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sexism in media

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In the lead up to the World Cup in Russia, fears of off-pitch problems dominated the discussion. While there have yet to be any major incidents reported from the tournament, instances of homophobia and misogyny have been widely spread. 

However, calls for the football stands to be made a more equal space for female supporters compounded today, thanks to a rather unusual source. Photograph-sharing platform Getty has come under fire for publishing an article featuring a collection of "sexy" female football-watchers. 

The article, now deleted, was screen grabbed by indy100 and included the by-line: "Soccer is known asa beautiful game, and that includes its fans. Check out photos of some of the sexiest of them here." 

According to Indy 100, the gallery contained approximately 30 images of traditionally attractive women and not a single man. Oh, and there was another catch-line that read "Talk about a knock-out round…"

How charming and original. Not. 

Needless to say, Twitter was not pleased. 

This comes at a time when more and more women are calling for greater inclusion in the sporting world. Just last week, the ban on Iranian women attending matches was lifted and pages such as This Fan Girl have been working tirelessly to promote real women (as opposed to sex symbols) in the stands. 

A spokesperson for This Fan Girl, Emma Townley, told indy100 that the publication of the piece was "disappointing". 

"They need to do better, because of their size and influence they have a huge responsibility to not perpetuate the toxic male primacy that exists in football. I was going to tiptoe around this but we're so bored of this narrative.

"We set up This Fan Girl to fight exactly this, clearly, the problem is still fairly deep rooted and we desperately need balance."

In response to the backlash, Getty deleted the article and apologised saying that it "did not meet our editorial standards." 

Speaking to Channel 4 Getty's chief executive, Dawn Airey said that the piece as not reflective of company beliefs. 

"[The gallery] was not appropriate or in any way consistent with our company values or beliefs.

"We hold a deep belief in the power of visuals to incite change and shift attitudes and we have done and will continue to do, much work to promote and create a more evolved and positive depiction of women." 

We hope that this outdated approach to female football fans will die off soon. 

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I think we’ve all grasped the fact that various magazines, websites and newspapers are verging on heinous when it comes to their coverage of women.

In 2014, the media’s obsession with the female body is a familiar one; be it an in-depth description of Tara Reid’s “worryingly skinny” frame (The Mirror Online, 2/11/14), or Lady Gaga’s supposed concealment of recent weight gain (Mail Online, 14/3/2014).

Regardless of their weight, celebrities are lambasted both for ‘covering up’ and dressing in ‘scantily clad’ outfits. There is no way to win – or so it seems. Let’s remember, this is big business. A large cohort of publications, both online and print, use bodies (male and female) to sell papers or increase traffic. It’s undeniable that this kind of selective, sexist coverage is disheartening. However, there is power in choice.

I can recognise that Holly Hagan of Geordie Shore fame willingly told the Daily Mail that she "still had great sex when she was fat’. I can respect that she exploits the tabloids in that manner in order to make money (which is, arguably, empowering), but that doesn’t mean that I have to read all about it, or even discuss it with anyone.

There is another element of cruel media that serves to remind us that scrutiny is a two-way street: the comments. I understand and endorse the concept of free speech, but I am quite sure that any online publication that allows any person to be branded "rough as a badger’s rear" (Mail Online comment section) by an anonymous troll isn’t my read of choice. Comment moderation on certain news sites is still at a horrifyingly unsophisticated level, and for that reason, I just choose not to read them.

What’s even more depressing is the angle that some publishers choose to take on certain events. When covering Emma Watson’s #HeForShe speech at the UN a couple of months back, the Telegraph ran the story alongside a picture of her in a short dress, rather than the sharp suit she donned on the day. More recently, Lena Dunham slammed the Daily Mail for writing about her "slimmer face" and "unique look" upon the occasion of her UK book launch, rather than giving her book anything more than a passing mention. Personally, I’d rather read about the book or the speech itself, and thankfully, there are plenty of sites out there to give me that information.

Isn’t it up to the individual to choose what media she or he consumes? Why are we so accepting and eager to be spoon-fed stories that encourage us to pit ourselves against each other based on appearance and weight, rather than wit and intellect? Exercising discretion in what media we read, discuss and share, both on and offline, is something we should perhaps all consider. Think of it as a means of, ahem, ‘conscious uncoupling’ from the worst culprits.

It’s always good to think for oneself, and sometimes, I do worry that most of us have forgotten how.

Deirdre Foley is a history grad, sceptic, wearer of red lipstick and self-confessed 'beauty maniac'. She is also the co-founder of fabulous Irish beauty blog, Viva Adonis.

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