Popular program Discovery features more commentators named ‘Mike’ than women, and more than 90% are white
According to a group of researchers, the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” a 34-year-old initiative showcasing the marine predator and the people who study it, is predominantly white. They published their findings with the Public Library of Science last month – and they’re not talking about sharks.
Not only did the lineup feature significantly more male experts and commentators (78%) than women – already a red flag in a field that currently has more than 50% women – but it actually included more male nominees”Mikethan women at all, the researchers found. Over 90% of the 229 experts who featured in the episodes they watched were white.
“When there are hundreds of interested people of color working in this field, [and] when my domain is more than half female, maybe it’s no longer an accident if they only feature white males“David Shiffman, a University of Arizona ecologist and co-author of the study, told The Washington Post on Monday.
Another diversity study co-authored by Shiffman found that while more than half of the members of the American Elasmobranch Society, an academic group dedicated to the study of sharks and other fish, were female, more 70% of its leadership positions were held by men. .
Not only are those who study sharks misrepresented on screen, according to the study, but the sharks themselves have been portrayed negatively. “Shark Week likely contributes to the collective public perception that sharks are bad,” the researchers complained, while acknowledging that “limited conservation messages appear in 53% of the episodes analyzed.” and that a previous study actually found that Shark Week viewers were more conservation-conscious than non-watchers.
The researchers also lamented that the sharks featured were insufficiently diverse, observing that Discovery focuses on the three shark species most associated with shark attacks (particularly referring to “white shark Carcharodon carcharias“instead of his better known nickname the”Great White shark”) and not the most threatened with extinction.
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Discovery declined to comment on an earlier version of the study published in 2021, pointing out that “[had] not yet passed scientific approvals.” Study co-author Lisa Whitenack says it has since been the subject of scientific scrutiny.
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