On Wednesday, the Women’s Media Center released research findings which suggest that – even though 20 percent of women versus 2 percent of men will be raped in their lifetimes, stories about rape are usually written by men. This gender discrepancy affects not only who continue to write about rape but also how these stories are told.
By analyzing 940 articles from high circulation publications like the Associated Press (AP), Chicago Sun-Times, The Washington Post and The New York Times between September 2014 and August 2015, the WMC found interesting statistics about who gets to author stories about rape and sexual assault in this country.
According to the study,
“men wrote 55 percent of sexual assault stories while women wrote only 31 percent. (Another 14 percent of the stories did not contain bylines.) The yearlong study looked at 12 major print outlets from 2014-2015 and showed that 48 percent of the quotes in these stories were from men, while 32 percent were from women. (An additional 11 percent were from organizations and 10 percent from sources whose gender was unknown.) The gender disparity is even more glaring in sports stories referencing sexual assault or in stories written by sports reporters — eight of 12 news outlets had zero bylines by women.”
While some might suggest that the real issue isn’t who writes these stories but how these stories are written, the WMC also found that the gender of the author did have an impact how stories of rape and other sexual violence were penned.
“Women journalists interviewed alleged victims more often than male journalists, and a higher proportion of women journalists wrote about the impact of the alleged attack on alleged victims: 40 percent of women journalists covered this versus 33 percent of male journalists. On the other hand, a higher proportion of male journalists used quotes about the behavior of or impact on the alleged perpetrator than did female journalists — 35 percent versus 32 percent.”
This means that the lack of gender diversity on the reporting staffs who cover these issues has a direct impact on what consumers read. If women reporters are more focused on the experiences of and impacts to survivors but men less concerned, this means that the majority of stories concerning rape and sexual assault lack the perspectives of those most affected by rape in the United States.
In all, these findings are significant for many reasons. But, as folks have roundly criticized for its racial biases, the gender diffareos, too, should be addressed in order to hold these media institutions accountable to the diverse populations they cover.
Photo credit: Creative Commons