It’s not difficult to imagine why the BBC wasn’t initially motivated to investigate further: over 20 million people viewed the interview and we’re still talking about it today. And Princess Diana is hardly the only woman whose suffering or sexuality have been manipulated by the press; members of the media have long –and disgracefully–exploited female interview subjects in order to drive up viewership, readership and clicks. But now, social media gives women in the public eye– and the rest of us — powerful weapons to fight back that simply weren’t available in Diana’s day. We must continue to deploy them while calling out this misogynistic behavior for what it is: exploitation.
This media coverage was surely devastating for all of these women — and, no doubt, for plenty of others who are cast into the spotlight, whether or not they seek fame.
Social media now offers women the option to tell their stories in their own words and share them publicly, without dealing with the at times misogynistic mainstream media. Prince William did this in his video response. Lewinsky did this with her TED Talk.
And as Drake University professor Renee Ann Cramer explains in her book “Pregnant with the Stars: Watching and Wanting the Celebrity Bump,” while celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lopez, who are hunted by paparazzi, used to sell images of their newborns to the press (and donate the money to charity) to control the environment in which they were taken and diminish demand for them, now celebrities like Kim Kardashian post pictures of their babies on social media on their own terms. Other women who are treated unfairly by the press should take full advantage of this strategy.
But social media gives the rest of us platforms to speak out, too — and it’s time for us all to start using them for good.
While the media may help create demand for exploitative content in the first place by sometimes ginning up the scandals it then covers, the system still wouldn’t work if the public didn’t tune in and log on. So, in a way, we’re all complicit when we do. It’s up to all of us to use our accounts to tell these outlets to stop. We should collectively express our outrage at the ways too many in the media help set women up to be publicly pilloried — and we should keep calling it out every time we see it.
Princess Diana didn’t live long enough to claim any advantage or control over her own story on social media. Her sons’ have provided a good example of how to do this. The rest of us should follow their lead and use our accounts to let it be known that content exploiting women isn’t something we like.