Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sexism is alive and well

So, following Hillary Clinton's less than stellar performance in the Iowa caucuses, many media mistakenly asserted that her campaign for the presidency was over; however, her skill as one of the most powerful politicians in America and her subsequent performances in the elections post-Iowa, quickly proved how wrong her media critics were. Following Iowa, Gloria Steinem wrote a powerful and accurate editorial detailing the many reasons that a woman is never a front-runner and asserting that the single most restricting factor in American society is gender; considering that many women alive today were born before women even had the right to vote, Steinem's argument seems quite compelling. While, I've already briefly posted about the ethicality of sexism in the media, recent coverage of Gov. Palin, continues to demonstrate the sexist nature of American society. Gov. Palin's clothing, her makeup, accessories, shoes, hair, etc. have all received critiques and actual news coverage. Even, CNN devoted almost 8 minutes of coverage to the aforementioned items, and then almost laughably decided to have a panelist discuss whether or not such coverage was sexist. While talking about whether or not such coverage is sexist, which it is (if you disagree try and think of the last time you heard any of those items discussed about men or when men are ever questioned about their ability to govern and still be a parent), is a worthwhile and important, media should realize that simply talking about sexism while engaging in it is still wrong. It matters little that for 30 seconds out of 8 minutes, sexism is considered as a possible problem, those individuals reporting for media outlets have an ethical obligation to do more than simply talk about sexism; they have an obligation to quit engaging in sexist discrimination. By placing emphasis on Palin's pumps more than her politics, media outlets perpetuate the harmful myth that women are only important in terms of their sex appeal, or at the least are primarily important because of it. By engaging in sexist coverage media not only fail to fulfill their obligations and functions in our society of providing important and accurate information, "they" also dehumanize women and in turn dehumanize everyone. While I am not an advocate of universal ethical codes, I do think it is a safe bet that in almost every situation, and especially every situation media workers would find themselves in, abstaining from behavior that treats individuals as less than anything except fully human is ethical and failing to do so is unethical.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Media Ethics

So, media ethics has been on my mind; not just because I'm taking a media ethics class, but because my concerns with the Democratic primary and its media coverage: specifically the coverage of Hillary Clinton. My media ethics textbook outlines multiple ethical perspectives: deontological, utilitarian, universal, etc. But, as I think about the sexist coverage of Hilary (i.e. "She's a bitch, She's a monster, Iron My Shirt," etc.), I can't help but think that regardless of your ethical standpoint, there is little justification for such coverage. Perhaps arguing from an egoist or Machiavellian-egoist point of view might be able to justify such coverage by arguing that reporters might benefit from such coverage; thus, it is justified. However, the authors of my textbook argue that most, or at least many journalist, cling to universal ethics as a justification for the job they perform (i.e. educating the public, serving the public good, etc.). So, one can only wonder where these principles were in play when the NY Times ran its highly criticized piece about John McCain and supposed infidelity or at least the possible appearance of, yet no journalist would actively pursue, during the primary campaign, serious investigation of the true allegations against John Edwards. Clearly, I have a pro-HIllary point-of-view; however, I think that media ethicality evaluations about the coverage of her campaign are deserving of serious academic, critical and ethical evaluation. I also can't help but wonder wether our societal evaluations of racism and sexism and the cultural emphasis, or rather emphasis on eliminating them, play a serious role in the cultural conversation about those types of discrimination and the ethicality of each. One is highly, highly culturally disdained, while the other is disdained in talk but rarely in action. As Geraldine Ferraro wrote in her compelling editorial, Hillary supporters know that if the media or surrogates of the campaigns had engaged in racism, leaders of both parties would be screaming from the hilltops about the discrimination, but very, very, very few barely lifted a finger to discuss sexist issues in the campaign. For now, that is all I have to to say about this topic....far more questions than answers, and perhaps, my support of Hillary makes me less comfortable in ensuring my views are not tainted....but then again perhaps my strong support and abhorrence of the sexist coverage just demonstrates that ethicality is important in every situation, and just because one recognizes it more in one situation than another doesn't change the actual original question.