On 13 June Frank’s Editor-in-Chief Melanie Sykes was a panellist at Misogyny In The Press, an event at the Houses of Parliament hosted by Hacked Off in partnership with the Fawcett Society.

As one of the event speakers and a Hacked Off ambassador, Melanie was asked to write a personal statement before the day, that was read by MPs and other campaigners and attendees. These included Caroline Noakes MP and representatives from White Ribbon, Level Up and Impress.

Here is the piece in full, describing the harassment and misogyny she has experienced. She shares more of this in her memoir, Illuminated.

The misogyny directed at me through the tabloids, specifically The Sun newspaper, has spanned 26 years.

I was named ‘Maneater Mel’ at the start. They used photographs of me with men; it didn’t matter who, to write them up as lovers and told their readers that I was only interested in other people’s money and fame when all I had ever demonstrated was my independence.

They have hassled me throughout my pregnancies with photographers following on foot and in cars, much to my distress. Once my child was born, they waited outside our home and followed us.

Once I decided to end my unhappy marriage, they published that I was divorcing my husband because he didn’t earn enough money, even though I was the breadwinner and was getting out of a situation that was not good for me.

These positive messages to women were nowhere to be seen. And before the ink was dry on my divorce papers, the slut shaming returned and the ‘money-hungry’ slur was back.

They have been relentlessly pursuing me and photographing my children every day of their young lives for their financial gain, which has hurt them and me. It has also impacted my ability to earn, which affects my security and my children all whilst their business booms.

Since 1997, when I became known in the country, I have been stalked and hacked, and my liberty removed, impacting every aspect of my life.

My new book Illuminated is about my late diagnosis of Autism and ADHD and the realisation of how and why I have been as I am, and to help others with similar late diagnoses. It is also about the abuse I have received from the British press and how they have hurt me and my family.

I have been accused of writing about men to sell my book, even when I purposely avoided doing mainstream press to promote it.

I did agree to a Guardian interview with a female journalist who had read my book and wanted to talk to me about the writing process and the positive messages to women my book contains.

When it was published the next day, none of the above messaging was mentioned; moreover, the journalist messaged me on social media to tell me she was sorry; the article had been taken from her, edited within an inch of its life and slapped with a clickbait headline about how I had left TV because of a man. It was sensational and wrong.

They get women journalists as bait to get a quote which, in their eyes, validates the printing of the ‘story’ or, worse, they get women writers to do their dirty work for them.

They bill me as both perpetrator and victim, but they cannot have it both ways, and of course, neither are positive and have no reflection on me and my empowerment.

I haven’t done any mainstream coverage for my book and declined all. Yet, they use me to sell their papers, picking out and talking about the text they can bend to their narrative when in fact, my book is a manifesto for a healthy life of a woman, specifically neurodivergent women’s lives.

The Sun even poked an ex-boyfriend of mine recently, giving him all the bits about him out of context from my book, which incited him to post online, by all accounts, a furious video where I was being ‘roasted’ and called a bad mother.

He has never met my children or seen me be a mother and knows nothing of my life.

He ended up being used, whilst exposing his own and, may I say, ‘classic’ misogyny. Let’s use the bad mother narrative. A total yawn but highly damaging.

My book is full of hope, positivity and calls to action for women and men, and they know it, yet the tabloid’s dismissal of that is vindictive and calculated in the extreme.

It has to stop. These ideas directly impact the health of all women’s lives. Only poisoned minds keep the misogynistic narrative going and keep many women oppressed. The tabloids must be policed in their methods and motives before they injure society further.

The personal abuse and coercive controlling methods used by these cooperations cumulated in my breakdown.

I have complex PTSD from the show business industry itself, the Sun, and other tabloids’ treatment of me, which has at worst left me locked in my home with agoraphobia, fear and shame, and not wanting to exist anymore.

The abuse inflicted on me started in my twenties and is still prevalent in my fifties.

The British press has blood on their hands, as we all know; Princess Diana, Amy Winehouse, Caroline Flack and Paula Yates, to name a few of their victims, and they are just the famous ones. Independent, talented, beautiful, loving, and powerful women are bullied and abused until their deaths.

Now healing, my mission is to abolish misogyny in all its subtle and dangerous forms and stop this constant woman bashing by the British tabloids, which feed directly into the country and put women’s lives at risk.

The Sun’s mission to spew misogyny continues to affect more than half the country’s population, leaving women’s health and society in grave danger.‌

Melanie’s book ‘Illuminated – Autism and all the Things I’ve Left Unsaid’ is published by Harper North. Click here to buy it.

Melanie Sykes

To find out about the work of Hacked Off click here and follow them on Instagram.


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