Firstly, I got a reply from the editor of The Hawick Paper, which has satiated my anger (for now). They said my points have “provided plenty of food for thought going forward” and I do hope that it sparked some positive conversations.
If you’ve seen my video, Sixty Three Plastic Bottles and One Aluminium Can, you’ll know I’m really good at counting (well, at least up to 64…), and last Friday, when the latest edition of The Hawick Paper arrived in my inbox, I decided to have some fun and start counting.
I counted the people in the photos, excluding adverts, and split them; generally making assumptions on people’s gender based on these images and their names in the captions. Some people feature in multiple photographs, and I’ve counted them each time they’re featured. This makes a considerable difference when there’s a feature on Common-Riding based activities, as the Cornet and Acting Father (both men) are shown repeatedly in photos of recent ceremonies.
Of course, we should not make assumptions about individuals, but can I make an exception for this, to illustrate a point that still stands when broad (but acknowledged) assumptions are made? I hope so. I don’t wish to upset anything but the patriarchy here. These numbers are likely to be skewed by how I view gender in photographs and names of others, and I feel like a disclaimer is required. There’s also the possibility that I’ve missed non-binary and trans people out.
In a very fluffy non-scientific way, I’m pretty sure if this data were collected properly, and the subjects of all the photos contacted and surveyed, that the numbers would at least mostly look the same.
Here are my (probably biased, non-scientific) results:
Friday the 18th of September 2020
‘Probably Male’: 68
‘Probably Female’: 31
That’s 69% male to 31% female.
Friday the 25th
‘Probably Male’: 47
‘Probably Female’: 10
That’s 82% male to 18% female.
I don’t think this is simply saying something about The Hawick Paper ( I do generally think they do a pretty good job). Of course, they make decisions on what to feature, but there must be a correlation with the number of actual opportunities that women and girls have to be visible in local media. One of the most obvious sections to show disparity is in sport. When I see my former classmate, Stuart Hogg is featured on an almost weekly basis, I wonder how closely the local sports section reflects and is influenced by a national and international bias towards men’s sport.
Maybe I’ll put a note in my diary to count again in a couple of months and see if anything’s changed.
It’s also very important to note that in all of the photographs I counted, not one of them appeared to feature anybody that’s not white. While my intention is to be anti-racist, I’ve not quite worked out how to write about it within the context of this blog yet, so in the meantime, I’ll leave you with this short video on ITV’s website which features three Borderers talking about their experiences of growing up here: https://www.itv.com/news/border/2020-07-20/what-its-like-to-grow-up-as-an-ethnic-minority-in-the-borders