doesn’t like it.
Same for the coverage last week about the high heels at work, and last year about Charlotte Proudman and the bloke on Linkedin. (No fault of their own, but the manner in which the media covered it).
Here’s the thing: men and women will interact at work. Sometimes it will be banter, sometimes it will be an innocent mistake, sometimes a serious mistake, sometimes a publicity stunt, sometimes abuse.
The trick is to get better at establishing which of these it is and being honest about your motivation for publishing the story.
And if you’re serious about addressing gender imbalance in society, how about the media using its resources and clout and exposing the worst offenders. The managers that bully men and women into not taking their full paternity allowance. The gang masters that traffic women (and sometimes young girls) into this country and force them to work in the sex industry to pay off family debt, and the bosses of firms that hire sales execs ‘cos she’s got a cute ass’.
The media could find and expose these people right now. But they don’t, because it would involve telling stories about men, with grainy pictures to accompany them.
And how many clicks would that be worth?