Is This Metro Boston Cover Image Sexist?

A lot of people found its coverage of a series of sexual assaults near BU lacking.

Tuesday’s Metro Boston cover attracted the ire of some who found the newspaper’s cover image and headline sexist, and it prompted an apology from the newspaper’s editors.

On Monday evening, BU police alerted people to three separate incidents of sexual assault near campus. In several of the incidents, a man approached a female from behind and attempted to lift up her skirt. Police said that a number of similar assaults had been reported over the weekend, suggesting they were the work of one serial creep.

Metro Boston devoted its Tuesday cover to the story. The image, though, seems to, uh, take the visual perspective of this skirt-obsessed groper. It shows a woman in a knee-length skirt and heels, her head and shoulders cropped out of the picture entirely. Accompanying the image is the headline “BU BABES BEWARE.” Critics argued the wording put the onus for preventing sexual assault on the skirt-clad ladies of Boston.

Metro Boston is part of the international Metro newspaper brand, a daily tabloid aimed at Boston’s commuters and distributed at most MBTA stations. On Tuesday morning, the paper started receiving tweets from readers who took issue with the headline.

Safe Hub Collective, an advocacy group that aims to make public spaces safer, wrote a blog post outlining its many issues with the cover. Among them was the way the paper depicted the headless “BU Babe.” The image dehumanized her, the post argued, and sexualized her in ways that encouraged the kinds of assaults the paper was describing. It continued:

…the image of a white, femme-presenting woman not only plays into stereotypes about who experiences sexual violence in public space, but it sends the message that only women who fit this mold should be (and are deserving of being) protected from this violence. We know that often the media and the public only care about sexual violence when young, white, cisgender women are the victims, and your cover reinforces that narrative.

By Tuesday afternoon, Metro Boston’s editors had posted an apology on their website and began tweeting a link to Twitter users who had complained.

In the apology, the paper wrote, “While our intention was to raise awareness of sexual assault and harassment within our community, it’s clear that that is not what was conveyed with our cover and headline.” The paper promised to try harder in future coverage to help create environments where victims of sexual assault felt they could come forward without fear of being blamed or judged.

In a comment provided by Safe Hub Collective, the group responds, “We appreciate the Metro’s quick response and sincere apology to its reader. However, the cover itself is indicative of how much work we still have to do when it comes to reporting on violence against women.”