Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Governor Sarah Palin. SpongeBob SquarePants. What could these three possibly have in common? The fact is, while their names frequently turn up in the media, the context isn’t always so nice. Sotomayor’s intelligence and temperament are questioned based on gender and ethnic stereotypes. Palin and her daughter are the butt of sexist jokes. And the cartoon SpongeBob is used in a commercial that exploits women in order to sell burgers to kids.
For these reasons and many more, the National Organization for Women is re-launching its popular online Media Hall of Shame. With the help of NOW members and other website visitors, we will be on the look-out in the mainstream media for instances of sexism, racism, sexual exploitation, violence against women and other offenses. Frequent posts will highlight the latest offenses, giving people a chance to rate them and urging activists to write to the media outlets to express their outrage.
The first version of NOW’s Media Hall of Shame was born during the 2008 presidential elections, when media misogyny reached toxic levels. During the primaries, Hillary Clinton was a target of some of the most extraordinarily sexist attacks NOW witnessed in a long time, and then the media moved on to Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin.
The popularity of the “Election Edition” of the Media Hall of Shame led NOW to create its new 2.0 version. This time NOW is featuring offenses that take place both within and beyond politically-focused news media. The site will cover content from primetime television, movies, music, advertising, the Internet, kids TV, video games and more.
“It’s important that we call out these offenders, because their media platforms give them great influence and power, and their insults demean and stereotype all women and girls,” said NOW President Kim Gandy. “We expect there to be no shortage of material to analyze, and there will be no shortage of pundits, hosts, advertisers, and content developers to dishonor.”
Beginning in 1966, NOW’s founders noted the impact that media have on women’s lives and our quest for equality. The organization has continued to address a wide range of media issues over the past four decades. Says Gandy: “Women will not be truly equal until they have full and fair representation in the media. The Media Hall of Shame is one tactic in our ongoing campaign for media justice for women.”