Wednesday, 28 October

Women’s voices that nobody hears

A long time ago I’ve been on a journalism internship in Sweden. A Swedish journalist didn’t know the Russian language; he was simply looking through a paper I was leading at that time.

And then he asked, “Your newspaper is for men?”

I was surprised. Where he drew all these conclusions from? We were conducting small surveys and questionnaires, and we knew that our audience was harmoniously shared by both women and men.

Swede explained to me: “You have this impression when you look at the illustrations in your newspaper. It’s mostly about men here. All the first pages are covered with photos of men dressed in business suits. And only last pages are showing us, women. On the last pages, as a rule, you write insignificant texts – social ones, entertaining…

Honestly, I was shocked. So, since the beginning of millennia, I’ve started paying attention to this. You too, pay attention to it. Understand that nothing has changed for almost 20 years. All business and important stuff are men; suffering and beauty are women.

It is known that the media are very seriously influencing the formation of ideas, trends, and meanings in the society. Therefore, it is important, what and how the mass media writes, what and how they cover and demonstrate.

So, the media write about women and men in different ways. Even if they occupy equivalent posts.

Journalists, while writing about a man at the office, are unlikely to report that “this blond appeared to be an effective leader.”  It is unlikely that they will be struck by the fact that “despite three children, he also manages to combine their upbringing with responsible work!”

But it is considered a common courtesy to write about women this way.

If you set the goal and slightly bother yourself with googling internet media, then, for sure, you will see a bunch of headlines on the news sites like: “TOP-10 prettiest MPs of the Verkhovna Rada”; “The most fashionable women in the city council”; “32-year-old blonde became head of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration”; “24-year-old deputy head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Deyeva is recognized as a sex symbol”; “The glamorous director of department came to the concert”; “It’s time to marry for a ’Trojan horse’ Savchenko” and so on.

I saw very few texts where women were asked how to manage a country, a city, a bank. But I constantly read how women share cooking recipes, “secrets of beauty”, and advice on the upbringing of children.

Here is the data of the gender monitoring of the Institute of Mass Media, based on the materials from ten national websites that were made two years ago:

  • As the experts, women are presented only in 14 percent of materials, and men – in 86. Women mainly comment on human rights, show business, sports, health, international news and the release of prisoners;
  • women were heroines of the news in 27 percent of the cases while men’s share was 73;
  • women are usually heroines of the “gutter news”, news on international politics (foreigners), sports, culture, health, weight loss, private life;
  • only 8 percent of all the news, where women are mentioned, were devoted to Ukrainian women-politicians;
  • in the Ukrainian segment of online media, only 23 percent of women write blogs, while there are 77 of men.

Women are usually represented in the media in only three roles:

The first role is a mother. She is concerned with only one thing – her family and children, she’s a caring person, she is willing to do everything just in order all goes well with her family.

The second role is a housewife. With all those cooking recipes and tips, how to clean a suit spoiled with a chewing gum.

The third role is a gift, a woman for inspiration. She should look perfect, even if she’s at the birthing chair in the operating room. A peculiar jewel for men that motivates, prompts, stimulates… And, most importantly, never let her head ache.

As you can see, there are not so many options.

At the same time, in the media women, journalists are not very likely to cover serious topics. Their prerogative is social topics, interviews, essays, news. Well, they are also TV hosts.

There are a few of them in analytical, economics and international journalism. It has been a man’s area for a long time. And there are almost no sports commentators among women.

We have a few women who run big media.  Big media are managed totally by men. They are directors. in the best case, women there, are editors-in-chief. But, basically, they are journalists, reporters, and heads of departments.

Where you need to control, there are only men. Where you need to work hard, there are women.

The British weekly newspaper The Observer was founded in 1791. And exactly 100 years after its start The Observer was headed by a woman – the editor-in-chief was a 33-year-old Rachel Beer. And she was working there for 10 years. It was incomprehensible for that time. And Rachel herself has shown that women can write on serious issues and can hold a serious post.

“Social climber woman” – this phrase often sounds contemptuous and perceived negatively. Career is about the impact on processes. A woman who has career ambitions has fairly limited options. Both at work and at home. Especially when it comes to husbands and partners.

In the imagination of Ukrainian men, there is often a limited set of options – what career are you talking about, if there are children?!

Ukrainian women, who have talent, abilities, and desires, can take care of their career under two conditions – that’s when the husband or partner fully supports her, or when she is alone.

Recently the results of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences study were published. It shows that every third woman left her job because of men.

We have women who have all the grounds to pursue a career and they are almost in the worst position.

I know several cases when women were waiting for “their time” to come.  And they got it. The children grew up, the main household issues were solved, and women decided to become the ones whom they dreamed to be all their lives.  But it is rather an exception to the rules.

By the way, about 60 percent of women in the United States are initiating a divorce after 50 years, precisely in order to apply all their efforts to work and, often, to career.

… Back then, in Sweden, I met a mayor of a small town. We were talking, he said to me about his three school-age kids. I could not resist and asked what is his wife doing and whether she’s working at all.

“Oh, she’s an MP, all the week spends in Stockholm,” he smiled in response.

“And what about children? Who takes care of children?” I couldn’t help surprising.

And now the mayor was surprised:

“What do you mean who? They’re with me! I’m here.”

“But it’s hard!” I couldn’t help feeling pity for the mayor of a small town. While being in another coordinate system, he noded:

“Of course, it’s quite difficult for her – she’s a politician. She has a lot of important work to do. I understand that, and together with my kids we’re always ready to help and support our mother.”


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