A Note from our President in Honor of International Women's Day
A version of this post appeared on the National Conference for Media Reform website. If you'd like to join Ilyse at the conference, visit http://conference.freepress.net/ncmr-2013 and click register now. Use the promo code 10-NCMR for a 10% discount.
International Women's Day is the opportunity to stand in solidarity with women around the world and reflect on how - in far too many places - women are still treated as second-class citizens. But after the elections in 2012, we must also look closer to home. "Legitimate rape," Rush Limbaugh's "slut-shaming" of women who use birth control, and fights about whether women should...umm...maybe get paid the same as a dude doing the same job and it dominated the political debate. The catch phrase "War on Women" was used to describe the climate caught fire. Most women I know were left shaking their heads and wondering how we ended up living in an episode of "Mad Men."
Unfortunately, we weren't on TV. It was 2012 and the 4th Estate - that much vaunted protector of truth and justice - was letting us down in a big way.
Eighty-one percent of quotes about abortion in major media outlets came from men. Seventy-five percent of comments about birth control came from the same half of the population that has never had to decide between an IUD and the pill. Amazingly, though the "War on Women" tagline turned up non-ironically in almost every media outlet, women's voices accounted for a small fraction of the total represented on Sunday public affairs shows and in America's top newspapers. What the media failed to report was when and how men managed to gain such an intimate understanding of what it's like to be a gal juggling work and family demands in a down economy while also having to worry about her ability to control her reproductive health.
Women's issues dominated the campaign season so completely that in another universe, the facts about the gender gap in election coverage would be reversed and men would be scratching their heads wondering how to find their way back onto the headlines. The good news is that women writers and female-identified blogs boomed to provide a space for women to share their genuine experiences and be a part of the conversation. I can't wait to be in Denver at the Media Reform Conference to share some tragic-comedy from the past election cycle and have a conversation about how we support and build channels to be able to speak for ourselves. Together, we can put women's voices front and center where they belong. I hope you'll join me.