Thursday, June 24, 2010

Women's News: equality or segregation?

Ruth Rosen of raises an interesting point today in her posting titled “Gender Apartheid Online”—that female and male media is not only segregated, but that male media remains the “default.” In Rosen’s own words

"The quality of the writing and analysis in these "separate sections" is quite high. So what's my problem? My concern is that gender equality will only emerge when men are educated about women's lives and when women stop being quarantined as "the other.""

Now, this immediately reminded me of male as the “default” in marketing children’s toys (see here, here, and here) and white-as default, but can also be applied on a larger scale—reaching from sports (baseball versus women's softball) to the classroom (history opposed to women’s history).

But in writing this I’ve realized that this kind of disagrees with my previous argument—the idea that there should exist separate spaces for groups who then have the power to act in their own interests without having to accommodate to others. And now I am conflicted—is it a bad thing to create separate spaces for female-centered news/media? I immediately thought this when I discovered Slate’s Double X—how could they separate women’s news from men’s news?! I read Slate, I enjoyed Slate, I did not want to be partitioned into a new site specifically for me because I identify as female. I do, however, find pleasure in reading feministing and Ms. magazine—I think they are valuable outlets, valuable resources for an audience interested in articles on women’s rights, LGBTQI rights, immigrant rights—the list goes on…In fact, maybe that holds some of the answer.

Why are these sources positioned as female news sources when they encompass much more than female-centered stories? Maybe this is somehow connected to popular media and the generalization of all women as consumers of beauty and fashion products (as seen by “women’s magazines” like Glamour and Cosmopolitan)—women are assumed to be the prime audience of human-rights centered media. But why isn’t that the norm? Why does this have to be gendered? (For example, today’s New York Times front page draws heavily on “terrorism” and Petraeus while its specifically "female" section features a story about women and men’s rights in Sweden).

Do you agree that news is gendered? Let me know!

Photo credit: bravenewtraveler on flickr


The Don of Time said...

I definitely agree that everything around us is gendered. Painfully so.

I am one of very few men in my town working to be a feminist ally [I once read/was told men can't be feminists, but we can be allies], and as a media studies/production student that is my main focus: Gender and race in media, and how to offer other avenues.

I definitely agree that we need to educate men on woman's issues, and how they affect men. But to see a more balanced gendered media I think we're going to need some male-specific media outlets that call men out on their bullshit.

This is my plan as a media producer targeting men: educating them on woman's issues, challenging them to be informed and respectful, and basically stop being shit heads.

Amanda L said...

Thanks for your thoughtful response, Don! I think that it is great to educate men about their privilege, however, I wonder why that isn't possible with a gender-balanced media. I feel that male-specific outlets would lack a female perspective, thus alienating women further. Though I definitely agree with you that it is important to educate men on women's issues and how those issues affect men as well.

And, on a side note, I believe that men CAN be feminists. You definitely sound like a feminist to me!