Sheroes of the free press

Last week I attended the 3rd National Conference on Media Reform.  The number of women speakers and panelists as well as the recognition of gender as a media reform issue was significantly better than the last conference where gender issues were invisibilized and women’s representation among presenters was token at best.  This conference started off with a wonderful women’s networking breakfast and included a number of wonderful, dynamic women such as Helen Thomas, Amy Goodman, Malkia Cyril, Sonali Kolhatkar, Jennifer Pozner, Deepa Fernandes and many more.

Perhaps the highlight in terms of putting gender on the media table was Jane Fonda’s plenary speech in which she pointed out that  “a media that leaves women out is fundamentally, crucially flawed.”  Fonda went on to detail the inequities women face in the media and concludes,

“We must be aware of the inequity that is so invisible precisely because it is so much in plain sight — double standards that are so pervasive and so engrained that we mistake them for the truth.”

But as Jennifer Pozner quite accurately points out,

“To wit: of three days of multi-speaker plenary sessions and keynote talks, only four women delivered speeches from the mainstage, and of those, two were famous actresses, and only one was a woman of color. In a particularly telling visual illustration of the persistence in gender imbalance even in a good year, note that all the women who spoke during plenaries got less time to do so than their male counterparts.”

Pozner concludes,

“During her plenary session talk, Deepa Fernandes said that “Media justice is about changing who is at the table at every single level.” So true. I’d propose that it’s also about making sure that each person seated at the table – and each constituency they represent – has an equal seat… and that they’re not at the kiddie table near the kitchen, with the wobbly legs and the leftover pie…”

Geena Davis, another keynoter at the NCMR, designed a t-shirt for her organization See Jane which says, “Women.  We’ll Settle for half.”  Sounds to me like a fair goal for NCMR 4.


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