Nov 302010

A few weeks ago, Feminist Peace Network pointed to a study of “best of” lists of books that documented the  delusion created by the persistent, systemic exclusion of women authors from those lists.  The logical conclusion if one places value in those lists year after year is that yes there are women authors but they aren’t considered to be very good writers. And that perception has an impact because those lists do indeed influence what people read and therefore serve to further invisibilize women authors.

Perhaps the most disheartening thing is that this systemic exclusion does not seem to be improving. It is important to realize that not only does this point apply to mainstream lists such as those compiled by The New York Times, but also to self-proclaimed progressive media, a point illustrated by a post by Sarah Irani for Eco-Salon that was reposted on Alternet, 28 Must-Read Books That Will Forever Change How You See the World where less 25% of the authors are women. Tillie Olsen’s clasic book that documents this very exclusion, Silences wasn’t on the list, but obviously the folks at Alternet and Eco-Salon would profit from reading it. We expect these ratios in the more traditional media, but it is particularly galling to realize that spaces that are considered liberal and progressive  still so persistently insist that the important voices are those that are male.

As for the mainstream media, of note (although it is not a list of authors) is a list just published by Foreign Policy, The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers, on which you are not highly likely to find your name unless you happen to have a Y chromosome.

Which brings me to this  action from Take Back The Tech for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which challenges whose voices are considered expert in the media,

Across the world, women are under-represented in the news. Female experts are rarely interviewed, there are fewer female reporters, and women are often portrayed in stereotypical ways. Women are more likely to have their age and family status reported than men, and it’s far more likely that their appearance will be commented on.

This leads to the perception that women are only fit to comment as bystanders and observers, where news is something that happens to women, not something that is made by women. Women also often appear in stories about violence, locating them as victims in society instead of opinion leaders and decision-makers.

The reason often given by members of the media for not featuring women experts is because there aren’t any who knows the topic at hand. In reality, women are active participants in all aspect of social, economic, political and cultural life, and there are plenty of women with knowledge around. The reason they are not included is because of a preconceived idea that men are experts in those area. For example, in science and technology, war or medicine.

As I’ve pointed out far too many times, it is exactly because of the damaging exclusion of women’s voices across the media spectrum that it is crucial to support women-positive media. And yes, there is a donate button on the right hand top corner of the Feminist Peace Network website.

In one bit of good news regarding women’s voices, a huge shout-out to our friends at Joy of Resistance: Multicultural Feminist Radio on WBAI (99.5 FM, streaming live on the web) who are moving to an evening time slot, from 9-10 pm est on the 1rst and 3rd Wednesdays of the month beginning in December. As Executive Producer Fran Luck points out, this is really important because it will mean that they, “will finally be able to reach women who are at work or in school during the late morning hours during which we previously aired–and can now hope to build a larger feminist listenership in the three States reached by WBAI’s signal”. Congratulations Joy of Resistance! (Note–click here for a great essay by Fran Luck about Joy of Resistance.)

For more ideas about ways you can change the delusional exclusion of women’s voices in the media, click here.

 November 30, 2010  Posted by on November 30, 2010

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