Women's voices in journalism are essential to true history
Last week was an interesting one for females in journalism. In one day, two women were ousted from the top editor position at an international paper – Jill Abramson at The New York Times (U.S.) and Natalie Nougayrède at Le Monde (France).
Both had been the first woman to hold her position at each establishment, and in the maelstrom that erupted across the Internet following their departures, there were many questions about the role gender had played: Why are women leaders perceived as pushy? Are they forced to be aggressive in order to be taken seriously? Why was Abramson being paid less than her male predecessor? Did she get fired for asking about the pay gap?
Perhaps because I am a female journalist, one of my favorite pieces to come out of the frenzy was this response – penned by lady journo extraordinaire Ann Friedman – to an essay written by Alice Gregory, a journalism phenom in her own right. While Gregory calls for female journalists to move past the “pink ghetto” of writing exclusively about women’s issues, Friedman reminds us that we should be well-rounded reporters, yes, but that we cover the so-called pink ghetto for a reason: if we don’t, no one will.
It’s probably against some cardinal rule of the blogosphere to respond to a response, but I think this is a crucial issue for the Global Sisters Report. Friedman is right. Women’s voices are still shockingly underrepresented in the media, so it is absolutely essential that female reporters and editors be willing to push for stories that are both for women and about women – not because we aren’t “smart enough” to think outside of ourselves or because female audiences only care about female issues, but because our perspective matters.
If it’s true that journalists are writing the first rough draft of history – and I believe that it is – then journalists have a moral imperative to make sure we are gathering information from as many viewpoints as possible. This means we cannot ignore half the population and the issues that are important to them. This means that when women’s voices are neglected in the media, female journalists – especially female journalists reporting on religion – should be willing to dig in their heels and demand better of their publications.
Women’s voices have, in large part, been scoured from the historical narrative, and I think that’s even more true when it comes to religion. Although women were clearly an important part of Jesus’ ministry, how many first-hand accounts of their experience do we have? Why does only one woman in the Quran have a name? Who was the wise woman ended the rebellion against King David?
I hardly feel confined to a pink ghetto, but as both a woman and a journalist, I do feel a responsibility to ensure that the next chapter of our history is not monolithic. But I don’t see that as either bias or narrow-mindedness. I see it as good journalism, which is something we should all demand.
[Dawn Cherie Araujo is a staff writer for GSR.]