North Americans are suddenly concerned about gender bias in the media after Hillary Clinton was heavily criticized for getting emotional during a speech after her win in New Hampshire. She’s so close to becoming the first female American president, they say, if only she could keep those pesky emotions under wraps.
In reality, gender bias in the media is heavily ingrained in North American culture and takes many forms more severe than criticism for shedding a few tears.
Male politicians have undoubtedly let a few tears slip here and there or collapsed under the heavy responsibility of their public positions, but media outlets rarely pounce on these incidents as evidence that these men are too emotional to do their jobs. Clinton was attacked for lacking the strength to run the U.S. and for using phony tears as a way to garner votes.
The manipulation of the unsavoury behaviour of women, however, is fair game for print media, gossip blogs and viral videos. Magazine sales surged when they told the story of Jamie-Lynn Spears, who is pregnant at 16. Spears’older sister, Britney, is photographed incessantly for failing to wear underwear during nights out on the town and for struggling with mental illness.
Bob Herbert, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times, claims the media storm surrounding Clinton’s emotional moment is just a greater indication of systemic misogyny in mainstream news and American life. He says a staggering number of media outlets and media consumers contribute to a dangerous reinforcement of conditions that encourage the objectification of women and domestic violence.
Clinton wore her underwear in New Hampshire. She didn’t abandon her daughter or hit someone with her car, but her moment of emotion was still a major story. The tears she shed might be newsworthy, and media criticism is both inevitable and necessary, but high quality journalism should judge presidential candidates by their merits and not by what journalists consider male or female characteristics.