Gender

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  • Of Course People Are Turning To Women's Magazines For Quality Political Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    In the small world of politics and media Twitter, one of a few tropes emerged this year: astonishment -- isolated and seemingly brand-new each time -- when woman-centered outlets published high-quality political reporting and opinion pieces.

    When Teen Vogue ran a December 10 op-ed from weekend editor Lauren Duca headlined “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America,” this small, homogenous media world seemed shocked that a young woman could aptly write about both makeup and the psychological tactics of a dangerously deceptive political figure. It was as though young women and the stories they crave, or the whole of American life for that matter, cannot contain multitudes.

    As many women writers -- and especially women of color -- quickly pointed out, the Teen Vogue piece shouldn’t surprise anyone. Neither should it be shocking that, in September, Cosmopolitan set the standard for Ivanka Trump interviews when reporter Prachi Gupta asked Ivanka, who ostensibly spearheaded Donald Trump’s child care proposal, substantive questions about that policy and in the process revealed its many weaknesses. The “real” media figures who were surprised by the Teen Vogue opinion piece also might not have known that President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have given multiple exclusive interviews to Essence, Ebony, Latina, and Teen Vogue over the years.

    What (mostly male) critics fail to recognize is that their reasons for dismissing women’s magazines actually form the foundation of those publications’ success. Magazines created by and for women audiences -- not to mention exclusively online outlets like Broadly, Refinery 29, The Establishment, and Jezebel -- inherently do things differently, and that’s their strength. They’re helmed by people who wouldn’t normally see their experiences depicted on the pages of papers of record. They’re also answering to an audience of women, especially young women and women of color, by finding ways to inject otherwise untold perspectives into the political discourse.

    This emphasis on giving platforms to those commonly excluded by dominant media narratives explains why Teen Vogue -- run by Editor-in-Chief Elaine Welteroth, a millennial black woman, and digital editorial director Phillip Picardi, a 25-year-old gay man -- produces consistently dynamic reporting on the realities of the white supremacist and misogynist movement that calls itself the “alt-right.” It also explains why it reaches millions with personal stories of transgender teens affected by North Carolina’s discriminatory HB 2 law, a young woman who got an abortion in Ohio, girls from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, and young female Muslim activists. (Teen Vogue also owes much to Rookie magazine, founded and edited by the 20-year-old Tavi Gevinson, which regularly publishes political stories focused on personal narrative, and earlier this year ran an exclusive reader Q&A with Hillary Clinton.)

    It explains why Latina magazine’s politics and culture editor, Raquel Reichard, has curated a strikingly personal collection of first-hand, narrative-driven accounts explaining how this year’s threats to abortion rights uniquely harm Latina communities.

    Essence and Ebony have been doing this work for decades, no doubt serving as critical models for the more recently developed political voices of traditionally whiter magazines like Cosmopolitan or Marie Claire. In the weeks since Trump’s election, Essence has consistently called out his cabinet picks for their connections to the racist “alt-right” movement and their histories of racist remarks. An Ebony opinion piece labeled the “alt-right” “white supremacy by any other name” and examined what Trump has said -- or refused to say -- about racial intimidation.

    Essence has also challenged mainstream praise of female conservative media figures who have benefited from white feminism, describing right-wing pundit Tomi Lahren as a “white supremacist fave” and warning of the media’s uncritical embrace of “repugnant and unapologetic racists” like Lahren and Fox’s Megyn Kelly, who the magazine says are “dangerous for black women.” What’s more, women’s magazine writers are not afraid to correctly identify rape culture, white supremacy, or outright lies when they see them. And Elle unequivocally stated that Ivanka Trump, who has been touted as the champion of women in her father’s administration, “will not fix ‘women’s issues’” and called out her “exceptionalist white womanhood.”

    In a year when women have been repeatedly attacked through legislation, on social media, and even by the president-elect of the United States, Cosmopolitan was unafraid to call the Twitter harassment of black actress Leslie Jones -- organized by bigoted, misogynist Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos -- a hate crime. Gupta’s October take-down of Donald Trump’s history of sexual harassment concluded, “Trump doesn’t seem to understand what harassment is or how it works.”

    This is the essential difference between women’s magazines and what are seen as more traditional outlets for political reporting: Women’s magazines are designed to speak -- directly and above all -- to women, particularly young women and women of color.

    As a collective group that frequently feels the impact of new state and federal policies before others and in highly magnified form, these women are craving the truth about how such policies come to be. And by and large, they aren’t finding it in mainstream political press outlets largely helmed by and written for white men, who forcibly construct a “both sides” argument where often one, frankly, does not exist.

    The success of women’s magazines underscores the fact that newsroom diversity -- in its most intersectional meaning -- is, in the words of CNN’s Tanzina Vega, “imperative to make sure your coverage is better, more nuanced and more accurate.” As Washington Post deputy general assignment editor Swati Sharma explained recently for Neiman Journalism Lab:

    A new administration is at foot, and with it nascent movements are growing across the country. How will those sentiments be accurately covered with empathy, nuance, and authenticity? We need people in those communities to capture the messages, the angst, the people who make up the groups.

    As we prepare for a new presidential administration that promises to be infinitely more hostile to both members of the press and the women who make up these magazines’ newsrooms and audience, the media figures who have expressed shock over high-quality political reporting by such publications might consider instead turning to them for a lesson in telling the full story.

    Graphic created by Dayanita Ramesh.

  • How Two Major Cable News Networks Enabled Some Of The Worst Sexual Assault Apologism Of 2016

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    As sexual assault allegations against President-elect Donald Trump piled up in the months before the election, CNN and Fox News each relied on paid Trump surrogates and media allies to peddle some of the worst sexual assault apologism of the past year.

    After uncovered 2005 audio showed Trump bragging about sexual assault, a number of women came forward with specific allegations against the then-candidate. In CNN and Fox’s coverage of Trump’s despicable comments, his media allies downplayed the severity of sexual assault and attacked the credibility of those who spoke out, while both networks initially characterized the comments as merely “vulgar” or “lewd.” When women came forward with specific accounts of being sexually assaulted or harassed by Trump, CNN and Fox gave ample airtime to paid surrogates and media allies who minimized and made excuses for Trump’s actions.

    Sexual violence has no place in our society, let alone on cable news networks. So why did CNN and Fox spend the end of 2016 subsidizing media personalities to deny allegations and engage in pure sexual assault apologism?

    As Media Matters previously noted, CNN’s decision to hire and pay a number of professional Trump surrogates made the network a consistent platform for the campaign to trivialize the severity of sexual assault. CNN’s Trump surrogates -- Corey Lewandowski, Jeffrey Lord, Kayleigh McEnany, and Scottie Nell Hughes -- systematically dismissed Trump’s comments,calling them a “distraction” and framing them as normal “locker room” talk.

    For example, Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, flippantly claimed that “nobody cares” that the nominee of a major political party was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault. Scottie Nell Hughes similarly argued that Trump’s deplorable comments were unimportant because “no woman woke up affected by these words” -- ignoring the sheer number of social and political risks survivors face when reporting sexual assault and harassment.

    Once women began to make their allegations public, CNN’s Trump surrogates focused their attention on normalizing sexual assault and attacking the credibility of the alleged survivors. Lewandowski questioned the timing and veracity of the reports, before deflecting questions by invoking discredited attacks on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s work as a court-appointed defense attorney in the 1970s. When asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper about the connections between the 2005 recording and specific allegations against Trump, paid apologist Kayleigh McEnany called the claims baseless and blamed Trump’s accusers because they “let him do X, Y, or Z. That implies consent.”

    Fox fared no better in its coverage of Trump’s unacceptable comments. In addition to similarly dismissing Trump’s statements as “locker room talk,” “frat house language,” and “guy talk,” Fox employees also joined the effort to undermine the credibility of Trump’s accusers.

    On the October 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Trump surrogate Ben Carson (now nominated to be a member of his cabinet) accused the “biased” press of manipulating the public by creating incentives for people to “come out and say something” in order to garner “fame.” Carson added, “What a bunch of crap.”

    Fox’s Brian Kilmeade argued that “none of them are vetted” -- referring to the accusers -- and it was entirely possible that “they all could be lying.” Others questioned the timing of the myriad allegations against the Republican nominee, calling them “a little coordinated… a little too convenient,” and claiming that the proximity to the election meant “it’s fair to question why is this coming out now.” In reality, multiple media sources have corroborated most of the claims brought forth by Trump’s accusers.

    In some cases, Fox personnel openly attacked individual women for speaking out, as seen in senior political analyst Brit Hume’s tirade against Jessica Drake -- a Trump accuser who directs and performs in adult films. Hume responded to Drake’s allegations that Trump had “grabbed” and hugged and “kissed” her “without asking permission” with a series of tweets suggesting she could not be offended because of her profession.

    Sexual assault is a serious issue. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that “one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives,” while the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that “nearly half”of its survey respondents (47 percent) “were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.”

    Despite widespread fearmongering from right-wing media that false rape reports are common, these incidents are actually a statistical minority -- representing between 2 and 8 percent of all reported cases. Meanwhile, according to research by the Rape, Abuse & Incest Network (RAINN), 67 percent of rapes go unreported to law enforcement.

    Reporting on rape and sexual assault has long been a challenge for journalists, regardless of who is involved. When the accused occupies a position of prominence, journalists and networks must refuse to let threats of lost access or demands for false balance sanitize their reporting. In May 2016 -- before the Trump allegations -- Woody Allen’s son Ronan Farrow published an article blasting the media for cultivating a “culture of impunity and silence” around reporting on sexual assault allegations. As Farrow explained, although it’s not the media’s job “to carry water” for those making accusations against powerful men, the media do have an “obligation to include the facts, and to take them seriously.”

    On each of these charges, CNN and Fox clearly failed -- enabling some of the worst sexual assault apologism of 2016.

    *Image provided by Sarah Wasko

  • NRA TV Co-Host: President Obama Is A “Pussy”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Chuck Holton, the co-host of a National Rifle Association web series, reacted to a picture of President-elect Trump and President Obama shaking hands by writing, “Photo finally surfaces of Trump grabbing a pussy.”

    Holton co-hosts the NRA TV series Frontlines alongside Iran-Contra figure and NRA board member Oliver North. According to the NRA, “their coverage ranges from how our military and law enforcement guard against radiological sabotage, counterfeiting and terrorism, to the threat of an unstable economy and cyber warfare.” (In promoting a Frontlines episode, Holton once raised the prospect of people on food stamps “eating each other in the streets” following an EMP attack by North Korea.)

    Holton’s attack on Obama came in response to a widely shared tweet authored by comedian and writer Travon Free where he wrote, “No better summation of being black in America. At the highest level having to be gracious to white people who do nothing but disrespect you.” Free’s tweet included an image of Trump and Obama shaking hands, leading Holton to respond, “Photo finally surfaces of Trump grabbing a pussy":

    Holton’s comment is a reference to a video that showed President-elect Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. In the tape, which was released in October, Trump can be heard saying,“I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

    Holton previously made racially charged attacks on the black community while appearing in August on the NRA’s radio show Cam & Company. During the August 19 broadcast, Holton talked about gangs, absent fathers, and welfare, before saying, “And you hear college students complain about white privilege. You know my definition of white privilege? It’s just simply the culture that we have created, that our fathers and grandfathers have worked hard to create.” Holton went on describe white privilege as “a culture of individual responsibility, where you take responsibility for your own actions, a culture that respects authority.” He also positively cited a video about “white privilege” released by “alt right” blogger Stefan Molyneux. The video, which was widely praised in white nationalist circles, pushed the myth of “Irish slavery,” a common white nationalist talking point.

  • O'Reilly’s Refusal To Discuss “Unsavory” Allegations Against Roger Ailes Makes Him “The Ultimate Fox News Tool”

    Wemple: O'Reilly’s Refusal To Discuss “Unsavory Matters” About The Network, Ensures No Internal Reform Will Happen At The Network 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple wrote that Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s refusal to address recent sexual harassment scandals at Fox News proves O’Reilly to be a “loyal soldier” to the network’s internal culture of suppressing “unsavory matters,” including allegations of sexual harassment that continues to plague the network.

    During an interview on CBS This Morning, O’Reilly refused to answer questions from CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell about Fox News host Megyn Kelly’s allegations she was sexually harassed by former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes because he was “not interested” in making Fox News “look bad.” O’Reilly insisted that Fox is “a good place to work” and said he was “not going to buy into let’s use the Fox News Channel as a piñata.”

    Wemple criticized O’Reilly’s stance, writing that his refusal to address Fox News’ sexual harassment issues is the “very mentality enabled Ailes for decades” of “keeping allegedly harassed women and their colleagues from going public.” Despite Ailes having resigned, Wemple wrote, “O’Reilly is working as his party apparatchik” to “suppress dissent.” From the November 15 article:

    After concluding the discussion of childhood civility, co-host Norah O’Donnell pressed [Bill] O’Reilly on whether he’d read “Settle for More,” the memoir by Fox News host Megyn Kelly in which she recounts experiencing sexual harassment at Fox News at the hands of Ailes, who lost his job over the summer following a plume of such allegations. Kelly writes that he tried to grab and kiss her, then asked her when her contract was up — an “ominous” question, in Kelly’s tale. (Ailes has denied all of this.) Another accuser, former host Gretchen Carlson, received a $20 million settlement from Fox News’s parent company, and former host Andrea Tantaros’s litigation — also for sexual harassment allegedly from Ailes — remains active.

    [...]

    Had O’Reilly been the editor of “Settle for More,” however, readers would have had to settle for less. “I want to be very candid here: I’m not that interested in this,” said O’Reilly in his “CBS This Morning” interview. Pressed on whether he was saying he wasn’t interested in sexual harassment, O’Reilly made plain, “I’m not interested in basically litigating something that is finished that makes my network look bad, okay, I’m not interested in making my network look bad at all. That doesn’t interest me one bit. I’m not going to even bother with it. I’ve got a country that’s in a political transition. I’ve got a kids book that I want millions of kids to look at. That’s what I’m interested in, not making my network look bad.”

    A few points here:

    *O’Reilly, your network already looks bad. A full-on sexual harassment crisis swept through its halls this past summer. More than a dozen women who’d allegedly been harassed or demeaned by Ailes came forward to tell their stories. Nothing that Kelly puts in her book will exacerbate that set of facts.

    *This very mentality enabled Ailes for decades. The message from O’Reilly here is this: Shut the heck up, colleagues. Don’t discuss in public unsavory matters that could lead to internal reform. Suppress dissent. Over his two decades atop Fox News, Ailes enforced just those rules, keeping allegedly harassed women and their colleagues from going public. Though Ailes is gone from Fox News, O’Reilly is working as his party apparatchik. A loyal soldier to the end.

  • Bill O’Reilly: “I’m Not Interested In” Allegations Of Sexual Harassment At Fox Because It “Makes My Network Look Bad”

    O'Reilly: "I've Got A Kids Book That I Want Millions Of Kids To Look At. That's What I'm Interested In, Not Making My Network Look Bad."

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly lashed out when asked about fellow Fox host Megyn Kelly’s allegations in her new book that she was sexually harassed by former Fox CEO Roger Ailes, saying, “I'm not interested in making my network look bad.” O’Reilly, who himself once settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with a Fox employee, insisted that Fox is “a good place to work.”

    On the November 15 edition of CBS This Morning, O’Reilly was asked about Kelly’s book, in which she describes being sexually harassed by Ailes. O’Reilly initially responded calmly, calling Kelly smart and saying he hadn’t read the book, but he became agitated and defensive when pressed by CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell about the sexual harassment allegations. O’Reilly insisted that Fox is “a good place to work,” said that he’s “not interested in basically litigating something that is finished,” and he’s “not going to buy into let’s use the Fox News Channel as a piñata.” From CBS This Morning:

    BILL O'REILLY: I want to be very candid here, I'm not that interested in this.

    GAYLE KING (CO-HOST): No?

    O'REILLY: No, I mean, it’s over for me.

    NORAH O’DONNELL (CO-HOST): In sexual harassment? You’re not interested in sexual harassment?

    ​O'REILLY: I’m not interested in basically litigating something that is finished, that makes my network look bad. OK? I'm not interested in making my network look bad. At all. That doesn't interest me one bit.

    O'DONNELL: Is that what she's doing?

    ​O'REILLY: I don’t know, but I’m not going to even bother with it. I've got a country that's in a transition, political transition. All right? I've got a kids book that I want millions of kids to look at. That's what I'm interested in, not making my network look bad.

    ​[...]

    O’REILLY: Look, it's open season, let's whack the Fox News Channel. I've had enough of it. It's a good place to work, all right? We do good work. We do honest work there. So, I'm not going to buy into let’s use the Fox News Channel as a piñata. I don’t think it’s right.

    O’Reilly was one of many Fox personalities who defended Ailes in the wake of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former host Gretchen Carlson in July, saying in an interview, “I stand behind Roger 100 percent,” and calling Carlson’s lawsuit “frivolous.” After Ailes resigned amid building public pressure, O’Reilly falsely claimed that he hadn’t commented on the sexual harassment claims against Ailes.

    Since Ailes’ resignation, it has become clear that sexual harassment is an institutional problem at the network. Kelly was one of over two dozen women who came forward after Carlson filed her lawsuit alleging that they had been harassed by Ailes. Former host Andrea Tantaros also filed a sexual harassment lawsuit, naming not only Ailes, but several high-level executives and the Fox News Channel as defendants. Tantaros claimed that her “tenure at Fox News devolved into a nightmare of sexual harassment by Ailes, Fox News’s then-President, and others, followed by retaliation by Ailes and others despite multiple ongoing complaints by Tantaros.” One of the Fox executives named as a defendant in Tantaros’ suit was Bill Shine, who, according to the lawsuit, responded to Tantaros’ complaint that she was being harassed by telling her “that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man’ and that Tantaros ‘needed to let this one go.’” Shine was promoted to co-president of Fox News after Ailes’ resignation.

    The New York Times reported in July that Fox News has “a broader problem in the workplace” that went beyond Ailes. According to the Times, about a dozen women “said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or intimidation at Fox News or the Fox Business Network, and half a dozen more who said they had witnessed it. Two of them cited Mr. Ailes and the rest cited other supervisors.”

    O’Reilly himself settled a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by then-Fox producer Andrea Mackris in 2004, which alleged that O’Reilly made “a series of explicit phone calls to her, advised her to use a vibrator and told her about sexual fantasies involving her.” O’Reilly reportedly settled the lawsuit for “anywhere from $2 million to $10 million.” O'Reilly was also named in Tantaros' suit, though he was not listed as a defendant. She alleged that he sexually harassed her by "asking her to come to stay with him on Long Island where it would be 'very private,'" and by "telling her on more than one occasion that he could 'see [her] as a wild girl,' and that he believed that she had a 'wild side.'”