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Nicola Sturgeon reveals 'anger' at sexist portrayals of women in the media

Published 27/08/2015

Nicola Sturgeon said the media could sometimes feel old fashioned
Nicola Sturgeon said the media could sometimes feel old fashioned

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said she gets angry about the potential impact sexism in the media has on women and girls.

She said challenging the sexist portrayal of women was something she felt "incredibly strongly" about.

Delivering the Alternative MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Ms Sturgeon opened her speech by talking about diversity and said the media could be "old fashioned".

She said: "Let me start first with diversity - an issue very, very close to my heart and one that I have some personal experience of.

"For an industry that prides itself, usually rightly, on being creative and innovate, an industry that is driven by new technology and the need to constantly be anticipating the changing values and tastes of its audiences, it genuinely sometimes surprises me how - dare I say it - old fashioned the media can sometimes feel.

"And the portrayal of women is a case in point.

"Challenging the sexist portrayal of women and increasing the presence of strong female role models, in all walks of life, is something I feel incredibly strongly about."

She said one of the things that "really moved" her after becoming First Minister was how many women and girls said how much it meant to them personally to see a woman in the most senior political office in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon added: "And when I see sexist media portrayals of public figures, I don't really get upset on my own behalf - I've become personally quite inured to it.

"But I do get really angry about the potential impact on women and young girls who might be driven away from pursuing a career in politics or public life because of it - and, unfortunately, I speak to many who would say that they are."

The First Minister said what broadcasters and print journalists portrayed and said "really matters".

She said that "even in this age of scepticism about the media", journalists were people who were listened to and who commanded respect.

"And that brings with it great responsibility," she said.

"And, of course, this point goes beyond news and politics.

"Women make up 52% of the population and yet twice as many men as women feature in TV programming.

"Despite the enormous successes of the Lionesses and athletes like Eilidh Child or Jessica Ennis Hill - women in sport receive far less coverage and prominence than their male counterparts.

"Older female reporters have had to battle to stay on screen whilst their male equivalents hold premium presenting roles well past retirement age.

"None of that, in my view, is acceptable in 2015," she said.

"Young girls and women are entitled - just as much as men and boys are - to see positive, or rather fair, representations of themselves on screen," the First Minister continued.

She said she was encouraged now that the absence of women and lack of diversity on screen was being "increasingly and often directly challenged by the viewing public".

She told the packed room: "I know when I'm asked questions in interviews about my appearance, or why I don't have children - in other words, questions that a male politician would almost certainly never be asked - there is often a reaction to that online."

Ms Sturgeon also said she had had some "vile stuff" directed at her on Twitter, and added that she thought women were targeted more by trolls than men were.

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