An Addendum: More Stuff You Should Know About Feminism in the News

It occurs to me that perhaps my last post needs an addendum. I gave you one example of the poor treatment of feminism in the news, but my point was not to hold up a lone article and say "Wow, how lousy is this?" Rather, I wanted to make the point that there is a fairly consistent resentment towards feminism present in mainstream media.

I could site articles such as Feminism or femininity, the abhorrent treatment of the murder of Tracey Lynn Kelsh by our own Windsor Star, the statements of Anne Cools' which were quoted on International Women's Day (apparently, women are the cause of male violence) and many more such happenings; there's a lot to choose from. But not only is "feminism" degregated; women themselves are often "othered."

What I mean by that is this: when a man does something, it is reported as good old fashioned news. When a female does something, it's often explicitely stated that she was a she. We talk about gunmen, robbers, businessmen, whatever. And then we have stories about the female shooter, the female robber, the business woman who overcame the odds. The man is normalized and the women is othered. Sure, when it's a small turn of phrase, it isn't a huge deal, but it points to something: the fact that we, as a society, take masculinity as the standard, and feminity as the other, the secondary, the non-standard.

In many papers they'll have a women's section, with tips on cooking, celebrity news, house and home information. The suggestion is that what is news to women is different from what is news to men. The implication is that maybe women just aren't interested in business, sports, world politics. In this way, they're again marginalized and othered. And the gender binary is perpetuated.

In part, I suspect that this has to do with the fact that women are notoriously lacking from newsrooms. Let's take ABC for example: in 1991 female correspondents numbered 14, or 19% of the total. In 1998, the number was 26, or 39% of a smaller news roster. Not very significant numbers. And yet, at the time, they were lauded by the TVtimes for their progression. I always find it strange when we celebrate women making up, say, 1/3 of something. It speaks to how normalized our lack of presence is. We make up more than 50% of the population, but we're thrilled when we account for 27% of new hirings.

Speaking for black women, the Internation Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) said:
There are now more women of color working in the U.S. news media than ever beforeā€¦. The unfortunate reality, however, is that in all but a few rare cases, women journalists of color are not positioned to make decisions about what becomes news. In effect, women of color have established a presence in the news gathering process, but they have very little influence over news content or product. As a whole, these women are present, yet they are without power and without a voice.
The same is true of women on the whole. Though female presense is increasing in the newsrooms, it is still miniscule in the positions that count. A story that any female report writes can be edited, re-worked, clipped, nipped, and tucked by her editors. The same is true for male reporters. Until female presense at the head of the newsoom gets a lot stronger, we can probably expect much of the same.


posted by Ashley Girty @ 10:35 PM,


At February 24, 2009 at 4:32 PM, Blogger NICOLE M said...

right on, i really agree with what you are saying here - actually on SNL they did a MadMen sketch and it picked up on and emphasized the arrogant male dominance. I dont know this show, maybe it is a satire and in that case please ignore my previous sentence. Anyways great post and I also concur about the Windsor Star...


Post a Comment

<< Home