The Bad Habit Of Mansplaining The News
Unsurprisingly, the majority of employees in the Greek media is men. This is another story about internalised gender stereotypes: this time in the Greek media sector.
Photos: Panayiotis Tzamaros, Angeliki Panagiotou / FOS PHOTOS
Flipping through the hubbub of Greek television channels, especially during the morning rush or evening hours of talk shows, the prevalence of men is undeniable. One sees exclusively male TV panels or shows in which female/male duos are usually led by the latter.
There are, of course, notably few exceptions: the public ERT has currently the only informative broadcast that is led by a team of female journalists, accompanied by a man as a supporting commentator -among a TV programme that is dominated by either men or mixed-gender duos.
While in standardised news broadcasts, good looking female anchors had traditionally a steady presence, there is now a relevant balance, as in almost half the cases the central newscast of various nationwide TV channels, is presented by men.
Last, there is just one informative morning show having a woman-only lead on a daily basis, and four other thematic shows broadcasted weekly, or twice a month, mostly late at night within the whole spectrum of news shows of Greek television.The rest, are either “men solely” or majority-men, with women playing supporting roles -or duos in which men obviously lead the pair or at best maintain an equal balance.
In the cases of mixed-gender duos the situation varies, partly depending on the TV channel. However, even in the cases in which the female journalist/anchor is treated equally as a presenter, the public often uses the male presenter as an identifying reference point. As Natasha Giamali, a journalist and anchorwoman herself, says: “I’ve seen shows where there is an equal presentation of a man and woman, but for some reason, the guests (of the show) refer to it by the man’s name, even if the female co-host is older or has more years in the sector.”
Well established perceptions about gender influence the media, and the media serve them back to the audience in a vicious cycle. While beauty is subjective, a dominant narrative about beauty standards exists in every culture. One could easily understand Greece’s beauty standards by browsing the contents of television. Journalists, especially those who appear on TV, are no exception, and women often face more pressure than men to comply with those standards.
Natasha Giamali, a young journalist with a remarkable experience in the press and a quite recent TV presence, has observed the situation and sums it up unambiguously: “A good looking woman will have a chance on TV, and this is sexist because a not-so-pretty man will have a chance on TV, no matter what. Every woman on TV must meet the standards of good looks and, of course, they must be good journalists as well. The same standards [of beauty] do not apply to men necessarily.”
Liza Tsaliki, an assistant professor of Communications and Media Studies at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, noted the sexism in the media sector, saying to AthensLive: “I’m not sure if anyone will admit this publicly. Media executives wouldn’t admit it, either because of political correctness, or because they may not have realised it themselves. An academic, however, can clearly observe that especially the younger women on TV are basically going through some kind of [model] casting.”
Furthermore, Professor Tsaliki underlines that this situation is particularly prevalent in Greek society. If one views news coverage in Northern European countries, they would not find the same stereotype of the slim, super elegant journalists that must meet certain beauty standards. In foreign media, viewers could find very different body types, and many female journalists over 40 or 50. Greece has notably fewer female journalists of a mature age on TV and far fewer females who cover hard news.
Professor Tsaliki’s last point about the issues covered by women resonates with Mrs. Giamali’s own reporting experience. “The department in the newspaper (where I used to work) that covers politics is dominated exclusively by men,” says the journalist. “This is widespread, partly because of the old belief that women cannot handle the cruelty of politics and because it is considered a men’s business. Meanwhile, there were more women in cultural reporting. Although this situation is gradually changing, political reporting in newspapers is still a castle hard for female journalists to take.”
Professor Tsaliki reiterates Mrs Giamali’s point, saying, “Media schools are dominated by women, but their employment depends on the type of reporting. There is a stereotyping allocation. More frequently, women cover “female issues”, such as health, education, tourism, and entertainment. However when there are hardcore topics, like defense, foreign policy, or economics, we know from academic discourse that the audience believes men are more suitable to talk about these things. People think men are better able to understand, comment on, and represent these issues in general, and this (belief) is transferred into journalism”.
It must be noted that while the people interviewed for this article may seem to have observed exactly the same things regarding the unequal gender landscape of Greek media, they weren’t interviewed together and never shared thoughts with one another. Therefore, we must question why this situation remains unchanged despite widespread critical observation and indignation. An educated guess is that these casting and employment decisions are not be made by women. As Mrs Giamali puts it, “The gap (between women and men) on TV can be seen in the managerial positions” as well.
The reasons for the media’s sexist orientation is not irrelevant to the sexism of (Greek) society. But in the digital environments, people’s vile (constructed) instincts find ways of a comfortable expression with no consequences involved.
Through some people’s aggressive anonymity, Mrs Giamali was informed she didn’t have the right to talk politics. “Because I am new (in the TV sector), I am young and blonde, I am not excused for anything. I have to prove constantly that I am a journalist, a member of a journalists’ union, that I work, that I know how to handle things, I have studied. Never is a man asked about his studies”, she says and concludes: “If someone disagrees with you, they should do it on a political basis. There is no need to be called a slut”.
Note: the TV shows the article refers to, are those of informative/news content. Entertainment shows are traditionally led by women -mostly for the exact same reasons that the “serious” broadcasts, aren’t. The Greek TV Channels that were examined, are those with broader establishment: Alpha, ANT1, STAR, SKAI, Epsilon and the public broadcaster ERT.
This publication has been produced within the partnership with Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso for the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), co-funded by the European Commission. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of media partner AthensLive and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.