I remember when I was interning a few years ago; I was invited to my first press lunch. I gathered my notebook and pen and made sure I looked the part and not a completely nervous wreck of a Journalism student. I was very eager to network and share common ideas with journalists who had been working in the industry for a number of years, hopefully giving myself the edge that I needed.
When I entered I immediately felt at a disadvantage. I was surrounded by the status quo of journalism- white, middle class white men. There was nothing to be done about it of course; I just accepted it despite how uncomfortable I was at the ratio. Then, last year, everyone was so caught up with the new TV show “The Newsroom” with hard hitting journalism and an in depth look at the ‘real world’ of the media industry. All I saw was the ‘real world’ of once again white, middle class intellectuals spreading their opinion to the masses. The anchor and lead, a white male, the station manager, a white male, and all this equating to a homogeneous opinion shared by all.
“Media houses ‘lack gender policy'” I read yesterday, and I was surprised that this was news when for me, it was history. The statistics:
- 9% of media houses in South Africa have a gender policy in their work environment.
- Men were more likely to earn 8% more than their women colleagues and 81% of sources within news content were men.
- Gender based violence and stories about HIV/Aids made up 5% of news content
I shouldn’t need to spell it out that this is a huge problem. Why have we still not allowed female voices to come through and be heard? Do they have nothing to say of relevance? What makes a male source more reliable than a female one? These are all questions I think about. Men are commonly filmed at work, women at home. Men are filmed angry or calm; women are filmed usually being emotionally.
We are engendering media and escalating the very problem that patriarchy has caused us in the first place- by making the status quo and opinion the right one.
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