TAIPEI - Sexism is awful, but political sexism is worse.
A local pan-green newspaper recently published an online post with a headline demeaning the physical characteristics of a female news anchor.
The well-known former news anchor and veteran journalist Vicky Yen-Chiu Lee, generally considered to be a pan-blue supporter, stepped into fray.
Lee responded by lamenting that "for female anchors, only bra size matters," which not only did not bring any form of conciliatory statement from the paper, but instead an additional misogynistic rebuke toward Lee. Lee plans to sue the media group that owns it.
What is particularly disturbing and disheartening for Taiwan's journalistic culture and its civil society at large is what transpired after the initial post was published by the paper, namely, nothing.
Journalism Is Hardly a Spectator Sport, Or Is It?
This week, aside from the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation and the Taiwan chapter of the World Association of Women Journalists and Writers, for which Lee once served as international president, no major civil society organisation such as the well-known Awakening Foundation or the Garden of Hope Foundation, much less a news media company spoke out against the demeaning objectification of Lee.
The Evaporation of Integrity
The deafening silence of organisations which pride themselves on journalistic integrity, such as the Association of Taiwan Journalists, reminds us that we are permeated by politics.
Politics does not always and automatically need to be construed as disagreeable, but when it warps important issues such as basic human rights and the respect for all genders and transforms them into non-issues when much is at stake, it debases common values and often privileges an established order.
Societal Values Lost In a Political Maelstrom
Unfortunately, what has transpired is that the issues of empowering women, objective journalism and social responsibility have been subsumed to the greater tit-for-tat of "pan-green" versus "pan-blue" ideological whims.
In this equation, as local female author Huang Chih-hsien correctly deems, "the so-called woman's empowerment, the objectification of women, are the drops of blood used in the struggle against others."
In the past year, similar sexist remarks were made without criticism from media groups of the opposite political aisle, as illustrated in incidents against Patty Tsai and Chen Yi-chen in the 2014 9-in-1 Elections.
While an image of Tsai was superimposed onto a pornographic magazine cover, Chen suffered a similar fate when an image of her face was placed onto a figure wearing a bikini. Just like in the episode with Lee, none of the purported groups that aim to raise consciousness on women's issues did anything.
These incidents, while painting an incomplete picture of the state of sexism in the news media of Taiwan, reveal that double standards exist and that it is time to step in to address these wrongs.
This is certainly not to suggest that sexism is rooted to the colour of one's political spectrum. But it certainly bears noting that the detection, criticism and correction of these defaming and hurtful comments must be blind to one's political ideology.
Just as this nation needs no two standards of justice before the law, it points for the need for journalistic integrity that is the standard bearer across all news agencies.