Female scribes face misogyny, patriarchy: Women journalists

New Delhi, Oct 6 (IANS) Women journalists, like men, should be judged on the basis of their stories rather than their gender in the male-dominated world of journalism where they face “misogyny and patriarchy” on daily basis, renowned Indian scribes said here on Thursday.

“We want to be judged on the basis of our work, stories not just on the basis of being female reporters,” Barkha Dutt, consulting editor of NDTV, said here at a discussion on “The female journalist in India”.

Veteran journalists, including Suhasini Haider of The Hindu and Harinder Baweja of Hindustan Times, were also part of the discussion at the American Center to commemorate the life and work of American-Israeli Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and later killed by militants in Pakistan.

The women journalists spoke about their lives as young reporters, covering conflicts and facing harassment and being the target of humiliating and hateful tweets but still standing out in the male-dominated profession.

“I stayed quiet as a younger person when I was harassed during work. Because, I did not want to lose the story,” said Dutt, who shot to fame after her live coverage of the 1999 Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan.

“I had to argue with the army for allowing me to go to Kargil during the war and their reason for not letting me go was there are no bathrooms,” she said.

“I told them, I would go the way men out there would do.”

Baweja, known for her investigative reporting, echoed the lines. “As a female, we all have faced difficulties. But to all young reporters, I would advise to have a thicker skin and move on. Although things now are changing.”

Speaking to journalists, students and diplomats, the panelists highlighted the social media abuse that women journalists go through.

“This is where it is different with men. Male journalists do not undergo sexual abuse online whereas we all face it everyday,” Baweja said.

They said “misogyny, institutional patriarchy, and fictionalising of personal lives” by the society was not what their male counterparts would face.

US envoy Richard Verma said that journalism is a dangerous profession as reporters are on the frontlines, often putting their lives at risk.

“Many reporters have been killed in war zones, others have been jailed, harassed, or even killed for simply doing their jobs in non-conflict areas,” he said.

Noting that the field has been greatly enriched by the achievements of female reporters, writers, and photo journalists, he said: “At the turn of the 20th century, it was a female journalist, Ida Tarbell, whose investigatory reporting exposed the corrupt practices of the Standard Oil Company.”

“Thanks to the contributions of pioneers like Tarbel and Homai Vyarawalla, women are better represented in the ranks of journalism than many other professional fields,” he said, adding: “But the unfortunate reality is they still face a myriad of unacceptable challenges their male counterparts do not.”

“Whether its unfair assignments, harassment, or issues with personal safety, female journalists face added hardships in an already challenging profession. These are not just issues in India, but ones many American female journalists are grappling with as well.”

“I hope this discussion encourages all the young people here, especially women, to consider a career in this profession and help breakdown barriers,” he concluded.



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