Low Standards: The 15 most outrageously sexist photo captions from the Standard, a Hong Kong newspaper

We’ve recently noticed that the Standard – the daily English newspaper with the largest circulation in Hong Kong – has a habit of featuring tasteless photos of often scantily-clad (or unclad) women accompanied by captions dripping with unabashed disdain for females in their “Potshot” section. With a new pick displayed every day online and in print (distributed for free all over Hong Kong), offensive photos and captions appear at an alarming frequency. Though the majority are fairly innocuous and unrelated to women’s bodies, we’d say that at least a tenth are simply disgusting (we explain how to see for yourself at the end).

This one didn’t even make the cut for our list

Priding itself on “editorial quality, integrity and fairness”, the Standard can’t really be said to be upholding any of those principles with this crap. The captions read like they’re written by middle-aged perverted men for an audience of middle-aged perverted men, and any reader who doesn’t fit those descriptions is undoubtedly left feeling alienated and uncomfortable. It’s as if the Standard hadn’t even considered the fact that they might have a female readership.

Many of the photos featured here depict events and scenes that are already sexist without the help of captions. We are not even going to try to discuss those issues, nut we will address the fact that the Standard has chosen to gleefully feature the photos, perpetuating the terrible representation of women in the media, and then further amplifying the problem by adding their own bonus, degrading commentary.

We went through hundreds of photos, and we’ve picked the 15 worst ones. It wasn’t easy.

#15: “A bottom pincher, perhaps?” 

When we see something we like, we too do not hesitate to pinch it.

#14: “If you know about being in shape for golf you can’t miss her” 

“I just won the US Women’s Open at 24 years old.” “You’re sure attractive!”

#13: “Feel-good features on this b” 

Yes. She’s probably devastated by the state of her nails.

#12: “Going for bust, so to speak” 

Puns about breasts! Hilarious!

#11: “Measuring abreast of some like-minded sisters” 

More breast puns! So funny! Women’s Equality Day… Even funnier!

#10: “Using your hands in football is foul play” 

Look! Boobs! And god forbid that a woman displaying such behaviour would have a man at home.

#9: “They only respond to certain whistles” 

Please, tell us the secret whistle that makes girls run our way!

#8: “She’s appearing under false colours because her outfit is more than boots and a hat” 

By “some lowlifes” do they mean “the writer of this caption”?

#7: “Perhaps retaining just the fancy fur coat” 

They are actually saying they would like to see that fully-clothed woman in nothing but her fur coat.

#6: “By Islamic standards this is […] raw” 

I’m sorry, did she tell you she was Muslim?

#5: “Hire a couple of model bodies” 

See? It’s totally okay to objectify women if we acknowledge that objectification is happening! And if you like video games, you’re a loser. But, there’s a way out: you can be more than just a loser if you “play with long-limbed lovelies”!

#4: “Wiggling her buttocks provactively” 

The Standard is right. This woman probably has no human personality traits nor any skills beyond looking good for others.

#3: “A pure sort of pole dancing” 

If you think a photo cannot possibly have sexual undertones, you need to try harder! Indigenous Chinese people performing a traditional ceremony? Compare it to pole dancing! Genius!

#2: “Yum yum.” 

 Ew. You can almost hear the writer lick their lips in delight.

#1: “Feel free to pop over to her place if you like the look from the back.” 

This is just plain… rapey.

The Standard has not replied to our requests for comment.

It doesn’t take a PhD in sociology to appreciate the photos’ and captions’ sleaze factor, but we decided to ask the professional opinion of someone who had one anyway. After being shown some of the photos, HKU Assistant Professor of Sociology Denise Tang said that they  “are consistent with the media message that women’s bodies are continuously sexualised regardless of the actual product or services that companies are trying to market”. As for the “plain sexist and offensive” captions, she said she didn’t “even know where to begin”. That’s exactly how we felt when we were compiling this list!

Puja Kapai, an associate professor at HKU who studies media representation of gender stereotypes, said that these captions “reveal just how desensitised everyone, including journalists and consumers of media, have become to gender stereotypes”, while giving no regard to “how it continues to fuel and perpetuate sexism and unhealthy gender stereotypes”. In fact, she says that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recently found that Hong Kong has a lot of work to do in promoting healthy body images among girls and women, with a lack of regulation of stereotypes in the media.

​The Standard says their goal is to “to treat our readers and the people and institutions we cover openly and with respect”. We think they’ve insulted just about everyone involved with these images and captions.

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