Why feminism is important to my journalism

Mar 6 2020, 10:04 am

This story is part of an International Women’s Day series spotlighting the women at Daily Hive.

For International Women’s Day, I want to reflect on what journalism can do to create a more equitable society. Normally, my focus is on local and national news, and I’m happiest when tackling a health or science-related story.

But today I’m going to talk about something else important to me: feminism.

I began identifying as a feminist in university, watching things like MissRepresentation and reading about everything from the wage gap to the orgasm gap.

It’s important to consider how feminism intersects with other things like race, class, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation. All of these structures of power — the patriarchy, colonialism, racism, etc. — benefit a select few. And I believe one’s actions can either feed into these structures of power or work to challenge and dismantle them.

A big player in maintaining these structures of power is the media we consume. Media is a broad term. It can mean the movies we watch, the books we read, or the social media posts we interact with. As journalists, we shape a distinct and important part of the media landscape: the news.

That’s why, as a feminist and a journalist, it’s important that my work serves to question and disrupt these structures. Telling stories thoughtfully, surfacing underrepresented perspectives, and interrogating myths can help foster a more equitable society.

feminist tattoo

Megan Devlin/Daily Hive

There’s a common myth of the objective journalist. Many people think that reporters should be “unbiased.”

But the truth is, there’s no such thing as a completely objective or unbiased journalist.

All journalists are humans, and humans use their lived experiences to inform their actions and responses. We’re not machines that are detached from the stories we cover. We get moved by events, tragedies make us sad, and heartwarming stories make us smile, same as anyone else.

As a journalist, I believe the best we can do is report fair and balanced stories. That means getting input from both sides and making sure to talk to the people most affected by an issue.

You can read books and journal articles about the myth of the objective journalist, but I think this sarcastic tweet from Buzzfeed’s news director sums it up:

Even when it comes to something as simple as how you commute, you’re automatically going to have a perspective based on your experiences.

For me, my journalism is informed by the fact that I’m a woman and a feminist.

I’m grateful to see Canadian journalists working to make the country more equitable for women. One example that comes to mind is Robyn Doolittle’s Unfounded series for the Globe and Mail that pointed out structural issues with sexual assault reporting across the country. That series resulted in pledges from police forces to revamp the way they handle sexual assault reports.

But then there are instances that remind me there is still a ways to go. Like when Rehteah Parsons’ father said journalist Christy Blatchford’s stories added to the victim-blaming and slut-shaming that contributed to his daughter’s death by suicide following an alleged gang rape.

I also once worked at a newsroom where management cautioned us about attending the first Women’s March in Vancouver. I suspect it was because the first one was organized after US President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and journalists generally aren’t allowed to participate in protests or demonstrations on contentious issues.

But as several women journalists in the room pointed out, it shouldn’t be controversial for a woman reporter (or any reporter) to stand up for women’s rights.

Some newsrooms I’ve worked in have created initiatives to try and do better at elevating women and minority voices. At one national newspaper, reporters are told not to file a story with all-male sources. Apparently it’s a little more challenging for the business reporters. At a local paper I worked at, the publisher once tallied the number of women and people of colour featured on the front page in the past year and pledged to be more representative the following year.

I’m grateful to work in a time where there are awards recognizing journalism with an eye for women’s rights, when women’s magazines are pursuing meaty investigations alongside beauty tips, and entire media outlets include feminism as part of their mission.

I think declaring my position as a feminist allows me to do more honest reporting. And as more outlets embrace intersectional feminist values, I hope we can achieve more equity.

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