Hollywood's sexist stereotypes have real consequences for female journos


The movie Bombshell is among the latest Hollywood films featuring female journos. - AFP Relaxnews

While journalist characters have recently become a favorite for Hollywood productions, the film industry isn't necessarily doing them a favor with frequent representations that are less than flattering.

And it's a situation that is actually having real-life negative effects on women working in the media, according to a new American study.

Journalist characters are certainly not rare on the big screen thanks to films like Broadcast News, I Love Trouble and more recently Bombshell. For years now, the cinema has had a passion for women journalists, who often seem ready to do anything to get a scoop. Even if it means having sexual relations with one of their sources.

This is the case of Heather Holloway (played by Katie Holmes) in Thank You For Smoking, who has no qualms about using her charms to seduce a tobacco industry representative.

While the works may be fictional, this unethical behavior on screen is detrimental to women working everyday journalism jobs, according to American researcher Frank Waddell.

The assistant professor at the University of Florida examined gender bias against journalists in movies in a study recently published in the journal Journalism Studies.

He found that most Americans surveyed find these stereotypes realistic and have an overall negative view of women in the media. They are inclined to think that women are willing to have sex with a source for a scoop, while they have difficulty seeing their male colleagues doing the same.

A rise in gender-based violence and bullying

Originally, Frank Waddell wanted to get feedback from his panel on more positive portrayals of women journalists on screen. The problem was he couldn't find any.

"I was actually struggling so badly to find positive examples that I couldn't do that part of the study," he recalls. This phenomenon is especially troubling because most people have little or no interaction with journalists in their daily lives.

"I'm... hoping that Hollywood can do a better job finding ways to dramatise the practice of journalism," Waddell noted. "People are treating women in the newsroom differently because they fail to recognise what they're seeing [in the films] has nothing to do with real life."

Unesco recently highlighted the gender-based violence faced by women journalists around the world. The organisation surveyed more than 900 female journalists from 125 countries for its report The Chilling: Global Trends in Online Violence Against Women Journalists.

Nearly three-quarters of them (73%) say they have experienced online violence, and 25% say they have even received death threats. Faced with this repeated abuse, some journalists choose to make themselves less visible online (38%) while others abandon the profession altogether (2%). - AFP Relaxnews

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