It’s finally happened. I’ve been MIA for some months, but today I’m up in arms enough about something that I had no alternative but to put fingers to keyboard and share my disbelief. And fury. And share an awesome learning opportunity!
What’s my problem this time, I hear you mutter? Misogynistic perpetuation in newspaper headlines – stay with me, it’s just the one headline (for now) but it illustrates how saturated western society is in the myth that women are second class citizens worth making a public joke of.
This is the headline (The West Australian, Page 7, 31 October 2017) that’s offended me – Ashamed Broad sorry for ’heartache’.
What does it say to you?
One the one hand you could interpret it as saying an embarrassed woman is guilt-ridden for causing distress and sorrow.
On the other it could be saying a shame-faced person named Broad is apologetic for the misery he/she has caused.
What it actually says is that a humiliated man named Mr (Nathan) Broad is feeling guilty over the misery he caused to a woman, or as some may think of her, a broad.
So why the need for the double entendre, the play on words, the cheap shot?
We all know the word broad can also mean ‘woman’. The use of ‘broad’ in this context apparently originated in the USA in the early 1900s, referring to a defining characteristic of the female form – their hips – which are proportionately wider (broader) than those of men.
According to Online Etymology Dictionary https://www.etymonline.com/ this use of the word may also trace to American English abroadwife, the word to describe a woman (often a slave) away from her husband.
It goes on to say that because of this negative association, and the rise of women’s athletics, the track and field broad jump (1836) was renamed long jump, circa 1967.
But back to the story and it’s tacky headline. AFL Tigers premiership player Nathan Broad has avoided sexting charges despite broadcasting via social media a photo he took of a topless woman wearing his premiership medal.
The act of Nathan Broad taking the photo was consensual but, as Insp Everett Moutsidis of Victoria Police pointed out, just because a person consents to having a photo taken does not mean they automatically give permission for it to be broadcast far and wide.
Nathan Broad will miss the first three games (oh dear, missing out on playing a few games of footy – harsh!) of next year’s AFL season and has apologised to the woman, whom he refers to in said apologetic statement as a ‘young woman who I cared about.’ Bless.
It’s a slap on the wrist for a crime many others have rightly been charged and convicted of, and penalised for. Forget double entendre, what about double standard! Reportedly, the young woman in question dropped her complaint to police. That’s her call but it doesn’t mean sexting without consent is acceptable – it’s a criminal offence.
And apparently it’s ok for a sub-editor and an editor of a newspaper to write and/or cast a blind eye over a headline, which they probably think is clever and witty, but which has a double meaning that demeans women.
Or perhaps they didn’t even recognise the double meaning? And this is the point I’m making – the negative representation of women in mass media is seen as normal in our society, in fact it’s so normal people don’t even see it when it’s right under their noses in bold black and white print.
Ignorance is no defence. The media continues to take advantage of these unimaginative, low opportunities while some of its reporters earnestly report on the damage misogynism has done and continues to do to generations of girls from the gender pay gap to being entitled to half the superannuation of men despite contributing to society by raising small children and caring for sick parents while either not earning a wage or working casual jobs with no security, for years lest they be shamed for seeking permanent fulltime work and the security it offers.
Yup. It runs that deep. Misogynism and its effects, I mean. Just ask Australian author Clementine Ford and West Australian blogger Constance Hall.
We did not need a headline that apportions blame at this woman’s feet by intimating she should be ashamed for having had her photo taken with her top off and a premiership medal around her throat.
No. She did it consensually. Nathan Broad was in the wrong. He sent the photo to his footy mates to brag about how good he thinks he is at winning over members of the opposite sex with his premiership bling. Or just to make the young woman he described as someone he ‘cared about’ feel and look stupid for the rest of her life.
End of story.