Media mavens: Let’s talk about “female journalism”
As a humanities student, I tend to be in classes that are mostly female students, particularly in my journalism courses. On one hand, I feel a sense of empowerment in that there are individuals like myself who are interested in and want to be involved in the journalism sphere. However, it also makes me wonder about the newsroom dynamics in our contemporary society. How are women being represented in the journalism sphere? How does the media capture this perspective?
In mainstream media, it is hard to find a movie like “The Intern” in which an editorial, online retail business is spearheaded by a woman. Like many industries, journalism both began as and continues to be a male-dominated field.
“Female journalism” we see in movies and films doesn’t always seek to empower the female perspective. There is often the trope of a female character who is passionate but struggles to be taken seriously as a journalist. At the beginning of the film, the character is often hardworking and passionate about trying to gain more recognition to report “real news.” However, their work and the plot of the movie turn out to be a story about some sort of confession about love and revolves around the man lead.
In “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” Andie Anderson is a columnist for a women’s magazine, called Composure. She specializes in writing “How-to” articles, but she yearns to write about more serious topics. After being inspired by her friend’s breakup, Andie decides to write about dating a man with the intention of breaking up with him within 10 days, which is the premise of the movie. As she writes the article, Andie develops feelings for the male lead, leading her to quit her magazine job.
In the more recent Netflix show “Love Hard,” Natalie Bauer, a dating columnist based in Los Angeles, writes about her disastrous dates through a dating app. On the surface they seem to be different movies, but the same trope is played out. At its core, these movies are supposed to feed into the idea of love. It plays out a reality of how professional women struggle to find love, but it always ends up with the consequence of giving up her career.
The fact that there are female characters in journalism on-screen can be refreshing, especially in a male-dominated field. However, representation can be counterproductive when the main message it sends is that a woman is not valued for her work as a journalist but rather are how it serves her romantically in a relationship with a male lead. The female character is not the heroine of her own story.
This trope is not unique to journalism. The same cliches are often perpetuated in other fields, such as medicine or law. The professional ambitions and dedication of women are not valued but rather seen as secondary and disposable — if the right man comes along.
There is also a plethora of films that focuses on the diaries of female characters. I have watched TV shows of this sort, from “The Carrie Diaries” to “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” However, there isn’t a single mainstream TV series about a man who is placed in the same trope. Diaries just don’t seem to exist among male characters. It almost seems that the selling point of a TV show or film is the content of a female character’s diary, which often represents their quest for love.
The missing narrative of a female journalist is clear in the media. However, the underrepresentation of female journalists in our society at large is a concerning trend. I was surprised to learn that even during the height of news reporting during the pandemic, women’s perspectives continue to be overlooked and undervalued. According to “The Missing Perspectives of Women in COVID-19 News,” by International Women’s Media Foundation were disproportionately affected by the impacts of COVID-19 but coverage of the virus remained to be dominated by male voices.
There is a significant bias towards men’s perspectives in the news coverage of the pandemic in both the global north and south. For every woman’s voice in the news on COVID-19, it can be compared to the voices of three to five men. This bias is further exacerbated by the political invisibility of women in COVID-19-related decision-making processes and the various challenges that women face in terms of socioeconomic status, health, and psychology.
Currently, women comprise 61.6% of bachelor’s degrees and 65.3% of master’s degrees in journalism and communication. As a collective, women represent 53.4% of all journalism working in the newsroom. However, women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions within newsrooms. It’s not enough for women to simply receive an education in journalism; they deserve to have their perspectives heard. Women need to be given the opportunity to hold major roles in newsrooms, rather than just being in the majority of those receiving journalism education.