19 Jun 2013

Has The Media Treated Nigella Fairly?

By Violeta Politoff

Mainstream media outlets have a poor track record when it comes to violence against women. The coverage of Nigella Lawson this week hasn't redeemed them, writes Violeta Politoff

A few days ago a British newspaper published photos showing Nigella Lawson being allegedly choked by her husband, Charles Saatchi. The photos have exploded online and the story of Saatchi’s apparent abuse has become headline news around the world.

Unfortunately mainstream media has a less than perfect track record when it comes to covering the issue of violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence. Recent research published by VicHealth shows that Victorian newspapers tend to sensationalise men’s violence against women, fail to link individual incidents to the ongoing systemic problem of gender-based violence, often don’t use appropriate sources, and often include details which suggest that the victim is in some way responsible (or partially responsible) for the violence. So how has coverage of the violence against Nigella Lawson fared? Here are some of the lowlights of coverage thus far.

Sensationalism
According to VicHealth research, Australian newspaper articles about violence against women are often sensationalistic, and studies in the UK have found similar results. As both Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi are celebrities, and there is photographic evidence of what appears to be violence, this story is particularly susceptible to sensationalistic treatment.

Headlines like the one above (which appears as a Facebook recommendation on the Mirror website) demonstrate how the images are used to entice readers to web content in ways reminiscent of “shocking” images of celebrity bodies (such as suggestions of anorexia, weight gain, botched plastic surgeries, and so on).

According to the editors' code of practice there was no intrusion of privacy (as administered by the UK’s Press Complaints Commission). However, the pictures do raise some issues that are worth considering. Is it possible that the publicaton of these photos without Lawson’s consent might be compounding the pain and humiliation represented in the photos?

We don’t know her perspective on this – she’s remained silent to date. Nevertheless, judging from the media response to the photos, there is some consensus that what is represented appears to be violence, and therefore it stands to reason that the continued reproduction of these images could be causing Lawson additional pain; particularly considering the tendency to publish the photos sensationalistically.

Who is responsible?
Looking again at the VicHealth research, nearly 20 per cent of articles covering violence against women include details which could imply that the victim is (at least partially) responsible for enabling the violence. One implicit way in which a victim can be posited as partially responsible is by subtly shifting the blame onto the couple, rather than the person who was violent.

Case in point: the headline of the original Sunday People article. The language here diminishes Saatchi’s responsibility, and makes it seem as though Lawson was an equal participant in the violent “bust-up”. In addition to this, the use of the term “boiling point” reproduces the myth that domestic violence occurs as a result of an individual “snapping” (i.e. reaching a “boiling point”). Domestic violence tends to be experienced regularly and systematically – not as a random one-off incident where their partner simply “snapped”.

Myths surrounding domestic violence continue with this unfortunate use of neighbourhood gossip as a source.  The Daily Mail quotes a neighbour:

“They’re both characters and if they did this I’m sure they made up straight away as I’ve seen them together looking happily [sic] recently… They argue in the streets and are volatile at times but that could just be their form of passion.”

In addition to representing both parties as equally responsible for the violence (“if they did this”), this quote reproduces the damaging idea that intimate partner violence can be a form of extreme passionate romance. This mythology also reinforces the notion that women in abusive relationships are complicit (and possibly enjoy this violent “passion”) because otherwise they would leave. This persistent idea ignores the realities that can make it difficult for women to leave abusive partners, such as the fact that women are at 75 per cent greater risk of being killed by an abusive partner when leaving.

Numerous articles have sought explanations for the violence. Strangely they don’t look at why he might be violent, instead they consider how Nigella Lawson’s character could explain what happened. For example in the Mirror an acquaintance says that:

“She wouldn’t like to do ­anything to upset him. Nigella is in awe of him and surprisingly lacking in confidence herself.”

Or maybe it could be her past?

“Ms Lawson, the daughter of the former chancellor Nigel Lawson, now Lord Lawson of Blaby, has previously spoken about how she was physically abused by her mother as a child, describing how she never felt she could please her.  She said her complicated childhood meant she was ‘driven by fear’ and had developed a relentless need to please people” (Daily Mail),

These quotes focus on the victim in seeking explanations for the violence rather than the person who allegedly acted violently. These narratives shift (at least some of) the responsibility for what happened onto Nigella Lawson. An exception to this is a piece by Alecia Simmonds in Daily Life which takes the opposite (and in my view correct) approach of looking to Saatchi's character for explanations.

“A clue may be found in his execrable memoir: Be The Worst You Can Be: Life’s Too Long For Patience and Virtue. Here he said that wives ‘make excellent housekeepers’ because ‘they always keep the house’. One of the obvious things that we can conclude from this is that Charles Saatchi is a misogynistic Neanderthal with a penchant for tautology. But beyond that, it suggests what criminological studies have long found: gender inequality lies at the root of domestic violence.”

This piece is also commendable for noting that the underlying causes of violence against women include a belief in rigid gender roles and weak support for gender equality. As VicHealth research has shown, the most common predictor of the use of violence among men is their agreement with sexist, patriarchal, and or sexually hostile attitudes.

Calling it gender-based violence
Among the key findings of the VicHealth research into media coverage of violence against women is the tendency for media to individualise discussion of gender-based violence. This means that reporting rarely links the incident of violence with the serious social problem which affects one in three women in Australia, and 70 per cent of women worldwide. In Australia, almost every week a women is killed by a partner or ex-partner.  And for those out there that object because women can be violent too, it’s important to note that research shows that, 82 per cent of those physically assaulted, and 99 per cent of those sexually assaulted, were assaulted by a male.

In terms of language it’s important when discussing violence against women that terminology doesn’t minimise the gravity of the problem.

“There has never been any hint of any marital issues…” (Herald Sun).

Terms such as “marital issues” reinforce the idea that domestic violence is a couple’s private problem, and not a serious systemic social issue. Thankfully, the term “domestic violence” is being used relatively often in mainstream coverage of the violence shown in the photos. However, there remains a tendency to individualise the problem. Narratives that focus on Lawson's lack of self-confidence offer nothing informative about the dynamics or prevalence of intimate partner violence. And, apart from a few exceptions like the one noted above, the link between gender equity and violence against women is nearly invisible in the mainstream coverage.

As disturbing and problematic as these photos are, they do challenge us to consider the wider societal problem of violence against women. Unfortunately, the misrepresentation of the issue of domestic violence in mainstream media perpetuates ignorance and myths. Only by challenging these myths can society truly address this serious and ongoing social problem.

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fightmumma
Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 11:49

The dominance of men in the media as outlined in other artilces on this site is a key theme in reporting of important issues and power in how they are framed, what issue is privileged and how much weight/signif it is assigned.  I have to say (and I'm disappointed not many NM people have posted on this) that recently there has been a spate of male-based violence and very little comprehensive, critical analysis of its ramifications throughout all layers of society.  Gallen and his violence in sport - just "part of the game" "entertainment" and "brave violence"...recent rapist footballers like Milne today who will probably even still play footbal with full support of major players (I wonder what their wives think?), footbal and male-centred interests are WAY more important that feckin violence against women...not much critical comment from the media...where are the feminists NOW HUH!!?  Where are the female perspectives and needs on these subjects.  Nigella, Jill Meagher...what gets included in public discourse? What gets left unsaid?  What issues are important? WHO is afected by it and considered important?  I am never watching any male football code again - bunch of rapists, rapist enablers and rapist Look-the-other-wayers...Seriously - where are the feminists who claim to own female issues...what have you bunch done about this...or do you only do something when it involves a white, upper class, professional, educated popular woman?  This all makes me SICK!

fightmumma
Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 11:56

Bayley - 22 counts of rape...how many chances did he get?  Milne - 4 counts of rape and playing footy to a cheering crowd this weekend...how many chances do their victims get? 

jackal012
Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 17:47

fightmumma, your a damn good woman and i like what you write, i agree..

I'm not going to say anymoere then, all of these Men, have and had Mothers who either raised or helped raise these men to become.

 

Computers do not get Viruses until a Human connects them to the Internet and strange sites.

a human is born blank, is then fed information.

a Computer without its Operating System is nothing but a dumb electronic box.

Humans are what Society and Parents turn them into.

how did australia a Nation of supposed self declared Hero's become a Nation of Pedophiles.

Look at the ADF scandal, Footy etc.

All of us need to take responsibility and ask where and how did we fail our kids, our society.

This is the Challenge to the Nation, all of us.

 

Kevin Charles H...
Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 19:50

fightmumma:

Milne won't be playing footy again until his case is heard.

phoneyid
Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 21:02

VP
Do you accept that violence is higher among partners in same sex relationships?

Do you accept that children are more likely to be murdered by their biological mother than father?

Do you accept that there are greater legal and social support mechanisms for women than men?

Do you accept that there are higher suicide rates among men than women in the 1st year after divorce?

Do you accept that many women fabricate accusations of violence against spouses and that many divorce lawyers encourage it.?

Does this concern you or would you rather "cherry pick".?

Further "Has The Media Treated [Genocide Of Arabs by Us] Fairly" because it's quite obvious to me that it's let slide as a "non-issue". And if this is the case, then why should any reasonable person be more concerned, if at all, for Nigella Lawson.

phoneyid
Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 21:04

PS
It is difficult to get a person to accept something when their job depends on not accepting it.

phoneyid
Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 21:14

Have you considered AT ALL for the other "variables"? That the reason for this media silence might not be because Charles Saatchi is a man and Nigella is a woman, but because he's part of a wealthy Jewish family that once owned the biggest advertising agency on earth????

phoneyid
Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 21:24

It's quite obvious to anyone with eyes to see that you have failed to consider other variables. How is it that it's so obvious to a mechanic like me but not to the so called "literati"
I see no other possibility other than one of us is either ignorant or maliciously out to deceive.
Another of the "literati" on this site tried to define violence against Muslim women as a gender issue.

What is going on here?
Am I a misogynist are are there perhaps a bunch of misandrist in "women's studies" .

phoneyid
Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 21:25

ie "against Muslim women" by strangers on the street in Australia

thomasee73
Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 21:33

I for one refuse to take the issue of gender based violence seriously until global famine and military conflict have been eliminated. I think that those issues are far more important. 

phoneyid
Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 21:40

I agree with you thomasee73, but they don't care, the proof will again be in how they vote this September.
Besides, don't wory about it , violence simply as a Gender Issue is a furphy, the proof is in the fact that it's higher among same sex couple. Gay and Lesbian.
Coming from a violent household is the best predictor.

Google your heart out.

thomasee73
Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 21:42

...And cars. Cars kill more women accidentally than are murdered deliberately or negligently as a result of gender based violence. Why are you suppressing debate about the real causes of female mortality? Are you in the pay of the motor car industry? Or do you just hate men?  

Dr Dog
Posted Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 09:20

I must be missing something phoneyid. If the point of dicussion is violence against Muslim women how can that not be gendered?The very subject matter implies that women are receiving more, or different, violence than Muslim men.

Thomasee73, what a load of tripe, your refusal to acknowledge violence against women until global famine and international warfare has been controlled. All you are really saying is that you will never take the issue seriously.

That's your call man, but while there is a limit to your influence on international food distribution there is much you could do to ensure violence against women is seen as unacceptable in our communities.

Your scrambling and irrelevant foray into motor vehicle mortality is a fine example of the defensiveness of men on this issue. It is a weak and shallow argument that does nothing to make women safer or relationships better.

Acknowledging that violence can be gendered doesn't mean we have to ignore state sponsored violence or violence between same sex couples. The fact that on rare occasions the system designed to assist women at risk is misused is a poor reason to abandon the issue entirely.

Your high-minded theories about cars, global violence and legal support for women sound like nothing so much as defensiveness.

Dr Dog
Posted Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 09:20

I must be missing something phoneyid. If the point of dicussion is violence against Muslim women how can that not be gendered?The very subject matter implies that women are receiving more, or different, violence than Muslim men.

Thomasee73, what a load of tripe, your refusal to acknowledge violence against women until global famine and international warfare has been controlled. All you are really saying is that you will never take the issue seriously.

That's your call man, but while there is a limit to your influence on international food distribution there is much you could do to ensure violence against women is seen as unacceptable in our communities.

Your scrambling and irrelevant foray into motor vehicle mortality is a fine example of the defensiveness of men on this issue. It is a weak and shallow argument that does nothing to make women safer or relationships better.

Acknowledging that violence can be gendered doesn't mean we have to ignore state sponsored violence or violence between same sex couples. The fact that on rare occasions the system designed to assist women at risk is misused is a poor reason to abandon the issue entirely.

Your high-minded theories about cars, global violence and legal support for women sound like nothing so much as defensiveness.

Tim Macknay
Posted Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 11:39

Fortunately the police took the matter seriously enough to question Saatchi for 5 hours. He walked away with a caution - preumably Nigella didn't want to press charges.

phoneyid
Posted Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 12:14

Dr Dog You have observed what we all have observed; that
"the point of dicussion [on the other topic was] violence against Muslim women";
it is nothing but "gendered".
I explained on that topic why the violence by strangers in Australia may be directed to women as opposed to men. Something that any school kid can answer.
The arguments which have been put forward by that author are apparently an effort to expose THE ROOT of violence and the the implications or explications as with this topic being that the root is a problem with men and that our legal, political, and media systems facilitate it.
This author, as the other, and you have failed to consider the other variables which I highlighted as likely roots.
This author (V.P.) and the other will not address my criticisms because they have no case to make. Instead you and they will prefer to ignore the points I made or argue against a "straw man argument" by lumping me in with a "fruit cake" that claims they work for the motoring industry.

thomasee73
Posted Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 14:07

I've misoverestimated and fallen victim to Nathan Poe again. Consider me appropriately chastised. 

fightmumma
Posted Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 15:28

Some statistics for those unbelievers or overly-defensives:

http://www.adfvc.unsw.edu.au/PDF%20files/Statistics_final.pdf

There is no need to feel defensive unless maybe you are an abusive person who likes to feel power over someone else...these problems are for everyone to be involved in the message that violence in NOT OK no matter WHO is the perpetrator or victim...

phoneyid
Posted Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 20:27

fightmamma "violence in NOT OK no matter WHO is the perpetrator or victim.."

And where did I say it was ok.
But it's you who is defensive and like the authors I mention in denial too by failing to consider the variables I mentioned.
The little known or discussed fact that violence rates are higher among gay and lesbian couples is proof that it's not an issue of men vs women as those in denial like to portray it.

This link, from the same institution you cited claims in it's intro that there are no differences in rates among same sex couples compared to heterosexual couples.
http://www.adfvc.unsw.edu.au/specialcollectionssamesex.htm
But links lower down on page show that same sex couples may be less likely to report the violence.
That's just sticking to your institution.
There are other studies online to show the rates are higher among same sex couples.
In either case, it's proof that this is not a simple gender issue.

I also noted in the above link that there appears to be funding and interest in Australia, as with the other author's interest in Muslim violence, to highlight "homophobia" among Muslims, but no interest in highlighting it among Jews.

Getting a bit off topic...
There are however some that do study this and even pedophilia among Jews.
1/4 in Israel don't even want to share a street with a gay.
http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/23/world/la-fg-israel-intolerance-20110123
Plenty to read here.. http://exposemolesters.blogspot.com.au/

fightmumma
Posted Friday, June 21, 2013 - 08:29

phoneyid, just because a comment doesn't mention your comment has no connection to that person believing/not believing/agreeing/not agreeing with your view.  Numerous variable come into the picture and singling out one only is not usually a good idea except if you are doing a research project on it or applying for funding or putting forward a case for a new community program to be approved...I did one research project into domestic violence in rural settings and there are certain sets of factors/variables that are unique to rural/remote settings which are not so much found in urban settings..such as women being less likely to leave the abusive relationship and more stigma attached to reporting the abuse due to the close community ties...but aboriginality also comes into the frame with some remote areas having the extra variable of indigineity which brings in other factors such as dispossession, segregation and assimilation...usually reporting on one topic and researching it is due to a lack of knowledge onthat topic in academic spheres where this justifies a research project on it and thus your funding/scholarship...you have to pick a new angle on a topic in order for your research to be justified.  Gender-based differences usually affect results of surveys especially self-reported ones where the respondants' answers might reflect dominant gender-based ideas of how to behave or think or feel - probably male body image disturbance or eating disorders is a good example of this where men might not report/admit it due to norms of masculinity...or reversed violence where the female partner is abusive to the male partner due to masculinity and stigma...

jackal012
Posted Sunday, June 23, 2013 - 07:30

fightmumma & phoneyid.

Your both basically good people, you both make good, valid points that deserve to be considered, so why are you arguing, or fighting.

Intimidation is as old as humanity and women are as responsible as men for our failure as a society. It was the revelations of Pedophilia in the Catholic Faith that is now leading to the revelations amongst Jews so the point should be, we are finally cleaning up the mess across all fronts.

The point that should be considered is that it is power, the ability to influence that leads to corruption and other forms of evil in societies. Power of course comes in 3 basic Forms.

The Power of one, as in a bully or someone like Mandela in sth Africa. The Power of the many as in Religions, Nations etc. and the Power of wealth. It is wealth that is out of control at present because wealth is and has been used to corrupt the Media to control the Power within the many. Until we fix the power of Rabbi's, Bishops etc. to control the many the crime against children will continue.

 

So get on with it. Humans are evil., period, male or female. Women are just a bit more cunning about it because they lack the strength, so they will try and use another man against the man she is in conflict with.There are rich people who have taken note and employ the same tactics.

I believe the first spin doctor in Politics was a woman, I suppose its because women always came first in their English Classes. Who knows..

 

 

jackal012
Posted Sunday, June 23, 2013 - 07:40

Oh and as far as Nigella goes, the Husband was wrong, love has obviously departed a long time ago, he is old and decrapped looking and Nigella, well, fame has done her  some good.

So, what led to that bull, we don't know. A Jelous rage, who knows. He loks old and insecure she looks young and read to ????????.

We are as usual talking a lot of Crap about something we know little about.

Unless we know what happen during the minutes or hours leading up to that Photo, we just don't know the real truth, other then HE lost the plot.

 

And you can see why, he looks like a walking Corpse and love is a wondering.

 

 

 

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Rockjaw
Posted Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 02:07

And then there is this research paper from two North American Universities:-

 

http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2/V70%20version%20N3.pdf

phoneyid
Posted Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 21:47

Thanks for that last link Rockjaw;
The "symmetry" it reveals between genders in partner violence while highlighting the proliferation of slanted studies, supports, and "rehabilitation programs" based on the erroneous assumption that the fault lays within men, gives credence to my accusation that there are a bunch of misandrists in this field.

Too serious an issue to rely, as revealed, on a bunch of manipulative women peddling gossip.
If you're offended by that statement, I suggest you do better in laying the blame on men.

fightmumma
Posted Monday, July 1, 2013 - 10:12

actually phoneyid, the statistics show that the violence is by men and it is against both women and other men...so it isn't about blame but about working out what is going on in our society for these patterns of violence, victims, events, actions to be happening.  So men are victims as well, it is just that they will have violence committed against them by strangers, rather than by an intimate partner.  You simply do not hear of women doing the violence to the high prevalence of male perpetrators...and unfortunately men don't report the violence that a female partner does to them for reasons linked with gender as well...so gender issues still come into it.  If society celebrates masculinity as having this physical dominance, power and ability to "go to war" so to speak - then men are just as much victims of societal norms for gender as what women are.  And a society that ignores issues of gender-related violence, or gender norms/dominance impacting undesirable behaviours/attitudes (such as violence in sport, the street, violent means of resolving social problems like war/police brutality/coersive governments) will never resolve its problems because I reckon we have to own and acknowledge our problems before fixing them.  People who ignore or pretend away the issue are of no help or positive influence at all.