Media should spotlight women’s successes, not gender biases

Tabloids like the Daily Mail highlight ever-present societal norms

Outlets like Daily Mail are indicative of broader problems in our culture.
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Due to a historical lack of representation in the media to normalize their power, women face more scrutiny than men when they hold influential positions.

Although there are many instances in the past where the legitimacy of a woman in power has been overtly questioned (Hillary Clinton is just one example), a huge and less obvious aspect of this cultural anti-women bias is propagated through the media. 

Personally, whenever I’m having a dull moment, I open up Snapchat news and read trashy Daily Mail articles, expecting to find something meaningless to fill my time. But last week, when I saw an article devoted entirely to Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, apparently holding her baby wrong while walking in the park, it struck a deeper chord.

An outlet I had only ever read as a guilty pleasure suddenly became a much bigger monster indicative of broader problems in our culture.

Although criticisms of how Markle holds her son might seem innocuous and apolitical, this  publicly accessible article, which picks apart miniscule details of her life, is just one example of microaggressions against the duchess as an influential woman of colour.

Without close examination, this article might seem like harmless celebrity bashing. But due to Markle’s ethnic identity and a lack of similar criticism of other royals and their spouses, criticism of Markle transforms into a narrative that undermines the obstacles she’s faced in the enhanced public eye as a member of the Royal Family.

Media outlets fail to consider the greater social impact they have when publishing stories like this. It isn’t only the women being criticized who suffers as a consequence—it’s every young woman or person of colour who hopes to break glass ceilings like Markle one day.

Greater instances of prejudice and injustice shouldn’t be the only time people draw attention to the disparity between women and men in positions of power. Microaggressions like overtly harsh news articles should be scrutinized as well.

Markle, as the working example of this problem, is someone who defied all expectations when she first entered the Royal Family. As a once-divorced Black American actress, she contradicts every royal expectation set out for her, and has continued to face criticism for her mere identity even since she and Prince Harry decided to step down as royals. 

When her ability to perform everyday actions is faced with intense criticism—especially in comparison to the less harsh media treatment of other royals—Daily Mail subtly suggests that Meghan has a lesser place in her association to the Royal Family due to her Black, female identity. 

To share that view with readers is alarming and deeply saddening—as are most microaggressions in real life—and articles that seem to bring criticism to the forefront out of the blue without rationale should be treated with skepticism. 

In the public eye, women are still given substantially less room than men for mishaps, failures, or any lifestyle that deviates from of social expectations of them.

Although women in recent history have slowly been granted more of the same opportunities as men, in fields such as politics, which draw more attention and scrutiny from the public, the negatively gendered tropes of women in these positions within the media can prevent other potential female leaders from applying to, maintaining, and dominating fields that draw international attention. 

I, along with other possible female onlookers, might be able to discount the gender-biased criticisms against these inspiring leaders, understanding they’re the result of a cultural lack of comfort with women in these positions, rather than women’s actual inability to perform in these roles.

However, I can’t control the subconscious discouragement I feel any time I’m forced to scroll past another Daily Mail article that trolls women in positions of influence. This is especially true when I consider the possibility that the ambitious young women surrounding me might have to experience the same one day as they chase similar career paths.

 

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