Murdoch’s Sun ate women’s dignity

Labour Party

Congratulations to campaigning MP (and fellow blogger) Tom Watson for exposing the bullying of women members of staff at the tabloid Sun.

According to Watson, Sun editor Dominic Mohan, told the Leveson enquiry “it is wrong to suggest that the Sun trivialises offences against women.”

Not so, says Watson, and I know who I believe. Watson tells us on his blog he has inside knowledge that at least five female journalists on the paper have been sacked in the last eight years. At least two of the sacked women went on to win compensation after challenging their dismissals. Two out of five strikes me as a high percentage and provides strong evidence of serious discrimination against female employees.

More recently, Whitehall editor at the Sun Clodagh Hartley had a complaint of bullying against her upheld by an independent adjudicator. This will, of course, be of great concern the beleaguered Mohan, who has a lot on his plate after the recent arrests of Mike Sullivan, the paper’s crime editor; the former managing editor, Graham Dudman; executive editor, Fergus Shanahan; and Chris Pharo, a news desk executive.

Appalling though this is, unfortunately it’s not the whole story. The Sun still publishes topless and virtually naked women on page three – a practice deeply disrespectful to women, which I believe should immediately be consigned to the scrapheap.  

The Sun is not just a newspaper, it’s theUK’s largest selling national daily with a circulation of 7,774,000. It’s our most popular newspaper and it behaves in a totally unacceptable way towards its female staff. It also publishes demeaning images of women.

I wholeheartedly agree with the four women’s groups – End Violence Against Women, Equality Now, Object and Eaves – who appeared before the Leveson inquiry arguing that the Sun should ban sexualised images which would not be shown on television before the 9.00pm watershed. As Former Labour MP Clare Short, who has campaigned against page three, said in the Guardian “The bottom line is that pictures that would not be permissible in the workplace or on broadcast media before the watershed can still be published in a daily newspaper.”

What is more, the newspaper reading public do not want page three, perhaps understanding how degrading it is to women. According to the Huffington Post, Platform 51, formerly the Young Women’s Christian Association, commissioned a nationally representative poll which showed that twice as many women would support a ban on pictures of topless women appearing in daily newspapers as would oppose it. And it’s not just women. Almost a third of the men questioned also supported a ban.

So it’s actually the Sun “wot ‘as got it wrong”.

Disrespect to women and actions such as bullying at work and publishing pictures of undressed women are no longer acceptable. Thankfully the world has moved on from the 1970s when the Sun introduced page three. It’s about time the Sun itself caught up with the modern world.  

Closure of the Women’s National Commission

Labour Party

I was going to write a post about the closure of the Women’s National Commission but this letter in today’s Independent captures my thoughts:

“A vital voice for women silenced

Regarding the Women’s National Commission (WNC), the Commons Public Administration Committee’s assessment of the quango cull (“MPs say bonfire of the quangos is a damp squib“, 7 January) is right on target.

For more than 40 years, the WNC brought the voices of women from across the nations to government on issues of violence against women. Through it, women’s groups big and small were able to bring their expertise to engage positively with Government.

Its abolition now leaves a void, insofar as the Government has not developed any meaningful plans for achieving its stated goal of greater transparency, accountability and engagement with women.

We have heard a vague idea about using more social media. However, a few tweets will not replace the expert consultation and representation brought through the WNC. The WNC was the embodiment of the Big Society at negligible cost. We continue to wish to engage, but by dissolving the WNC the Government has made this task harder, more costly and inevitably less representative.

We agree with the chair of the committee that the whole process was rushed and not thought through properly. It is not too late for the Government to admit its mistake and reinstate the WNC.”

Jacqueline Hunt

Equality Now

Davina James-Hanman

Against Violence & Abuse

Moira Dustin

LSE Gender Institute

Holly Dustin

End Violence Against Women

Naana Otoo-Oyortey

The Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development

Dr Aisha Gill

Roehampton University

Heather Harvey

Eaves Housing for Women.

Claudia da Silva, Richard Chipping

The London Centre for Personal Safety

Annette Lawson

The National Alliance of Women’s Organisations

Lynda Dearlove

Women@thewell / Sisters of Mercy

Vivienne Hayes

Women’s Resource Centre