Tits on top! – Sexism in daily journalistic life

No, the topic is not over yet. Not at all. Sexism happens – sometimes openly, sometimes unintentionally – and it is always out of place.

© Michael Schulze von Glaßer / www.flickr.com / CC BY-SA 2.0

© Michael Schulze von Glaßer / http://www.flickr.com / CC BY-SA 2.0

Since the beginning of February, I’ve been doing a semester abroad in Budapest. I’m studying here, as the saying goes, something about media. When I had a phone call with the editor-in-chief and publisher of a print and online newspaper in my first week, and he assured me of a free collaboration, I was more than enthusiastic. I quickly got the job of interviewing an opera singer – four pages of text plus the cover picture. I was completely euphoric. The interview went well, I typed the lines, got a press photo and forwarded everything to the editor-in-chief. He called me a few days later. He did not criticize the text, but the image I had chosen for the title page. It showed the singer in a black dress, her hands on her hips and smiling at the camera. A standard portrait photo of a beautiful woman.

I did not understand why the picture didn’t fit. He wanted a costume photo, with “great costume, make-up on the face, open mouth and a little more cleavage”, said the editor. Initially, I paid no attention to his last word and replied that the costume pictures, which I had received from the singer, did not meet his expectations and would otherwise only be suitable for a title page. But the word “cleavage” was still mentioned at least three times. Finally, the boss specified, he wanted “just two tits on top”.

I was completely baffled. On the one hand, because the statement terrified me, on the other hand, due to the casualness with which it was pronounced. He might as well have postponed the editorial conference by an hour.

© peragro / http://www.flickr.com / CC BY-SA 2.0

In the case of sexism, there are a variety of expressions and situations. It certainly does not always take place on purpose, but never without reason. Behind many statements is often either ignorance or carelessness and that was certainly the case here. That is no excuse, but rather the most important part of the problem.

The next day, I called the editor-in-chief. I condemned his statement and made it clear: He would not get a “tits picture” from me. He immediately rowed back and leveled the statement. Nevertheless, I continue to see myself in conflict with my personal morality, but also my journalistic-ethical basic ideas, behind which I do not want to resign. Do I really want to work in an institution with such an editor-in-chief?

It is important and good that the #metoo debate takes place. Our society is slowly creating awareness of a topic that is far from overwrought. It starts with the fact that at my home university the building I’m studying in is colloquially called a “tits bunker” and ends up with completely different things. We, journalists, should not only reveal Hollywood, football or Oxfam scandals but also take a look at our own world of work.

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