Women are a popular topic in the upcoming 2012 election. Looking at the role women have historically played in the media and the role they are fulfilling today can bring us perspective on how the media can influence public opinion, especially with issues concerning women. The media, especially during election season, can have a huge impact on opinion, social progress, and ultimately the candidate who wins the presidency.
Women in the United States represent 51 percent of the population. Why is it then, that women are so much less represented in the media than men? Women who have been involved in journalism throughout history have impacted society in a positive way, making it important for more women to become journalists.
Of all the people interviewed on the news, only 24 percent are women. Women, however, have brought about great social change by contributing to journalism. Although journalism has up until recently been completely male dominated, women who wrote to promote social justice and equality made a huge impact on society.
The work of Ida B. Wells shows how important women can be to journalism and the well-being of society. Wells was editor and co-owner of Memphis Free Speech and Headlight and used this platform to express her views against lynching and racism. Wells’s contributions made a national movement for black women possible, as she was one of the only black women who signed a petition which ultimately led to the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Wells also helped to integrate the women’s suffrage movement, as she refused to obey orders that instructed the black suffragettes to march together at the back of the unit during Alice Paul’s suffrage parade of 1913.
Feminist activist Gloria Steinem also worked to increase women’s participation in the media. In the 1960s, women in journalism were not allowed to write on serious topics and were instead told to focus on writing about makeup, hairstyles, fashion, and getting attention from men. In 1971, Steinem helped create Ms. magazine, a feminist publication run by women. This was groundbreaking in a time where birth control was illegal for unmarried women and job discrimination against women was still present.
Gloria Steinem helped to increase women’s participation in media by:
- Helping to create Ms. magazine.
- Co-Founding the Women’s Media Center.
- Exposing women’s mistreatment in her writing, like in 1963 when she went undercover as a playboy bunny for Show magazine.
Women in journalism continue to contribute to social change today, and a variety of programs are dedicated to increase women’s participation in the media.