Women in journalism and the pursuit of defining feminism: The struggle of a feminist millennial.
I have had a beef with the word feminist. This word is highly misused to describe issues and movements. Feminism is by definition the equality of the sexes on behalf of women’s rights and interests. All of these qualities are morals based on one gender, women. We often act like feminism is what normal, good people do, fight for and believe in for equality of the sexes. And, the world would be a better place if it was seen this way: racists, sexists, bigots and people who believe in equality for everyone. But that isn’t what feminism is. The idea that feminism is equality for all genders is actually quite misogynistic. How do we end systematic oppression if we oppress the group the movement came from?
It is equally important to ask questions about what women’s issues are. Are there issues that are not women's issues? Are there women's issues that affect other, but not all, genders in some way? I’m starting to think I struggle with this word because there is no clear definition surrounding women and gender when it comes to feminism. When “feminists” are fighting for an issue of equality, they are often fighting for the equality of all gender identities — this focus-shift from feminism to gender equality is something we should not mix up. That being said, women who actively challenge this “male power” struggle should not then label feminism as an “anti-male” movement. That is not what equality is, or how feminism should be portrayed in my eyes.
Women all over the world challenge ideals and limits of power in the male dominate fields every day — by definition this makes a feminist. A feminist does not fight for just women within their activism. But their lifestyle and choices of leadership should still be seen as a strength for other women to aspire to do the same.
Now let’s bring this into journalism.
I am, by definition, a feminist. I have a blog, I identify as a woman, I write every day and that in itself is an act of feminism. And I am proud of being a woman in this industry, I am honored to continue the work of so many before me and so many to come. If you read my post about women journalists, you will see that in this industry, woman discussing and reporting on “hard news” is something we as a society and breed of people (this breed being journalists) are still struggling with. There is this age old issue of women being largely absent from recognized leadership and editorial roles in the newsroom. There are historic divisions of gender in the authenticity of a women's journal and women journalists writing, “hard news.”
*Quick note, I do not like the terms hard news and soft news. This is why I put them in quotes. “Hard news” qualifies as, “up-to the minute news,” which would include topics of politics, war, economics and crime. “Soft news” is a term used to define human-interest stories, entertainment, and lifestyle.
This problem is the stigma society pages, also known as women's pages, has created in the past. Even today publications such as Teen Vogue gets publicly scrutinized for taking on political editorials. A sister publication of the historical Vogue, one of the original women’s pages who also grasped the reins of bringing legitimacy to women in journalism, Teen Vogue was launched in 2005. Since 2015, the publication Teen Vogue has moved its focus to showcase not only fashion and pop culture but current affairs and political topics.
According to The Atlantic, the top 5 stories on Teen Vogue this past year were:
1. Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America
2. How to Apply Glitter Nail Polish the Right Way
3. Netflix Arrivals October 2016: See the Full List
4. Mike Pence’s Record on Reproductive and LGBTQ Rights Is Seriously Concerning
5. Dark Marks and Acne Scars: Your Complete Guide
And every single one of those stories interests me. This is just one of the many Women-targeted publications that have taken this journalistic turn. Can’t I have the perfect glitter nail polish while writing about issues of politics? What is the difference between GQ and Teen Vogue as far as legitimacy goes? Men can talk about “hard news” while also focusing on sports and sex. What do sports do for society that fashion doesn’t? Why do people constantly associate feminine things as a lack of intelligence? These are all topics that are challenged by women in the journalistic world, as well as all women who exhibit beauty inside and out while also being well read and opinionated about the world. Beauty and brains.
I write about what I believe in, what I enjoy and am curious about. I like a discussion on tough issues and believe in building other women up. I can sit here in the town coffee shop and write to you about politics, national issues of equality or local issues of oppression. But I can also give you a great recommendation on the perfect blush color and brand for your skin tone and season. I love fashion, I’m a firm believer that an outfit can change your day, I think everyone deserves the perfect shade of lipstick.
Feminists, women journalists, break down barriers between fashion, social issues, politics, current events and more. It should not be difficult to understand that women are complex and have broad interests. We can be smart, beautiful, sophisticated, fashionable and leaders — we don't need to be put into a box.
So, here it goes….
I am a feminist!
(First time I have publicly posted those words.)
And, I love being a woman — wouldn't trade it for anything. I feel powerful as a woman journalist and I will continue to write about women's rights and issues surrounding women because these are topics that personally affect me. But similar to so many, I believe in more than just rights for women. Being a journalist is being an outlet for spreading the voice of minorities and silenced. We should be proud that we support and incorporate many issues of gender equality in our work. We as women, as feminists, cannot speak for other gender identities struggles. But we can bring light to these issues of gender equality that we all relate to.
We as feminists are so much more than what the word allows, but should not be forgotten for what we embody by simply living —
And I wish there was a word for that.