Tell me you didn't write about women, woman
Hello again :)
Before I went on a break from writing this newsletter, I watched an interview between a female founder of a media company and a male host (someone I have grown up watching and quite enjoyed). It started out fine but quite early in the interview he said something that made me lose interest in the rest of it.
The woman was describing her career overseas and how she had started out reporting in a different country from the one she worked in at the moment. She hadn’t finished explaining when he “man-terruped” her (one of several times during the conversation) to ask,
“But you didn’t write about women, did you?”
There was so much judgement in his tone, enough to instantly put the woman on the spot. She jumped to her defence and was like, “No, no, of course not.” And I don’t know that anyone in her position would have done any differently.
He went on to say that it’s almost expected of a woman working in journalism away from her home country that an editor would ask her to write about women or that would, by default, become the bulk of the work which came her way.
Because isn’t that what women do — write about women.
For a second, even I was embarrassed. As a woman, I’ve written plenty about women’s affairs. These are the stories I most enjoy telling and among the work I’m proudest of. Was I the glaring stereotype he was referring to? And then my doubt turned to anger. Exactly who gave this man permission to make women feel apologetic about reporting about women or magic wands or whatever else they might want to?
And if women don’t report about women, if women don’t think stories that affect people like them are important, if women don’t pay attention to women’s experiences — who will?
There’s so much talk about representation, of various kinds of representation, that so many organizations want to get right. They don’t always manage to, but they try to get the tone of their communications, hiring, product development and business policies to align with the values, the needs of the people they seek to serve. And that’s praised. Encouraged.
Because it’s the right thing to do.
Because the alternative is a real problem.
Women have fought to vote, to own property, to be let into rooms that people have been determined to keep them out of. Part of the reason why we don’t have enough female-focused medical research or female-friendly public design is because women are still fighting these basic battles.
Nearly every industry that is heavily male-dominated — politics, business, science and technology — is reported extensively by men for men. And there’s never any shame in that. No one has ever asked a man why he’s a business reporter or a political journalist or a foreign correspondent covering conflict. He’s never had to justify the work he’s done or why he made certain professional decisions. I know I’m asking a rhetorical question when I say, “So why hold women to a different standard?”
Journalism schools and English major classes, in India and the United States, are overwhelmingly filled with female students. But many senior positions at media houses in both countries are occupied by men. So when a woman has founded a media organization, that’s a big win to begin with. And she doesn’t need to be asked or made to feel like she needs to come up with a reason about why she has or hasn’t reported about women.
Neither do I.
Nor does any woman ever.
In Women Wins these past few weeks
It’s been a monumental few weeks for women everywhere — Texas, the Sarah Everard verdict, Sabina Nessa, Gabby Petito. It has felt like an especially grim time. The spots of sunshine I came across were.
I had no idea. This is so cool!
In less sunny news,
I watched the body cam video of the police responding to Gabby Petito’s “domestic” with her fiance and it broke my heart. I even tweeted about it
And if you have mixed feelings about Texas’ abortion law for whatever reason, read this.
Also, men don’t ever need to make decisions about women’s bodies but it’s okay to have a complex opinion about a complex problem.
How have the last few weeks been for you?