Thursday, January 18, 2007

"A Powerful Media Can Stop a War"

Jane Fonda:
The op-ed pages are notoriously barren of female voices. Too often, there is an unspoken quota of one. If there is one woman op-ed writer, one Maureen Dowd or one Anne Applebaum, or if there is one person of color on staff reporting on issues important to minority communities, then the quota is filled.
One reason for this is that women usually aren’t the ones calling the shots. Women news directors manage only a quarter of TV newsrooms and account for fewer than 10 percent of board members of the major media and communications companies. And, astonishingly, women only hold 3 percent of so-called “clout” titles—positions with the power to determine budgets and make decisions.

These numbers have hardly changed since 1999. In the past eight years, there has been almost no increase in women in the newsroom, in both print and television news. And the sad fact is, most people don’t realize there’s a problem.

After decades of activism, I’ve come to see how deeply our lives, our politics, and the choices we are allowed to make are dictated by gender. The media didn’t create gender stereotypes, but it reinforces and perpetuates them. And I believe the absence of an understanding of the role gender plays in everything allows inequality to continue on in silence.

Gender inequality is so deeply ingrained in our culture that we tend to consider it a fact of life, as something that can be explained away by bogus biology or deterministic arguments. This is the real danger of conservatism—not so much its resistance to change, but its denial of even the possibility of change.
When we created the Women’s Media Center, our goal was not to add another voice to the chorus. What we want to be is a megaphone. We want to be the infrastructure that can monitor, coordinate, facilitate, and amplify women’s role in the media.

The first thing we did was build a website. links to daily headlines and breaking news.
A few examples will sketch a picture of what the world might look like if the female half of the world had an equal share in the media.

This past summer, in separate incidents, two young women were raped and murdered in Manhattan. The mainstream media harped on the dangerous and irresponsible actions of the young women—because they went out, at night, to a bar—stopping just short of saying that they got what was coming to them. If the female half of the world were visible and powerful, those articles would not have scolded women’s so-called misbehavior. They would have focused on the real issue: male violence against women.

Last month, in the Washington Post, there was a heart-breaking article by Nancy Trejos about the women’s lives in Iraq. The headline was, “Women Lose Ground in the New Iraq. Once They Were Encouraged to Study and Work; Now Life Is 'Just Like Being in Jail.'” The article was on page A12. If the female half of the world were visible and powerful, that article would have been the lead story, on the front page and above the fold.
The opposite of patriarchy is not matriarchy, but democracy. And a media that leaves women out of the picture harms everyone, male and female. No major national or international problem—from the environment to the refugee crisis, from health care to overpopulation, from the economy to violence and crime—can be approached effectively without including the needs, views, and talents of the female half of the population.

The only way to build a powerful independent media—a media that can be a force for truth, for change, and for progress—is to build an equitable media. But change cannot happen without change-makers. I know you won’t let me down.

No comments: