Why we need feminist journalism
Because gender inequality won’t go away on its own.
Welcome to the Impact newsletter, your weekly dose of feminist journalism from around the world. This week, we bring you a preview of a new study of gender journalism worldwide, and explain why we need more of this vital reporting. Plus, sign up for our live launch event.
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There is no country in the world in which men and women are equal. This inescapable fact seeps into every aspect of public and private life, yet is often excluded from busy news agendas. I even forget myself sometimes.
Perhaps it is the universal nature of the consequences of gender inequality — including male violence, attacks on reproductive rights, unequal burdens of care work, pay gaps and political under-representation — that causes them to be almost entirely overlooked by media organisations.
An analysis by Luba Kassova has found that just 0.02% of news coverage globally focuses on inequality between men and women when it comes to “pay, power, safety, authority, confidence, health, and ageism.” Not even 1% of the coverage for an issue that affects every single person in the world! (Because yes, gender inequality affects men too).
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To make matters worse, the perspectives of women and gender-diverse people are systematically excluded from news coverage, with men comprising up to 70% of expert voices cited in news stories. The perspectives of women of colour are even more marginalised, because, as Kassova notes, “higher weighting is given to news relevant to white people”.
How is it possible that coverage of gender inequality exists in such microscopically small proportions? Why is the fact that more than five women or girls are killed every hour by someone in their own family considered so much less newsworthy than other forms of conflict or violence?
The answers range from the lack of diversity in newsrooms to the punishing nature of breaking news coverage, unconscious bias and overt discrimination.
Yet all over the world, every day, there are journalists working to tell stories about the experiences of women and gender-diverse people, despite how hard it can be to get those stories onto the front page. And they need more support. This is why some colleagues and I formed The Gender Beat, an organisation that advocates for greater coverage of gender issues around the world. We support those journalists and media workers who are already covering feminist topics, and advocate for newsrooms to invest in ambitious gender reporting.
This month, The Gender Beat is releasing a study of more than 100 media workers who focus on gender or feminist topics. In it, these journalists, editors and supporters share why they cover gender and feminist issues, as well as what they need in order to thrive.
We found an immense passion for reporting on feminist issues among the cohort of respondents. As one journalist told us:
“I believe in educating through journalism and in tackling the world’s problems, denouncing wrongdoings. That cannot be achieved if the attack on women and their rights persists and if they/we are not giving room to speak out.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, due to the fact that so many feminist and gender journalists are pushing against the tide by doing this reporting at all, we also found very high levels of burnout. Many journalists were getting by on very little to tell the stories they care about.
A reporter in India said:
“Freelancing is competitive and a limited number of publications are interested in commissioning gender stories. They are usually small, have less money and no field reporting budgets. That means all the expenses come out of my pocket. I am underpaid and overworked. No organisation pays therapy bills for gender reporters.”
But we need these reporters more than ever. In times of backlash against women’s and LGBTQIA+ rights — from abortion bans in Poland to attacks on trans rights in the US to Uganda’s “anti-gay bill” — the world needs high-quality reporting on feminist topics. We can’t end patriarchal dominance if we don’t know what we are up against.
Every Monday, the Impact newsletter brings a little more feminist journalism into the world. But we can’t make up for the 99.98% of media coverage that ignores gender gaps by ourselves. We need more newsrooms to invest in journalism about gender inequality. Because public awareness of a problem is the first step to fixing it, whether it’s access to abortion, the scourge of femicide or the stubborn gender pay gap.
As one respondent to our survey put it:
“The stories get written, it opens eyes, the change starts happening.”
Today’s newsletter is an edited extract from the new report from The Gender Beat, Gender is Part of Every Story: The Global Landscape of Gender and Feminist Journalism.
We are launching the report at a live online event on July 27 at 14:00 Paris time (08:00 NY / 13:00 London / 17:30 New Delhi / 19:00 Bangkok). You can register to attend here. In the meantime, read the report’s key recommendations at this link (PDF).