StopBildSexism is a campaign, which is fighting for the abolition of the “Bild girl”, a series of scantily clad women published in the daily German tabloid “Bild”. Below an interview with co-organiser Penelope Kemekenidou about her personal motivation to start the campaign, her team’s source of inspiration and her view on whether having a female editor-in-chief at Bild makes her job as a campaigner easier or more difficult.
What is StopBildSexism? What are you fighting for?
Our campaign started as a sister campaign of No more page 3 – an initiative against the naked “girls” in the British tabloid “Sun”. Our campaign, in turn, is directed at the “Bild” newspaper. The “Bild girl” and the abolition of the associated images are of a symbolic character: Our objective is notcensorship, but to raise awareness that what is really being sold here is not sex, but sexism! It is not about sex when only young, white women, who correspond to common beauty ideals are objectified: Bild newspaper sells sexism by presenting men as doers and women as objects – a theme recurrent throughout the newspaper, also beyond the “Bild Girl”.
What triggered your decision to launch the campaign? Who inspired you?
I already mentioned “NoMorePage 3” as a main trigger. However, I feel that I must also add that we frequently underestimate the power of the media and the role it plays in the formation of public opinion. In fact, role models and power structures reproduced by the media on a daily basis contribute to their existence and reinforcement. In the context of sexism, types of media such as “Bild” make women believe that they are passive objectives and that their bodies are open to the world to be judged. Studies prove that sexist images influence women’s self-image in a negative way and foster violence against women.
We want to raise awareness about this situation with our campaign; Bild’s antiquated portrayal of men and women deserves no place in modern society, even if the editor-in-chief of Bild, Tanit Koch, claims that society’s image of men and women is indeed modern.
Why are you specifically targeting “Bild”? After all, there are many other media in Germany which embrace sexism?
“Bild” is the newspaper with the highest circulation in Europe, it is therefore interesting for us for two reasons: Firstly, it can actually shape society. Secondly, it also has a symbolical value – if we manage to influence this medium, we can also influence other types of media.
You already mentioned that Tanit Koch became “Bild”’s first editor-in-chief in January 2016. Has this made your work easier or more difficult?
Initially it appears more difficult to challenge a woman, but our work did not actually change. Persons belonging to an oppressed group have always been used to justify oppression. If someone with the same gender, the same skin colour or religion works against a group being oppressed because of these very characteristics, the oppression quickly takes on the character of an “opinion” rather than being what it really is. In our specific case we can say that both women and men can be sexist! We are fair enough to treat Ms Koch the same way we treated her predecessor, Kai Diekmann.
Apart from “No more page 3”, are there similar campaigns against sexism in tabloids in other European countries?
There are more and more great campaigns against sexism in the media! We do not know about a specific campaign targeting tabloids alone, but we would be delighted to find out!
Activists are often confronted with trolls and haters. How do you deal with this?
We are a team of 20 people and are almost in constant contact, specifically our social media team. It is very difficult, above all in the beginning, to deal with trolls and haters. But you quickly realise when it makes no sense to get involved emotionally. If there is something specific, we post it in our internal group and support each other. Then it can happen that a troll becomes a joke and rather makes for our amusement than anything else!
“No more page 3” succeeded in 2015 and the Sun dropped the feature. How long will it take for “Bild”?
Well, of course this mainly depends on Ms Koch. From our side we have planned a lot of activities for 2016 and are confident that there will be some developments!