Making women's words matter

Cambridge, USA

Women from the Center for New Words this weekend have said that's what they are all about: finding new solutions for old problems, making women's words matter, wedging open spaces for women's voices to be heard. The CNW launched WAM!, Women, Action and Media three years ago as part of this effort. Audio streams of the WAM!2006 keynote speakers can soon be heard at the CNW site and are well worth listening to, if you have the bandwidth. Though all three journalists are rooted in the (diverse) reality of US media, for me their comments served as an illustration of WHY the APC Source: APC WNSP website">Women's Networking Support Programme

(and so many other gender media and Source: APC">ICT

advocates) insists on governments respecting Section J of the Beijing Platform of Action and not leaving media and ICTs in the hands of a small group of powerful white men.
Women from the Center for New Words this weekend have said that's what they are all about: finding new solutions for old problems, making women's words matter, wedging open spaces for women's voices to be heard. The CNW launched WAM!, Women, Action and Media three years ago as part of this effort. Audio streams of the WAM!2006 keynote speakers can soon be heard at the CNW site and are well worth listening to, if you have the bandwidth. Though all three journalists are rooted in the (diverse) reality of US media, for me their comments served as an illustration of WHY the APC Women's Networking Support Programme (and so many other gender media and ICT advocates) insists on governments respecting Section J of the Beijing Platform of Action and not leaving media and ICTs in the hands of a small group of powerful white men.

"We see things differently." A simple but crucial musing from Maria Hinojosa, award-winning journalist with a long list of being the "first Latina" in different media spaces, including CNN and NPR - and WAM!2006's first keynote speaker. Seeing difference, the importance of diversity in media.

"We don't see the same things around us." She gave an example about uncurling from the car she'd slept in while covering Katrina's aftermath with other colleagues - and seeing six Latinos sitting on a roadside curb amidst all the mess, undocumented workers being trucked in to do Katrina clean up. She saw them and knew she had a story. For others they were invisible.

Invisible issues for invisible people becoming visible b/c we see things differently she said.

But it's not enough to see things differently if you don't get published/broadcast. Maria's boss heard her observations about the Latino community making history this past week with marches nationwide against the nefasta legislation being proposed, and the role that Spanish-speaking media - with an audience of 2.5 million - played in getting folks out on the streets. "Get this on the air!" said her boss. "THAT's why it so important to have women in decision-making positions, in management," said Maria.

Caryl Rivers' myth-busting presentation on "Selling Anxiety" had us pissed off and/or laughing during the second WAM!2006 keynote. She lifted the skirts on some of the biggest "news" stories on women in the mainstream press: about men wanting dumb women, about women opting out of careers to become moms, about career women's infertility. Caryl digs deeper and finds a lack of solid research, small sample sizes, dated results, etc. I think this one surprised even the most jaded in the auditorium: the idea that the more women achieve, the less desirable they are, was based on a study done in 1932. Audience and market are the story behind these baldfaced lies, Caryl insisted. She focussed a lot on how the articles are being written FOR a very small spectrum of society, upper and middle class white USA. Her observation about how journalism has gone from being a blue collar trade to a professional career show that audience isn't the whole equation, though, it's about who's writing the news. You see things differently.

More on Farai Chideya, from popandpolitics.com(and the third keynote) later. For now, I thought maybe some of you all might not know what Section J of the Beijing Platform of Action is all about, and hopefully from above it's obvious why the WNSP pressured for its inclusion in the first place:

Women and Media - Section J - of the Beijing Platform for Action - has two strategic objectives:

Strategic objective J.1. Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication.

Strategic objective J.2. Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

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