Jem McCarron - Co-Editor of Women's Views on News "Half of us are Women"
Posted on January 04, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Half of us are Women
When I took on my role at feminist news site Women's Views on News (WVoN), I knew I was doing something positive towards a cause I had always supported. Little did I know how much it would deepen my conviction that feminism is an essential movement and that women around the world need to be more vigilant than ever. Just maintaining the ground we've gained since women started fighting for equal rights presents a challenge, let alone continuing to balance the scales.
A recent survey found that just a 5th of the world's news headlines feature women and women make up only 10% of all news stories. Given that women form around 50% of the world's population, there is clearly something amiss! With this in mind it's no wonder that sites like WVoN are growing in size and popularity. By providing not only a central point of stories about women, but also producing unique content about current events that are relevant to women around the globe, they are offering an invaluable service.
In the five months I've been working with WVoN I've learnt that many people are oblivious to what is going on, simply don't care or, at worst, are deliberately undermining the drive for equality. Sadly, it suits many people to encourage division, whether that be through religion, sexual orientation, race or the most fundamental of all differences, gender.
The sad truth is that feminism is a dirty word. A word fraught with negative connotations and the average women will only admit to being a feminist in muttered undertones surrounded by apologies and caveats.
After all, what use does modern society have for feminists these days? Sexism is minimal and women can work alongside, or at least nearby, men. Women can earn nearly as much as men. Women still do the majority of the childcare, but that's just biology. No need for those man-hating feminists. That's the line we're fed.
However, the stories that WVoN has brought to my attention paint a darker picture, the news of women around the world shows worrying deep-rooted issues that will take significant directed action throughout the world and generations to fix. Women are not simply on a back-foot, not simply lagging behind, we are being forcibly held down. There is no nice way to put this; women are being oppressed on a global scale.
It's not all bad, a lot of the news being swept under the table by the mass media, is about the successes and achievements of women working and winning around the world. Yet even these positive tales are telling a depressing story, why are the successes of women not news worthy?
Women in the west have come a long way since the Suffragettes fought for and won the right to vote. These hard-won rights might feel secure to us but we should be conscious that for so many women around the world those rights are not yet theirs and security is a long way off. Even for us, the reality is that we have not held this ground for so very long; a few generations later and we need to keep up our guard to ensure we maintain the position and continue to push for a truly equal society.
Even growing up, as I have, in a world where equality seems the most reasonable and sensible thing in the world, I have been shocked by how badly women all around the world are being treated, simply for being female. Women who are still fighting for a voice in their countries' politics or the right to choose their partners, not to be raped, to decide what they wear, to drive cars and to educate their daughters. We all know that the trade in women for the sex industry and domestic slavery is thriving, even right here where we live.
Feminism for me isn't about hating men or refusing to acknowledge gender differences. It's about recognising that humanity actually has a better chance if we utilise and celebrate our differences. Men and women can work together to be stronger and better, something that numerous research projects are demonstrating when it comes to the boardrooms in our businesses.
By holding back 50% of the world's population we are holding back the human race and we have a duty to stop that. Not only to further our own species, but also to protect the hundreds of thousands of women who are being abused simply because they are women.
We need to be vigilant and aware of what is going on in our world and stand strong. Keep fighting for what we know is right.
I spoke about WVoN and my refreshed view of feminism with my 65 year old aunt recently, an extremely strong, but ultimately quite traditional Londoner. She listened with the patient interest of a caring family relative and then we moved onto other topics. A few hours later as we watched the dancers backing a male X-Factor contestant my aunt commented. "I see what you mean, look, all the men are in suits, but all the women are half undressed." I felt that perhaps I had started to open her eyes to the inequalities in our modern society. Perhaps now she will begin to question why we see so few women in the boardrooms, in government and in the news.