It’s not just about the panda

This article was originally published on Shrillblog.

As part of their ‘people who made the headlines’ feature, the BBC listed a panda called Sweetie in its female list.

You’d have to be a humourless, militant feminist to find that insulting, right?

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not just about the panda. Let me explain.

When you split anything – a list of newsworthy people, the education system, boxing outfits – by gender, you better make sure it doesn’t enforce insidious beliefs about gender. Such as, I don’t know, that newsworthy men are politicians, soldiers and shooting victims, whereas newsworthy women are rape accusers, brides and cute, fluffy animals.

The BBC, an editor was anxious to comment, wasn’t making a judgment about which men and women had made the most worthy achievements that year. Just who had ‘made the headlines’. So let’s make something clear – the BBC lists reflect our country’s appetite for new stories, and an incredibly disheartening view of what we expect from men and women who make our headlines.

The breakdown – Faces of the year – men

  •  An undercover cop
  • An award-winning actor
  • A binman who scored a YouTube hit with a rap video criticising the Health Secretary
  • A Catholic policeman killed by a bomb in Northern Ireland
  • A Vice-Admiral who masterminded the Bin Laden raid
  • A successful golfer
  • A former features editor at News of the World
  • A guy who got mugged during the riots
  • A farmer who told Rhianna to stop cavorting semi-naked in his field
  • A man who had a suspiciously close relationship with the Defence Secretary
  • A famous football manager
  • A Republican candidate who had to pull out after sexual assault allegations

What this tells us

Headline-worthy men, according to this list, aren’t simply successful actors or sportspeople. They are also Masculine Men™, doing Masculine Jobs (policemen, sportsmen, armed forces, political candidate) and often brushing with violence (getting killed, ordering other people to kill, getting mugged).

Since men are many times more likely than women to do the most dangerous jobs, it might seem logical to see these trends in the media. But if we are more likely to see men getting attacked, attacking others, and heading gung-ho undercover operations in the headlines than women, no wonder rigid expectations of masculinity endemic in our culture. If you aren’t successful, unafraid of violence, or a martyr to violence, you aren’t a real man. You’re certainly not going to make the headlines.

Faces of the year – women

  •  A US Congresswoman shot in the head
  • A successful pop singer
  • A Libyan woman allegedly raped by Gaddafi’s militia
  • A maid-of-honour at a royal wedding with a now-famous posterior
  • Another woman allegedly raped, this time by a high-profile Frenchamn
  • The first Chinese player to win a tennis Grand Slam singles
  • A woman who married a prince
  • A Rupublican Congresswoman beloved of the Tea Party
  • Brazil’s President, the first woman to open a debate at the UN National Assembly
  • Another woman marrying someone
  • A US Marine who went on a date with Justin Timberlake
  • The Infamous Panda

What this tells us

At first, it’s not so bad. Two congresswomen, a successful tennis player, a ground-breaking speech by a female president…2011 was a good year for women!

And yet…

There are 3 brides/bridesmaids in this list. There are 2 (alleged) rape victims. There’s a woman who bagged a date with a famous guy. That makes exactly half of this list focussed on women’s relationships with men, only some of which were consensual.

And there’s the panda. Yes, a carp was once featured in the men’s list, so well done human race, you’ve achieved gender equality (disclaimer: this post contains sarcasm). Did no one at the BBC notice the cringe-worthy fact that the whole story surrounding Tian Tian the panda was her ability to breed? Which is truly the sparkling cherry on top of this hateful cake.

 So, it’s not just about the panda, people. Allow the Feminist Rage to flow. And if any of you utter the sentence “why are you so angry at this when people are starving?!” I will unleash my Kung-Fu Panda moves (once I’ve finished breeding.)


2 thoughts on “It’s not just about the panda

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