Finding the media’s blindspot

Andy Murray’s success at Wimbledon in June 2013 was thrilling for tennis fans. Yet anyone hearing or reading about the hope of “exorcising” the ghost of its last British winner Fred Perry would have been forgiven for not realising the small detail that four British women have won the Wimbledon trophy since 1936.

The Times headline announcing the end of the “77-year wait” for a British Wimbledon champion is a classic example of the media’s perennial “blind spot” – the persistent inability to see and reflect racial and gender diversity despite being regularly called to account.

Although The Times issued a correction for its oversight, the implication remains that those wins, including Virginia Wade’s victory against Betty Stove in 1977, don’t really count in the media men’s grand scheme of things.

But even when the media does “see” women, there’s often a selective equality in operation, particularly where race is concerned. This was highlighted by The Telegraph in September 2012 when it launched ‘Wonder Women’, a new daily online section for intelligent females who want more out of life than “whining”, “lipsticks” and “handbags”.

The publicity image accompanying the launch was of eight beaming white women, proud to be part of this new media guard to reboot brand womanhood. That, in itself, isn’t a problem. What is difficult to reconcile with this image is the term ‘women’ hovering uncomfortably above it, and the fact that no one remotely thought this was odd. Shouldn’t it be Wonder White Women, or is race just a (politically) black issue?

This is an extract from an article written with Joy Francis that first appeared on New Left Project.