Sexism in American Media a 'Widespread Problem,' Says Expert

WASHINGTON – A progressive activist who heads an organization that tracks gender bias in American media believes that sexism in the news is a "widespread problem."

Julie Burton, president of the Women's Media Center, told The Christian Post at an event spotlighting sexism and politics in media on Tuesday that the issue is a major one. "It is broader than politics, it's our culture and it's a culture that views women often as objects," said Burton, adding it was "something we need to change."

Burton also told CP that the issues surrounding the media portrayals of female political candidates and elected officials could be found with both male and female journalists alike.

"Women journalists as well as male journalists are writing about appearance. So for us the charge is to get the message out to the media that it's not acceptable," said Burton. "It's a system…and women journalists exist in that system and so it needs to change for everyone."

Burton's remarks came at an event sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund on Tuesday morning titled "Politics and Sexism: Don't Turn the Other Cheek."

"Sexist media coverage has been damaging the campaigns and careers of women candidates for years. For far too long political advisors have been telling their women candidates to ignore sexist attacks," reads an entry on CAP's website regarding the event.

The CAP event featured research done by the WMC's group Name It Change It which found among those surveyed that media coverage which focused on a female candidate's appearance, even if positive, lowered the candidate's voter approval. The research also showed that when a candidate openly denounced this appearance-based coverage, that her approval among potential voters increased.

While it was a politically progressive setting for the message on media sexism against female candidates, speakers denounced examples of media sexism against both conservative and liberal women in politics.

The event also featured a panel of women leaders regarding issues of media coverage and sexism, as well as a keynote address from Democratic Congresswoman Marcia Fudge of Ohio, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. In her remarks, Rep. Fudge stated that she believed the issue of sexism was a greater impediment than the issue of racism.

"In the election between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, it was at that point I realized that America was more sexist than it was racist," said Fudge.

"I have lived my entire life fighting for my place, fighting for justice…it was then that I realized that being black was not the worst thing in the world; it was being a woman."

The panel included Mee Moua, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center and former Minnesota State Senator; Eureka Gilkey, former national deputy political director for Obama for America; Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino; and Val Demings, the first woman to serve as chief for the Orlando Police Department.

Aisha Moodie-Mills, advisor for LGBT Policy & Racial Justice of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, moderated the panel.