Opinion: Jeremy Clarkson is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to press misogyny

by Alice Watkins 

Last week, Harry and Meghan’s Netflix documentary spoke personally of how relentless, abusive, and sometimes illegal the press can be – to a global audience.

In the series, Meghan candidly discussed feeling suicidal because of press abuse. 

Despite this, over the weekend, in his column for The Sun, Jeremy Clarkson described hating Meghan ‘on a cellular level.’

This not only followed Meghan speaking publicly about the impact on her mental health but it also came after the UN’s 16 days of activism against Gender based violence last month.

The responsibility for publication of Clarkson’s anti-woman propaganda lies with The Sun’s editors. Editor-in-Chief Victoria Newton and Managing Editor Victoria Watson are both female. Even the newspaper’s publisher, News UK, has a female CEO, Rebekah Brooks. Brooks is a highly controversial figure and has been widely criticised for her unethical journalism. 

It’s more than disappointing. 

This is the same newspaper which published an article on a possible suicide attempt by Caroline Flack in 2018, before pursuing relentlessly intrusive coverage before her death in 2020 – in the knowledge she was vulnerable and struggling with her mental health. 

And this is also the same newspaper which published a perverse and obsessive hourly live blog on Meghan Markle. 

This weekend, no one at the Sun stopped the publication of this ‘opinion’ piece. This was allowed to happen because the press is not properly regulated. 

IPSO has already received 6,000 complaints over Jeremy Clarkson’s article. 

But from their past record, we can’t rely on IPSO to deliver action. 

IPSO, the so-called independent complaints handler, claims to enforce an editors code of practice. But the code is not fit for purpose. 

Earlier this year, Hacked Off analysis revealed that IPSO has never upheld a complaint of sexism. In eight years the body has never sanctioned a newspaper for either sexist or racist coverage. 

The comments have already drawn widespread condemnation, with many calling out Jeremy Clarkson on Twitter, including London Mayor Sadiq Khan. 

‘As Jeremy Clarkson should well know – words have consequences.

The words in his piece are no joke – they’re dangerous and inexcusable. We are in an epidemic of violence against women and girls and men with powerful voices must do better than this’ 

But this is bigger than Jeremy Clarkson. And the buck doesn’t stop with him.

His words are shocking in nature, but also nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s not good enough to just ignore or condemn Clarkson, the rabid barking dog in the corner. 

Because these messages we are sold are dangerous, they don’t just wash over us, they have an impact. Misogyny in the press is persistent and not contained to opinion columns. 

And the reporting of violence against women in the press remains an area urgently in need of improvement. 

In 2019, feminist group Level UP approached IPSO with a set of standards that the press should follow when reporting incidents of fatal domestic violence. 

But the Editors Code – the set of standards which IPSO claims to enforce – actually rejected these proposed reforms. IPSO said that they would be adopted as guidelines instead. But these are not enforceable and as a result many newspapers continue to misreport on cases of domestic abuse.

There have been many attempts to improve reporting of matters affecting women and girls, including Hacked Off backed campaigns to change the Code in the areas of sexualising women in public life and up skirting paparazzi pictures.

ALL of these proposals have been rejected by the predominantly white, male editors and newspaper executives which control them.

IPSO does not adequately protect vulnerable women, high profile or otherwise from press abuse. And the impact of this kind of unethical press coverage is felt by women and girls every day. 

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1 Comment

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Colin Archerreply
December 21, 2022 at 2:43 pm

Surely there should be calls for Clarkson to resign? I don’t see a campaign…

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