Female journalists expected to humiliate themselves for column inches

UPDATE: As Steph points out, Jill Parkin has been responsible for articles like this one about schools being ‘feminised’. I also found this, erm, interesting Mail column headlined “Why does food drive so many women insane?” and this anti-fat column. This is totally my fault for not at least Googling before I wrote the post. So, yes, not feeling particularly sorry for her right now, but I’m leaving it up as I think she is right in drawing attention to this trend.

Jill Parkin is an experienced freelance journalist, who has identified a trend in female journalists increasingly being asked to write self-deprecating, humiliating first-person columns, particularly about their bodies and eating.

In the media supplement of today’s Guardian, Parkin says:

The soul-baring confessional has become the biggest market in town for women writers. It’s cruelly exposing and it eats away at your professionalism, but right now it’s just about the best-paid thing there is because the appetite for fem-humiliation among commissioning editors is insatiable.

What finally pushed her over the edge and prompted writing this piece – and for her to break the golden rule of freelance journalism, never turn down a commission?

It’s a truism that we freelancers cannot say “no” because we may not be asked again, yet in the last year or so I have had to say no several times: to a confessional piece on sexual differences between husbands and wives, to sending my 12-year-old out to buy alcohol and to being a life model for an artist, among others.

But one recent request stands out. Would I go undercover and try to get on the next series of How to Look Good Naked? The email left me speechless for a while. It’s the sort of trash I feel polluted by watching, let alone taking part in. The initial application form for the show demands pictures of you from front, side and rear in your underwear. I have never made great claims for the seriousness of my patch of the journalism trade, but it’s moral high ground compared to this.

How does this fit in to the already existing trend within opinion-style journalism, that women columnists are already scarce and tend towards being relegated to ‘softer’ topics?

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