Website secretly censors all news about men for a month to make point about sexism

Business website Which-50 says it lost much of its audience and social presence after it removed all mentions of men as part of a month-long experiment.

For the entirety of July, Which-50 either “ignored” or “discounted” some of Australia’s most senior executives when they would otherwise have featured in articles. They included Amazon Australia boss Rocco Bräuniger and the new CEO of Domain, Jason Pellegrino.

The company also ignored Nine CEO Hugh Marks, Nine sales boss Michael Stephenson and outgoing Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood, despite the major media merger which was announced last week.

No photographs of men appeared on the site, and when the companies were written about, their male bosses’ names were excluded.

How Which-50 de-gendered its business coverage


According to a piece on its website, Which-50 continued to write the same stories it always had, interviewing both men and women. But despite the interviews it then deliberately excluded the men, by either referring to them as “spokespeople” or removing them completely from a story.

The post from editor in chief Andrew Birmingham, editor Tess Bennett and writer Joseph Brookes explained:

“For the month of July, we secretly erased men from Which-50.

“Our audience numbers dropped, our social presence evaporated, and we annoyed people who for years have helped us build our brand off the back of their hard work and expertise. They did nothing wrong — we were just jerks — but that’s discrimination for you.”

The team  said it experienced levels of “discomfort” during the month.

But in that time, it had doubled the number of women compared to the number typically mentioned.

Unfortunately, that number (45) wasn’t close to the 111 men written about in June.

“When men rang up to query why they had suddenly gone missing from the story (or, more commonly, when their female PR managers or agents rang on their behalf to ask) we simply responded by asking ‘How does it feel to have your contribution discounted on the basis of your gender?'”, the post said.

Bennett said Which-50 wanted to “do something different”

“This month would have been easier on us if we had co-opted the industry’s help and lined up 20 female executives to interview ahead of time. In the end, we rejected that approach because the worst kinds of discrimination happen in the dark, not in the light— although a surprising amount occurs in plain sight.”

Bennett told Mumbrella the exercise was a lot harder than first anticipated, highlighting the fact the company didn’t have a strong enough contact list of female executives.

“We wanted to do something different. There’s so much sameness around events and stories on ‘Women in X’ that it begins to feel like the situation for women at work isn’t going to improve any time soon. We were all of the view that men in gatekeeper positions who hold the resources are the problem and it would be interesting to treat men the way women are treated every day, by having their contributions diminished or overlooked on the basis of their gender,” she said.

“It’s really important to add that we tried not to change our reporting or the stories we covered. Instead we would simply erase them from the story by removing the names of men. The men we discriminated against in July were just unlucky.”

She explained with it, came some challenges: one being the contact list of female executives wasn’t very large and the other, was that a lot of women were less likely to share stories about themselves. Bennett also said the team felt uncomfortable excluding the names of men they had interviewed.

“The women we reached out to were also less likely than men to call us back or reply quickly. Improving those relationships is something we are going to continue to work on,” she said.

At the same time, Birmingham recruited his brother, John Birmingham, author and Fairfax columnist, to complete a column for the end of the month. The column, ‘Men, sucking’ aimed to address some of the issues women in different industries faced.

“There was a lot of women who contacted via DMs and private messages and some by email, with just horrific stories to tell,” Birmingham explained.

“I wouldn’t say it was eye-opening, because men really are dicks, but when you get your face rubbed in it for two days straight, you begin to understand what it must be like for women who get their face rubbed in it every day of their lives.

“The thing that really struck me was – as bad as the reported stories were – the stuff we didn’t put in the site was much much worse. Violence…just really awful stuff.”

The experiment concludes on Wednesday.


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