Throughout most of the history, across the world, women were relegated to the confines of the domestic sphere. Women were prohibited from enjoying any legal, political, or economic rights, and were primarily regarded as instruments for men’s happiness. From the Renaissance through the Enlightenment period, women did experience some improvement in their social position, mainly through the various forms of media; however, for the most part, they continued to be denied access to the public sphere. Despite massive efforts from all sections of society to counter the dark past and build an egalitarian society; we still stand way too far from achieving that utopian goal.
During the 18th century when the European world was being rebuilt on the ideals of equality and liberty, it turned out that these ideals were limited to just one section of society: men. Women were still considered as second-class citizens who had no say in the political matters of the country. We’ve come a long way in the last 200 hundred years with various feminist waves sweeping the world. The feminist movement of the west has gone through three different stages. Media played a central role in these movements and continues to do so. The uprising of these movements garnered media coverage and ultimately changed the business of the media world. Women became writers and editors and thus, got a platform to tell their stories and express how essential women rights are for everyone. Coverage of women issues in media is inadequate both qualitatively and quantitatively. Hence, it becomes very pertinent to talk about the role of women in news making itself.
When we talk about coverage of women issues, we generally tend to talk about cases of physical and sexual violence. Now, these are gender-specific issues that need to be talked about in the context of women. But, beyond that many more issues need a gender-based perspective. For example, drought in Maharashtra in 2014 and the stories of water wives related to it or say lack of proper sanitation system in rural areas and its impact on the safety of women are equally important issues that need to be taken up. But this can be possible only when there are more women at every stage in the news-making.
Journalism due to its very nature is not perceived as an ideal job for women. But despite this, we see a lot of prominent women journalists across the globe. However, that doesn’t mean that all is well for women in the media industry. The fact is that men still dominate newsrooms. There are some women editors and CEOs in the urban media, but moving towards the suburban and rural areas the condition gets worse. Sexism in media has many facets. Sales department tends to hire beautiful looking women. Female journalists, more often than not, are denied highly political and financial beats and are expected to cover softer stuff.
Today, we have many exemplary women who’ve not just made it to the top but have held their grounds effectively. Few names that immediately strike up while talking about successful female journalists are Barkha Dutt, Radhika Roy, Sonia Verma, Durga Raghunath, Shereen Bhan etc. However, it is still a long way to go to make the newsrooms idealist, liberal and egalitarian platforms – that they’re supposed to be. An adequate number of women in the media will result in better representation of women’s issues which in turn may give birth to a more inclusive society.