Every morning we look at the world through a man’s eyes. We do so by scanning the newspapers which contain news that are gathered, reported, chopped, edited/blacked out, opinionated, and photographed mostly by men.
What’s wrong with a media manned by men? Nothing as such. It’s just that the picture it portrays is incomplete or slanted at times.
It is not as much in the news as in the omissions that a certain male-bias is reflected. There are issues which are gender-less, neutral, or simply humane. If a newsman reports that 30 percent of a nation’s revenues goes to meet debt servicing and analyses that deficit financing is caused by bloated imports, flawed taxation, etc., or if he digs into the contaminated water supply, he is not being sexist.
But if he does not report that the factory XYZ is playing a mean trick on women workers, that it hires and fired them just a day before completion of probationary periods to rob them of their entitlements, the newsman is being unwittingly gender-prejudiced.
I say unwittingly because he bypasses events and acts that relate to woman not out of malice but because he takes women’s lowered status for granted and therefore unworthy of reporting. “That’s no news. It’s been happening for centuries,” he seems to tell himself.
So we get little news of womenfolk of the country. We do receive sporadic, scanty information of the ‘unpaid labor’, the ‘invisible force’, the ‘shadow workers’. But by and large, the life, the toil and turmoil of half the population remains shut out from people’s awareness.
The picture is changing, though, with the induction of women in the media. A significant number of women journalists has come to the force during the last decade and is contributing an increasing number of news/stories about women’s issues. Yet, a lot more needs to be done.
Why not create a news/feature service run by women? That sounds idealistic. I really wish someone takes a fancy to this proposal. Meanwhile, let’s dream about it.
It’s called Women Features Syndicate, or perhaps, Women Press International. It starts modestly with one correspondent in each province. Gradually, the network expands. The staff is dedicated, imbued with a missionary zeal, ready for the challenge to dig out stories about women’s lives in big cities, small towns, remote villages, hilly terrains.
It starts selling the stories to national dailies and weeklies. The features are crisp, brief, interesting, revealing, and supplemented with quality photographs. Why publication doesn’t require balanced, well-written, illustrated reports? Soon the agency finds a niche in the country’s publishing industry and extends its services to the Third World.
Who would invest money in such a venture? Again, it has got to be women. Though there are just two or three women industrialists, there are quite a few enterprising females in our society who have brought big money to the fashion trade. There are boutiques, beauty salons, jewelry shops being run by women. Some women have invested in the export of ready-made garments.
The investment in a news feature service may not pay off immediately but it’s bound to be a success, albeit a modest one, in years to come, bring with it a sense of achievement, an enthralling self-satisfaction that comes through working for a challenge – a collective cause, a humane objective!