Spain's Princess Letizia: royal, but not immune to sexism in media

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Princess Letizia is a sharp and articulate woman, but the media  commented voraciously on her appearance. Columnists objectified  Letizia by focusing on her body and face, rather than her words. 

One of the harshest critiques was by Época magazine in a special report about what was "wrong" (or right) about her appearance.

“According to sources close to her, she is too bossy,” the magazine observed about the princess. “She is looking increasingly botox-ridden.”

The magazine also analyzed her high heels, saying that she was trying to somehow 'reduce the big distance between herself and the Prince' by wearing high heels that were “too loose, coarse and excessively striking”. It's unclear whether Ortiz would have escaped the magazine's criticism by wearing shorter, duller and less eye-catching heels. 

Tabloids were constantly writing stories on the princess' “bad taste”. Her appearance was criticized at times because she was wearing expensive brands, and at other times for wearing clothes that seemed too cheap. Época magazine dubbed her an “old fogey” for wearing "too vulgar and coarse purses in poor quality and grandma style." 

Vanitatis, an online newspaper, said Spanish people didn’t accept her because she was an “excessively thin and plebeian woman.”  The princess’ thinness was apparently an issue of international concern. In Denmark, some newspapers ridiculed her skinny figure, calling her a “matchstick” (skinny body and big head).

Even the royal family's reporters were critical. Royal family reporter Jaime Peñafiel, well-known for his dislike for Ortiz, said about her: “Letizia is a very smart woman ... She wants to be the best in every aspect of her life: the most educated, the most stylish. All her energy is consumed on that, that’s why she is so thin. She needs to be astute and humble. No one can stand her.” 

A new type of royal, undermined by age-old sexism

Ortiz is not an average woman. She represents an archaic monarchy, but she is unlike most other members of the royal family. Before getting engaged to the Prince, Ortiz’ had a highly successful career as a journalist.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the Complutense University of Madrid, a Master’s Degree in Audiovisual Journalism from the Institute for Studies in Audiovisual Journalism and also started her PhD in Mexico. From a very young age, she worked in diverse forms of media, from ABC and EFE News Agency to Bloomberg TV, an American-owned channel specialising in economy and finance. She has also been a newscaster, an editor and a reporter at CNN+, a Spanish language arm of the US broadcaster.

At the time that she announced her engagement, Ortiz was working at Spanish National Television, where she was part of the editing team of the evening edition of the daily news broadcast. She anchored the morning news broadcast, the special programmes on the Euro offered by TVE’s news programmes, and was a correspondent covering current events in different locations all over the world. As a sign of her competence, she received a Larra Award for the most distinguished young journalist of the year.

Considering her higher education and professional career, Ortiz breaks with the anachronism of royal families in 21st century. Still, she continues to be criticized for her shoes and purses, as did countless women before her. Ortiz may be a new type of princess, but the blatant sexism that Ortiz suffers is centuries old. 

Women are changing.  When will the media start changing, too?

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