Activism … and Taste?

“But where is it written that all our dreams must be small ones?”
Byron in “Babylon 5”

Like written in the previous posting, I’m still struggling with finding the right tone regarding some activism — which is surprisingly difficult if you are affected as well.

Anyway, thinking can only get you so far and to avoid turning in circles, I’ve decided to try out a few things. First, by creating the following poster:

Gender Inequality in Journalism
(Mind the small print, you might need to right-click on the image and select “View Image”. The easier to read/enlarge PDF Version is here). BTW, the logo in the lower right corner, which should look like a 2×2-table, strives to show that there are four quarters to every gender issue — advantages vs. disadvantages and men vs. women.

Mind the small print. The easier to read/enlarge PDF Version is here.

The inspiration for this poster was a campaign arguing that:

“‘Tragically, women journalists are under bigger threat than their male colleagues when it comes to attacks, bullying, threats, cyber-bullying, rape and abuse; all effective tools to silence women’s voices in the media. As we encourage more and more women into the profession, their safety must be paramount,’ said IFJ Gender Council co-chair Mindy Ran.”

I was taken aback with that assertion, mainly because I just don’t understand why this is framed as an issue for female journalists only. There is no need for a pissing contest who is the bigger victim of violence — it affects us all.

I mean, is the gap when it comes to violence really that wide that male journalists are pretty much in no danger of attacks, bullying, threats, cyber-bullying, rape and abuse? In all forms of the mentioned forms of violence? Rape and abuse might be primarily a women’s problem (excluding jailed male journalists), but what about threats, attacks, (cyber-)bullying?

Apparently, that assertion is based primarily on interviews with women and the reports women made. The problem is that a focus only on female journalists does not tell you anything about the comparison between female and male journalists when it comes to violence. It’s a confirmation bias. You can interview all female journalists and come up with very high numbers of reports, all people who seek assistance might be women, yet it does not support a comparative argument.

For this, you need to interview men — in a way that male journalists are willing to talk about negative experiences. And I think that men/male journalists probably are hesitant to complain — men who complain are regarded as “unmanly”. It is severely discouraged. Boys don’t cry. Men walk it off. Yes, these are sexist attitudes as well, but ones that hurt men.

But you cannot walk off death — so this highly skewed percentage might be the tip of an iceberg.

Yes, this worst kind of violence — murder — is a tiny number in itself, luckily. And it was not included in the list when it comes to asserting higher occurrences of violence for women than for men. The data are unambiguous and there is no way to argue that female journalists are under a higher threat there.

But does it really make sense to assume that there is much fewer violence against male journalists in all other areas, but suddenly, when it comes to murder, men make up 96%?

Even considering that male journalists probably get the most risky assignments or enter areas where women are not allowed (in some countries), is it really rational to assume to male journalists are left in peace, never threatened, never touched, never bullied — yet suddenly they are killed?

Or is it more likely that these issues get under-reported? Especially if men are not interviewed in a way they are willing to admit openly to being threatened? When “research” on violence frequently focuses on women as victims, and men’s role seems to be tied to either being perpetrators or doing too little in terms of speaking out against violence against women?

Actually doing a comparison would require a well-thought out study, interviewing both men and women, with questions able to elicit honest responses and that also tackle encountered behaviors (to prevent bias due to different estimations of the severity of the actions), and much more. It would have to go beyond personal experience and self-selected reports by one demographic only.

And all this is prior to considering whether it makes sense to split the issue.

After all, are the methods to combat violence against journalists really that different when it comes to male vs. female journalists that you need to split the interventions? Do they really work this selectively? And is it worth it to make one demographic feel more threatened than the other? More at risk? I find it hard to believe. The only advantage a selective push has is to further ignore male journalists and drive up the numbers of female journalists affected, because the focus is only on them.

For me, it seem to much like treating suffering as is a competition, with an unequal yet political correct push in one direction, instead fighting together against the actual issue. I don’t think it will work to make the world a better place — but it will give some groups power and influence, while ignoring part of the problem, and with no real intention of any actual change.

Anyway, but the topic is new to me — so my issue currently is the question of taste: Is that poster in bad taste?

I don’t know — and I’d like to hear your opinion. To make feedback easy, I have included a yes, no, or it depends option. And if you have a minute, please leave a comment (click on the posting header to see the comments) and tell me why you think so.

    Is the poster displayed in this posting in bad taste?

    Yes, it is in bad tasteNo, it is not in bad tasteMaybe, it depends

    Thank you.


    1. morgen daniel 🙂

      I would just like to say that the poster is on the first perspective okay, beacuse its topic wants to show important facts about inequality. But which part I find difficult/dangerous is the colour: stereotypically pink. Colour has no gender.
      Say it with “business” colours: maybe silver/black for men, and as a contrast white oder blue for women (which would be more neutral)

      and as a student who´s main part in studies were gender studies, I also have to mention, that there are not just two genders. I dont know if you ever had written about this, but it depens on which perspective you define gender. In India there is officially the third gender.
      From a political and economic perspective, there are two gender: male and female, defined by its sex.
      From the sociological (and psychological?) perspective there is a difference between “sex” and “gender”, between “have a sex” and “doing gender/social gender”.
      sometimes there is a female body, but male sex; there is transsexualism, intersexualism.
      sometimes a women has no physical organs (Eierstöcke o.ä.) to give birth to a child and by some perspectives she is no more women. some other perspectives defines people by hormones. and so on. So in TOTAL we can have 114 or 140 (?i dont remember the exactly number, maybe it was less?) genders, or gender definitions.

      Okay. that was a procrastinating excursion to the field… but now i have to go on on my master thesis. (Thanks a lot for your recommendations in saturdays mail!). 5 weeks to go. writing. and then editing, editing, editing…. 🙁

    2. Hoi Vero,

      thank you for the comment — actually, the colors were deliberately chosen to play with expectations. It looks like a stereotypically poster à la “look how women are discriminated against”, but as the fine print shows, the issue is more complex than it might seem on first glance. Not sure whether many go so far to actually read the fine print and notice that “price” is not a spelling mistake and these figure show causalities. Which is also the reason why I fear this might be bad taste — I think equality is an important issue and it can only work of all parties are honest, on the other hand, ‘using’ causality figures this way … don’t know. So, time to find out 😉
      (Regarding the gender issue — the statistics only show gender as male and female, so there’s not much I can do here … but yup, that’s also an issue.)

      BTW, regarding the next 5 weeks — that deadline also works in your favor. Work might be(come) hell at the moment, but you got a fixed end date. It might be excruciating — perhaps — but then it’s over 🙂 So have fun 🙂

      All the best


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