The message here at VocaLady Magazine is pretty clear: our duty is to empower women in communications and promote feminism in the larger community. Nevertheless, as we celebrate VocaLady’s first birthday, it’s important to take a step back and decipher why the collision of feminism and communications that led our founders to create this magazine is so important in the first place.
As feminists, we can all agree that women deserve to excel in any field that they desire to. We promote this idea with urgency, citing numerical inequities between men and women in powerful positions in top-grossing companies. These numbers are certainly important. They’re the backing behind the gender gap that so many still insist is a myth. Still, it’s important that, in addition to taking in the numbers, we also realize why women deserve to excel in any field and what women will continue to change if these numbers increase. In other words, it’s time to switch the conversation on female inclusion from one about percentages to one about potential.
So, what potential do women have to change journalism, or rather, what have we seen women changing so far? For one, having more female news anchors and reporters allows more genuineness and intimacy when discussing women’s issues. Though it’s every feminist’s hope for men to be discussing these issues as well, since such issues do impact men too, it’s also important for women to be at the forefront of the issues that impact them primarily. CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield demonstrated this necessity through her live reading of the Stanford rape survivor’s letter to her rapist, Brock Turner. By reading the letter, Banfield gave us the news report we never knew we needed: a minimally revised reading of a rape survivor’s own words, rather than an impersonal report filled with medical and legal terminology. Banfield demonstrates a major way that women can change journalism: rather than simply report on topics that heavily impact the female community, such as sexual assault, women have the ability to relate to the female community by giving a voice to women that often go unheard.
In addition to changing the ways in which we report, women in journalism can also change what we report. As someone who grew up on the New York Times and the New York Daily News, topics like “period sex” or “hookup culture” were topics I saw on South Park, not in the Sunday Times. However, it’s pretty easy for me to say that today, it is completely normal for me to scroll through news publications and see articles covering topics like “fat sex” – and even more normal for me to click on them. Women have the ability to change the stigma on reporting. Stories involving politics and crime are surely important, but so are stories on female sexuality. In a world where sexual assault exists on our college campuses and some women engage in sexual activity just to pay for college, sexuality is worthy of media attention. Luckily, us women in journalism have the ability to give it the attention it deserves. Women have the ability to move such stories away from the “Leisure” section and towards the front lines of media platforms. Bloggers, reporters, news anchors, and other journalists have the ability to spark the conversations on female sexuality that are too often ignored due to their polarizing nature. Simultaneously, we have the ability to make changes on local and even national levels by sparking such conversations.
Clearly, us female journalists have huge capabilities. By changing what is being viewed on websites, newspaper pages, TV screens, or podcasts, we can change how people view the world – and a woman’s place in it. Most importantly, however, we can change how journalism is viewed itself. Journalism is placed in many categories – public relations, communications, or even marketing, to name a few. Still, journalists do not get enough credit for the ways in which they embed themselves in technology and computer science through their careers. That’s right, women. We may not think that we’re part of the collective of women breaking barriers by engaging in a STEM-related fields, but surely we are. We may not be reassembling vehicles or breaking into exclusive databases, but we’re working with HTML systems, creating massive pitch lists using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, and not to mention – we probably have among the highest typing rates in the country. Thus, women can change journalism by redefining it, not simply as an “artsy” career reserved for eclectic millennials, but as a career that shows women’s willingness to engage with advancing technology, regardless of historical exclusion from technology-related fields.
Ruqia Hassan, journalist who gave her life to report on conditions in the ISIS-controlled city of Raqqa, located in Syria.
So, this birthday week, we look back on our articles, our achievements, and our growth but we also look at how we can continue to grow, not just as a magazine, but as a community of feminists and a community of feminists in communications. Just as this magazine showed its potential to grow into a network larger than our founders ever expected, women in communications have been and will continue to show their potential to use journalism in ways no reader or CEO expected, but surely needed.