NEWS31 May 2019

Research highlights media’s lack of representation of queer women

News Trends UK

UK – Over nine in 10 women who define as queer (lesbian, bisexual or otherwise non-straight) feel that they are negatively stereotyped in the media, research from media agency UM has found.

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The findings were presented at the launch of #MRSpride, the LGBTQ+ network established by the Market Research Society.

In the survey of 500 queer women, 86% believe they still dont have enough visibility in public life and culture and 92% believe there is prejudice against them in society generally.

When asked about the reasons for this lack of visibility, the majority ( 80%) agreed that it is due to the perceived risk of not appealing to the mass market, and 61% felt it was because queer women make people uncomfortable.

The most pervasive media stereotypes identified in the research are:

  • in every queer couple, one has to be the man ( 82%)
  • they always have short hair ( 75%)
  • they are butch and manly ( 74%)

These negative stereotypes are mainly created and maintained by films (according to 51% of respondents), TV programmes ( 50%) and celebrity culture ( 40%).

The majority of respondents would like to see greater visibility of their community on TV ( 85%), in movies and in the government (both 81%), while 70% wish to see more visibility in advertising. Eight out of 10 ( 82%) said they might have come out sooner if brands had shown people like them in adverts when they were younger. Additionally, one in five women surveyed also said they wouldnt be likely to self-define as a lesbian, suggesting stigma around the term.

Michael Brown, head of insight at UM, said: "While prejudice towards the LGBTQ+ community sometimes shows signs of abating, theres a worrying amount of stigma that remains towards queer women in particular. Advertisers have a huge part to play in defining identity norms, and as long as these enduring toxic representations continue, large segments in society are being alienated.

"Perhaps even worse than the stigma is that widespread lack of visibility of queer women in public life. Given that our research last year found that more than a quarter of UK adults identify as something other than completely heterosexual according to the Kinsey Scale – this is far too big a community to sweep under the carpet."

The survey of nearly 500 women who define as queer (lesbian, bisexual or otherwise non-straight) was carried out by media agency UM as part of UK by UM, its research on stereotyping in media and advertising. The survey was targeted to users of queer female dating and social app HER.

Elsewhere at the #MRSPride event, which was held at IPG Mediabrands and sponsored by YouGov, researchers and marketers discussed the importance of inclusive research and accurate data.