New feature: Million Women Rise – Reflections

Around 5,000 women gathered from across the UK and marched through central London. Although they received no mainstream media attention, the march and rally have since become the subject of much discussion. Louise Livesey talks to some of the people involved…

A rising of 5,000 women may seem like an eminently newsworthy issue, and you’d assume it would get some coverage.

But thousands of women, many with banners and placards, some playing in bands or drumming groups, who marched through central London in the rain and the cold on 8 March to make a call for an end to violence against women, got none of it. The press stayed away.

Or rather they didn’t – there wasn’t a step of the march (it felt like) without a photographer running alongside and taking pictures. But none of them ended up in the national press. Nor was a word written or spoken about Million Women Rise in the mainstream media.

Around the same time, the press managed to cover 5,000 protestors at Aldermaston, a threatened protest outside the new Banana Republic store, organised by War on Want, two men scaling a crane to protest in favour of a referendum on the EU, five men climbing onto the roof of the Palace of Westminster to protest against a third runway at Heathrow and 250 pig farmers protesting about low meat prices. Spot something, well, unequal about this?

What was it about MWR that meant it didn’t get coverage? Was it too small (apparently not, it’s a lot bigger than some of the protests that did merit media attention)? Was it too remote (I assume Trafalgar Square isn’t too far from journalists’ offices)? Was it too frivolous, or too specific an interest (but I’d argue women’s rights are rather less niche than pig farming)? Was it just too, well, un-masculine? Would we have fared better if we’d scaled some building or phallic outcrop. Probably. As a journalist said to me the other day: “If it isn’t sexy and it isn’t weird then it isn’t newsworthy.”

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