Here begins a weekly column on reproductive rights and other women’s issues from a female-identified contributor.
Clearly there is an underrepresentation of women and women’s issues in the media. Turn on the television, check into the radio and if you get the chance to hear about women’s issues they will usually be voiced by a man.
We don’t need studies to verify this since we are bombarded regularly by paternalistic messages coming from men.
But, here are the numbers anyway:
According to a survey done by Women’s Media Center, while roughly 74% of Journalism and Mass Media majors are women, only 40% of the workforce in newspaper and television newsrooms are women and they are only about 30% of the news radio workforce. The higher prestige and paying jobs have even more drastic disproportion.
Only 24% of news stories focus on women. And only about a fifth of guests on network talk shows are women.
According to Think Progress, during the debate on birth control male contributors and “experts” outnumbered women on appearances more than two to one.
A segment on MSNBC featured a group of men discussing the GOP’s misstep in excluding women in the birth control debate – demonstrating that even liberal-thinking men are not including women in a discussion on issues that directly affect women.
This means that issues like reproductive rights and women’s sexuality are presented primarily via a masculine lens – even when compassionate, it’s inherently dismissive of women’s perspectives. And, it’s incomplete.
To have a healthy and well-informed dialogue especially in respect to issues like reproductive health, sexual violence, sexuality and pay disparity we need to include women’s voices. And, we need to call out media when it fails to do so. Hence the motivation for my weekly column.
I will write about the limited coverage of women, the limited representation of women and on women’s issues. I will also write about how the media distorts women’s issues in ways skew our perceptions on gender and rights in harmful ways.
Mostly I anticipate I will address the news media and how the underrepresentation of women as experts and contributors creates a narrative of obliviousness and discomfort around issues like reproductive rights.
But, every once in a while, a television series or film will deal with reproductive rights and abortion. Juno and Knocked Up both dealt with unintended pregnancies – and both avoided addressing abortion as a reasonable option. But more television shows are taking on issues of abortion and sexuality, like Friday Night Lights and Grey’s Anatomy.
Either way, I will approach the media environment and it’s perception and representation of women, reproductive rights and sexuality.