Cars, Babes and Water

Date: January 1, 1970
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This is a pictorial story of naked women washing cars with a number to which readers can send SMS messages with comments on the pictures.

The article may be used in training with regards to media ethics in the following ways:
1)      Demonstrate the media’s fixation with women as sex objects
2)      The images show how the media exploits women and degrades their humanity and positive roles in society, reducing them, in this case, to faceless body parts.
3)      To show how media reinforces gender stereotypes.
Trainer’s notes
Images used by the media should follow ethical principles of journalism by providing a context and background to justify the use of the selected pictures. The pictures of the women demonstrate the exploitation of women in a manner that objectifies and demeans their humanity. These pictures do not meet the basic journalistic requirement that graphics/pictures and indeed headlines should not oversimplify or report issues, particularly with regards to gender, out of context. 
Image: Images used in media should not stereotype, demean or objectify on the basis of gender. The image used in this paper is a blatant stereotype and violates expected standards and practices of journalism. In this picture this comes out in the following ways:
(a)  Women are primarily sex objects;
(b)  Lack of context and background an attempt to make such images natural   
Sources and Context: These images have neither context nor background. It is just a blatant example of media’s fixation with women as sexual objects. Why would women necessarily have to be naked in order to wash cars? Would the paper prominently display the same if it were men? Even the most cursory of glances shows that this is not about cars or water. A reader cannot even identify what types of cars are in the pictures. Research has shown that male images and sources dominate the mainstream media compared to those of women but ironically, in this rare case where women dominate in terms of numbers, a reader cannot even see their faces. This is indeed a lost opportunity for media to do the correct thing: give more space to women and cover them in their diversity and in the many positive roles they have in society.
Discussion Questions:
1)      What is your impression of the image in relation to media ethics?
2)      Would the paper have carried the same picture with men in the position of women? Postulate why? (Whether the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no’)
3)      What stereotypes are carried in the image?
Training Exercises:
1) Using the image, ask the participants to do the following (assumption: car washing and owning car washes is considered a male occupation)
 a) Come up with a story idea that can change this story into one that challenges gender stereotypes
b) What picture would you use to accompany the story? Describe the picture.
c) What would be the headline of the story?
2) Simulate a media house diary session with the participants in which you are the news editor. Ask participants to come up with story ideas on roles played by women and men that challenge traditionally known gender roles of the two sexes. Discuss the story ideas with them and ask them to go out and find these stories and write them.
3) Do a simulation exercise on how to raise a complaint with the local Complaints Council. This is a good exercise for media activists.
a) Letter/Opinion piece to the editor – write a letter of protest/ complaint to the editor of the paper. Outline the reasons why you  are making the complaint and highlight the journalistic ethics that you think the pictures have violated. In your conclusion stat what actions you hope the paper can take to address this issue or ensure it does not happen again
b) Formal protest to Complaints Council – find the Complaints Code of Ethics from your country. If it does not exist find one from any country. Use the complaints procedures as outlined in the Code of Ethics. State what other supporting activities you would undertake to mobilize public opinion.
Links to other training resources:
Picture Our Lives, Gender and Images in Southern Africa, Chapter three: Sex, gender and stereotypes; Gender in Media Training: A Southern African Tool Kit.

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