Bournemouth University’s Dr Heather Savigny has featured on both the Guardian’s website and on BBC Radio recently, discussing the portrayal of female politicans in the media.
Research from BBC Trending and Brandwatch suggested that men dominate political conversation online, with only 27% of all tweets during the Leader's Debate on ITV coming from women.
According to the research, the findings represent wider problems with contemporary society – that women are either disengaged from politics or undecided when it comes to voting.
Dr Savigny concurred with the reporty, believing that “politics, in our media, is conducted in a very ‘male’ space.
“Research shows that male politicians are more likely to be reported about than female politicians, and where they are discussed it is much more likely to be about their clothes or appearance.
“If the mainstream media ‘normalises’ the idea that politics is something men do, then it becomes entirely consistent that female voters are less likely to engage than men, on and offline”.
The news stories highlighted factual information; men make up around four fifths of MPs, two thirds of local government officials and the majority of political journalists.
Grazia’s political editor said that the most common reason why women didn’t vote was that they think that they don’t know enough to do so.
Speaking on BBC Radio Solent, Heather was joined by Dave Ward from the Fawcett Society, who said that: “Men and woman in politics are treated differently. Women get more criticism, more personal criticism… for their looks, their hair and their shoes.
“I don’t see how it makes it more or less likely that people will vote for someone if their wife is deemed to be attractive. I think there should be less concentration on these three women and more concentration on those women that are running for Parliament”.
Citing recent criticism of Nicola Sturgeon in certain sections of the media, Dave believed that the media were responsible for reducing women’s role in politics to shallow and materialistic comments on their appearance.
Heather agreed, saying that “we don’t talk about men like this so why are we talking about women like this”?
With a General Election looming, the role of women in politics needs to be addressed, particularly when it comes to the role of the media. Anyone who experiences sexist political reporting is urged to shame the culprits using the #viewsnotshoes hashtag. The discussion took place on Tuesday morning on BBC Radio Solent, with the Guardian’s article available on their website.