Abuse of female journalists sadly endemic

Abuse of female journalists sadly endemic

Date: March 1, 2011
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It seems 2011 has kicked off with some drama in the journalism profession, as well as action-packed protests in North Africa that have seen the end of several political careers. We have celebrated the power of the people and the power of social media. Those who are good at creating jokes have also given us something to laugh about: “lesson learnt from the recent protests: never build a square at the centre of the capital city.”

In my editorial note last month I wrote at length about the power of social media and how women can harness it to advocate for gender equality. However, I’m in a catch-22 situation now as to whether this is possible following a recent incident in Egypt involving Lara Logan, a renowned South-African born journalist practising in the US.

As the news that Mubarak was stepping down hit the streets, Logan and her crew were covering the celebrations at Tahrir Square. She was beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob that surrounded her. Now the media has reported that one man called Nir Rosen decided to take advantage of this situation to “possibly settle a score.”

Rosen has waged a Twitter war against Logan describing her as a “warmonger” who was trying to outdo Anderson Cooper, the well known American correspondent. These Twitter remarks incited other writers to comment about Logan, calling her a “hot blonde” and noting that she has “shockingly good looks”. Discussion about how Logan’s sexual assault may be related to her looks is unprofessional in itself. Further, her fate has left me wondering firstly about journalism as a profession, and secondly if this profession can accommodate women.

The latest news is that Rosen has apologised profusely to Logan via Twitter, as well as at any other media forum he is given a platform. Cooper has also recently taken Rosen to task for his remarks about Logan.

But I wonder what has happened to the profession of journalism?

A month ago Richard Keyes and Andy Gray made sexist remarks about Sian Massey, a female who officiated an English Premiership match between Blackpool and West Brom. In an interview, Keys later confessed: “I expressed my disappointment that Andy and I in misguidedly having a little fun, had got it wrong. There is no excuse anywhere for anybody to make a judgement on someone else’s ability to do a job because they are male or female. It was wrong.” And there was an apology.

Next, its Rosen who is also apologising for comments made on Twitter. Are apologies the name of the game now? Has the damage not already been done? Can an apology fix my bruised confidence? Are we not negotiating the quality of objective journalism? If journalists are supposed to be objective and fair, are the actions of Rosen, Keys and Gray anything to measure these non-negotiable principles of journalism? Are we not running into certain stereotypes that as an institution we should demystify?

The attacks on Logan took me back to 2009 when I was doing research on gender in media education. Some female students studying journalism at a certain institution in this region said they did not want to become journalists because the newsroom was not friendly and they feared male antagonism. Now, imagine those women in our newsrooms who take up “hard” beats such as conflict and politics, how does this incident make affect them? Remember, this is a woman who defied the odds in a male-dominated environment, a female figure who young female journalists look up to as their role model.

We argue that having more female journalists does not translate to more gender sensitive reporting. But can we depend on men, who are well represented in most professions, as partners in the quest for gender equality? One can never be sure so long as we have men like Rosen, Keys and Gray.

On the other hand, are we not falling into the same societal stereotypes that journalism should demystify if we blame Logan for “exposing” herself to sexual assault? Blaming the victim, which is usually the case, is quite outrageous. Truth be told, female journalists are more at risk compared to their male counterparts. Violence against women should be denounced. How Logan’s looks came into the discussion of her assault leaves a lot to be desired. I am damn beautiful, but could never use my beauty to work my way up. At the same time, I would really hate to know that my beauty is used to qualify my success. By the way, we have brains, we are capable and we do the work equally well.

What we need as women are men who support the quest for gender equality and men who denounce unjust actions, men like Anderson Cooper. We need more men like them so that the world can become a better place for women. We need more men like them so that women have equal opportunities in the field of journalism and when these women defy the odds, let us give them what they deserve.

0 thoughts on “Abuse of female journalists sadly endemic”

Ben Molapo says:

This is strong argument for a need to do something about gender equality. So much has been said about it but very little has been to cultivate an enabling environment for gender parity

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