Many of you might have read yesterday’s article in the NY Times regarding Paula Broadwell, General Petraeus, and moving forward after what we all knew to be the “scandal.” Jessica Bennet writes that after their affair went public, Broadwell, though a West Point graduate, military intelligence officer, Olympic-distance triathlete among many other accomplishments, was attacked as the “mistress” while Petraeus was still “described by former aides as ‘the consummate gentleman and family man." While Broadwell admits she made a mistake, she is now working to change the way we talk about women in the media. She founded Think Broader, which is focused on research and awareness of gender bias in the media. I have been working closely with Broadwell over the past month to develop a cartoon similar to the Bechtel test that can at least begin to teach us what news media is ok to consume. We released the official Think Broader “test” last Friday, and I am sharing it with you today here.
It’s been an interesting project for me because I work to avoid the news in my daily life. I’m aware how naive it sounds, but I’m just not interested. It all seems to exist on a sliding scale between a curated nightmare and consumerism digest.
And for that reason I don’t have cable, I don’t have a news site I check, and I rarely read the paper (which is at least the last place you can easily avoid an advertisement). All in all, I’m rather uninformed. The only time I’m really hit with it is when I go home to my parents’ in California where the TV is always on. It is a constant stream of either terrible, annoying, or unnecessary things like Trump, makeovers or what to cook for your family this Memorial Day Weekend. But one thing I did notice on my past trip was the same comments about female hosts from the peanut gallery. I won’t name names but I did hear some derogatory spouts about an anchor’s weight, hair-do, and how she really “wasn’t that hot,” all the while no one ever seems to care about the physical attributes of the male host. Of this, I was maybe (sadly) not shocked, but terribly disgruntled.
It was around that time that Broadwell contacted me to create this cartoon for her, and it really sparked my interest. After hearing her story firsthand and the intense scrutiny her appearance was under, I was honored and thrilled to send this message out with her. Whether the bias is internal, unintentional, or reactionary, it is an issue that needs to be continually addressed until it is stomped out of our societal discourse.
Though it may seem as if none of us can make a change alone, we can work together to shift the discussion. Bennett writes how Broadwell has been working to eliminate the use of terms like “mistress,’ a word for which there is no male equivalent.”
And so here we have the Think Broader test for news media. We encourage you to follow these three criteria as a means for evaluating news media articles or broadcasts for gender bias, or any type of bias really.
1. A news story must avoid lazy stereotypes.
2. The news must be provided by a credible source.
3. The news must fairly frame the issue at hand.
Think Broader invites you to share your example of media bias here.