The Media industry has always projected itself as having a more balanced representation of gender than other sectors. There is no doubt that we see many women on television as anchors, correspondents and presenters. But behind the scenes, do women have to face sexism? And how much prejudice are they subjected to when they are out on the filed, chasing stories? Recently, we had a conversation on the same with the well known ex-TV journalist and current Deputy Resident Editor of The Hindu, Suhasini Haidar who claimed that the media industry is different.
“I certainly think that the media industry is different. It shows a lot of women on TV, in by-lines so it showcases many more women and it has more women than perhaps other industries. And that’s very important because you do need to see women in mentoring roles if you want to combat sexism,” said Haidar.
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Her advice to young girls joining the media industry is to consider themselves as a professional. “Don’t assume that everything that happens to you is because of your gender. But when there is an issue that reeks of sexism, you need to fight that. You need to fight it not just for yourself but for others as well. Stand up for others, for people younger than you and as far as possible mentor other women,” she added.
“We need women in mentoring roles if you want to combat sexism”
She said, “And I do think that at the end of the day, if we are able to see more and more women cracking the code of the profession then you will certainly see a media world where media world is unspoken off.”
About the thinning out of diversity in the higher echelons of the industry, she responds, “You know the thinning out actually begins at the stage of schools. Because you’d be amazed by the fact that more than half of the students are women. Journalism is the kind of profession where a lot of women are seen especially at the entry level, but why does it thin out? I would not put all the blame to sexism, but also to the kind of high pressure work that the industry requires.”
“There are no excuses for 24-hour workdays and workdays that could become 48 hours long. So some of it is women restrict themselves and some of it is others in their profession restrict them. But it is a work-in-progress, you need to keep fighting it and make it a point that at the end you will really be judged by your work and not by your gender.”
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Trolling is certainly more direct and sexist for women than it is for male journalists. Famous journalists have to bear the brunt of it on social media platforms more regularly than ever before. In the recent past, a senior journalist from NDTV Sonal Mehrotra became a victim of social media trolling after she was beaten up outside the Patiyala court in the JNU case. She was harassed on twitter by anonymous accounts. By her own admission, her parentage, her ovaries, and every possible organ was cursed. She said that trolls can get very derogatory with women questioning their womanhood, but they won’t do that with men, reported by Quartz. Haidar agrees that men are targeted for the things they do in their workplace while women are targeted for different reasons.
Women are targeted for being women, their voices, their faces, the way they look etc. and that actually is the core of the problem with trolling
“They get targeted for being women, their voices, their faces, the way they look, the way they spoke instead and that actually is the core of the problem. So long as you are criticized for what you write or your story on television, it won’t matter whether you are a woman or you are a man. But when you are targeted personally as opposed to the basis of your work then that does reek of sexism and a gender bias,” states Haidar on trolling and sexism.
So ladies, full power to you if you aspire to be journalists, but get ready to handle the backlash as well!