All deaths are equal but some are more equal than others
There is no doubt there are many brave women in Iran and their courage during the recent civil unrest has been, quite properly, highlighted by the media. However, you might think that the troubles in Iran are exclusively about women and the men are standing by passively. That, I believe, is the intention of some journalists covering the civil unrest in Iran. However, as always, hard data presents a very different picture and it is men and boys who are at the receiving end of most extrajudicial violence.
Take a recent report from the BBC online news website that you can find here. It was almost exclusively the stories of women and girls who had been killed that were placed in theforeground. If you look at the relative area in the article devoted to photographs of women and men the ratio was 11:1 in favour of killed women (please excuse the grim nature of this statistic). However, the small print in the text reveals a different statistic. According to Iran Human Rights, as of 29th November there had been 448 deaths during the civil unrest, of which 29 were women and 60 were children. You can do the maths as well as me but that looks like 359 men and 29 women killed or approximately 12 men for every one women – almost the exact opposite of picture painted by the BBC’s choice of images. This is a familiar tactic on the BBC website. It is said that pictures do a lot of the heavy lifting and can be used to create an impression that is at variance with the actual data. See post pictures do the heavy lifting from April 2021 or Misleading use of images: the BBC again of September 2021.
I am not trying to suggest that the deaths of these women and girls were not tragic, but were they really more tragic than the men and boys who died and who remain mostly faceless and nameless?
A similar pattern emerged with incarceration of children during the protests. The impression given by the media was that is was mostly young girls bearing the brunt of the oppression. Once again, statistics revealed a different story. Data collected by human rights activists in Iran showed that about 18000 individual have been detained so far but the identity has only been verified in 3234 cases. Of those cases, 110 were identified as children and teenagers. Of that 110, 36 are girls and 74 boys. It appears to be boys baring the brunt of the tyranny, not as the media would have you believe – girls.
This misreporting falls into the framework of gamma bias in which male privilege is amplified and male victimhood is minimised. In particular, the victimhood of men is minimised by male victims remaining faceless and anonymous while female victims are portrayed as the personalities with name. The BBC and NGOs should do better.