Thursday, 5 August 2010

Women and the media

On Sunday I attended Day 2 of the UK Feminista Summer School. It says a lot about how big the resurgence of feminism has become when an event such as this becomes fully booked.

The first event of the day was a panel on ‘women and the media’, with freelance Hannah Pool, Kira Cochrane, the Guardian’s women editor and Jess McCabe from the F Word as Chair.

Both Cochrane and Pool agreed that there is still very much a culture of machismo within the newspaper industry, “even at the Guardian”, with a belittling of 'women’s issues'. They both observed that they get very misogynistic comments written under their articles when they appear online. As an experiment, Pool wrote a feminist article under the alias ‘Harry Pond’, and wasn’t surprised to see that this time she received no negative comments. Both writers agreed that it was important for women readers to make comments about articles, as difficult as it is to do so when you know you will then be attacked.

The issue of female journalists writing misogynistic articles was raised – Liz Jones and Melanie Phillips being two examples of this unfortunate species. Pool commented that this is a common trick that male commissioning editors now use – they know that men cannot say certain things about women these days, so they get a female journalist to do so instead. “It’s a pressure to be worse than men in a pressured environment, which is almost all-male,” she explained. Kira Cochrane concurred, saying it was also a way for female journalists to make a lot of money.

An audience member asked about whether writing in the Guardian is very much ‘preaching to the converted’, and what would their advice be on writing, for example, for the Daily Mail? Cochrane described it as “like walking into a really, really, really dark forest.” She said that if you wrote copy for such a paper, you had to be prepared for them editing what you had written substantially, and that it might also appear under a really awful headline. Pool said that she had written for the Evening Standard, and that she had ‘got away with’ writing feminist articles without much censure. She also noted wryly that her bag of hate mail was only as big as the one she received at the Guardian.

We all know the importance of the media in influencing society, and so this session, which also allowed women to ask about becoming journalists, pitching stories, and getting coverage for their campaigns, was extremely useful. Much was also made of the democratic nature of the internet – anyone can blog, and anyone can submit articles to sites such as The F Word.

As one older feminist in the audience commented, “the battles we fought so many years ago – they need to be fought again.” And the more visible and high-profile that fight is, the more successful it will be.


  1. 死亡是悲哀的,但活得不快樂更悲哀。. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .