Sexualisation of women in the media

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2014 National Women's Conference
10 October 2013

Conference condemns the continual sexualisation of women in the media and finds it unacceptable the way in which women are presented to the public often posing partially clothed in a sexual or passive way. The presence of these imagines on the covers of magazines and newspapers can encourage and reinforce outdated stereotypical views of women.

Many forms of media are presented as family friendly, yet contain unacceptable portrayals and images of women. This can bring sexism into the family domain, with a danger of normalising pornographic images. This practice can influence the young and damage the image of women in society. This is demeaning, discriminatory and should not be tolerated, and this can affect women in both their home and work life.

Whilst there are anti-discrimination policies and procedures within the workplace, it is sometimes difficult to see how these can be implemented effectively when women are being so publicly dehumanised and treated as a tradable commodity by the media. It is also worrying that such publications are available and accessible in our libraries, hospitals and other public buildings.

Conference notes with concern that the current government trivialise this issue and argue we should simply turn the page if we don’t like it. There needs to be strong challenge to this culture if we are going to reverse this continuing trend.

Conference welcomes the initiative by the Co-operative chain that insisted certain publications place their magazines in ‘modesty bags’, which means that images that are aimed at the over 18s are not seen by the general public, and acknowledges this is a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, it does not address the central issue which is the overtly sexual way women are portrayed in our media.

It is imperative that women in UNISON are at the forefront of the defence and promotion of women’s rights. This conference asks the National Women’s Committee to:

1)Continue to promote UNISON’s support of the ‘No more page 3’ campaign;

2)Work with sister trade unions to highlight the impact and extent of the sexualisation of women in the media, and promote material for activist to use about the impact these images have; and

3)Encourage branches to lobby employers to ensure that publications available within public buildings, such as Libraries and Hospitals do not include material portraying a sexualised depiction of women.