Thursday, October 14, 2004

Stop acting like you invented the wheel.

Congratulations, you discovered that misogyny runs rampant through the world of left-wing political hacks. Aren't you clever! I bet no one's thought of that before. Because hey, they're left-wing, right? They're supposed to be inclusive, tolerant and the moral champions of just about everyone - even women. But no! No, after a night out boozing with the straggling remains of Hampstead's 'liberal press', you realised that - surprise! - the trappings of sexism are still as depressingly close to the surface of most lefty male journos as they ever were.

The above is directed at my (male) flatmate, an assistant editor who came back from said piss-up last night all in a tizzy over a certain other magazine's news editor commenting on how the only reason a particular article was commissioned for my flatmate's mag was because it was PC to publish something written by someone young, female, pretty and Asian.

While obviously a stupid, ignorant remark (the article was actually written by somebody intelligent, well-informed and eloquent, not that I should even need to justify his comments) made by an unimaginative, overgrown child (who I sincerely hope is not reading this!), what really got me was my flatmate's surprise at his words. Not only his surprise, but the attitude that he had just exposed some long-hidden miscarriage of justice that he was going to make sure was rectified at every opportunity from here on in. Please.

It doesn't take much to realise that women journalists are still treated as second-class citizens across large sections of the British political press. It's actively, almost unconciously made harder for us to break into that sphere. A fabulous article was writen about the situation in the inaugural issue of the Independent's Media Weekly supplement. Unfortunately I can't provide a link to it because the Indy wants you to pay them to access their online content. All I can say is that it was written by Harriet Harman, was called Why the Lobby Needs Women, and was like breath of fresh air to someone like me, who is getting rather tired of being treated as a backdrop/tea-lady/sounding board.

After having watched the political print hack both in his natural habitat and with other members of the species, I'm left with only two words to explain the situation: Boys' Club. And nowhere more so than the left wing, which is riven by an impenetrable degree of factionalism. Most of us would agree that spending time down the pub makes up a fair amount of the average journalist's week. It's where contacts are made, secrets divulged, etc. But from what I've witnessed, it's usually only a short leap from there to drunken tales of poo, vomit and 'bum sex', and all the other sordid topics that boys seem get off on sharing. And the last thing they want is for us women to be around when all of this is going on, because (a) they'd have no chance of scoring with us and (b) their sad geekiness would be exposed to the world at large. Because let's face it, political hacks are, almost to a man, geeks.

And what if our roles were reversed? What if it was mostly women journalists who sat around the corner table at the Winchester, holding court and smoking fags? How would the men take it? Simple. They'd be BORED. Not only that, they'd feel as if they couldn't be themselves, couldn't possibly be real men with all those women around. And from there it wouldn't be long before the old cries of emasculation would be sounded. Same old same old.

In other words, what's unacceptable for women now would be just as unacceptable for men if we swapped places. And while not every male hack is going to agree, a little more inclusiveness and progressive thinking would be very welcome right about now.

So why the sarcastic rant at the start of this post? Why am I bitching at a male journalist who has actually recognised and is appalled by the problem of sexism in media circles? Because I know that he won't do anything to change it. He can recognise the facts staring him in the face all he wants, but despite his good intentions, he (and others like him) is too enthralled by the grubby glamour of the London Media Left bon viveur world to want to see it changed. So that's that. To you, flatmate, I say this: If you ain't part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Booyah!


At October 26, 2004 1:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Writing as he who is implored to stop acting as if he invented the wheel (which I didn't, I just expressed surprise that the wheel was still in use in such a right-on publication) I must ask what the hell I'm supposed to do to change the situation, apart from express my grievance to those concerned (which i did) make a conscious effort to commission female journalists (which, although I'm not entirely sure about positive discrimination, I do) and give sulky answers to criticism (which I am doing, right now).


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