Sexism and the media

Submitted by Matthew on 23 September, 2011 - 2:13

In the aftermath of the shocking Raoul Moat case in July 2010 people sought answers.

Some bloggers and commentators blamed Moat’s ex-girlfriend Samantha Stobbart, who Moat shot alongside her partner Chris Brown. Women in public services (social workers and policewomen) were also blamed.

At the time the Guardian labelled this focus on women as “bizarre”, yet similar prejudice was revealed in recent news reports surrounding the inquest into Moat’s death. BBC Radio 4’s Six O’Clock News on 5 September focused repeatedly on the break-up of Moat and Stobbart’s relationship as the “catalyst” for his actions.

They labelled his violence as “revenge” — placing Moat, who was in prison for assaulting a child when Stobbart ended their relationship, as the injured party. They highlighted how Stobbart “slammed down” the phone when Moat called. The reporter noted that Moat said “you’re the only person I’ve ever cared about”, commenting “but she tells him (pause) she’s got a new boyfriend”. According to Radio 4 the suicide notes found at Moat’s house were “written […] after losing the love of his life”.

Moat and his actions can be perceived in many different ways — for some he was a hero who gave the police the run-around, for others a sad example of what happens when people need support, and public services are unable to provide it. But attitudes which place women at the centre of the explanation and blame them have moved from individual blogs to the mainstream press.

As pressure mounts to produce news quickly and efficiently, prejudice and sexist attitudes, usually covered by journalistic editing, begin to show.

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