The 14th of February was a very revealing experience to live through this year, and that was not because of a great night enjoying pink champagne and salmon sashimi with my partner. It was the UK mainstream media that made it significant.
The attitude of the gutter press when reporting the death of Reeva Steenkamp lifted the lid on an industry still intent on plumbing further depths in spite of the Leveson Inquiry. Led downwards as usual by Rupert Murdoch’s papers’ increasingly desperate attempts to attract readers after a good section of the population has clearly decided never again to by the Sun, the ‘sexy’ images of the murdered woman adorned the front page in place of the usual wankfodder.
Yet that same mainstream media also failed to report at all on the worldwide demonstrations of women against rape and violence against women which constituted the Billionrise movement. This movement, which had originated largely in the 3rd World from the catalyst of the appalling gang-rape and murder of a young student in Delhi, represented millions of women campaigning against the violence and rape which ruins the lives of a billion women worldwide, including transwomen, young girls, married women, lesbians, rich women and poor women of all races. The fact that a third of the female population of this planet is suffering from male-perpetrated violence is a huge issue. It is an issue that makes the other issues of the day pale into insignificance.
Yet it was ignored by the mainstream media (with the notable exceptions of the Guardian, New Statesman and Independent) In particular the BBC failed to report it, preferring to lead with the report of Reeva Steenkamp’s murder.
So my question is this: which is worse, the treatment of Reeva by an increasingly pathetic and desperate Rupert Murdoch or the deliberate censorship of this issue by the BBC, an organization which should be more impartial and carry stories which go beyond the cosy rightwing misogynistic media consensus of the Mail and Murdoch?
The Steenkamp murder and the Billon Women Rise media event and non-event illustrates how deeply complicit mainstream media is in the oppression of women. One, high-profile example of male violence against women dominates the headlines on a day when millions of women worldwide were demonstrating against violence against women. Yet the media failed to draw any link whatsoever between the two, indeed it is likely that the latter was deliberately ignored as a matter of policy.
This represents a deliberate erasure of women and women’s issues. When the Murdoch news-for-wankers treatment of Reeva Steenkamp is factored in, the episode reveals a concerted policy of oppression of women; not simply a misogynistic culture within the media, not simply institutionalised misogyny, but a deliberate ideology of oppression. The mainstream, rightwing media is, of course, known as an oppressive machine, which exists to impose rightwing political dogma and suppress anything opposed to that, but the lengths to which they are prepared to go to reinforce women’s suppression is quite breathtaking in this case, and certainly very revealing.
As a trans woman I am used to experience a media-imposed culture which legitimized hate-crime and delegitimizes my identity, this episode demonstrates the lengths this media machine is prepared to go to oppress all women. This is an area where trans people can have common cause with those women campaigning against media misogyny…