Once in a bruised moon, some lazy journalist or other will call me to ask “What is it like being a woman-of-today-in-the-media?” Obviously, I tell them, “Very dangerous when I bleed from my womb all over the telecommunications equipment”. Then, I tell them to fuck off. And this is due not only to my revulsion for lazy journalists who write the same story a jllion times a year, but it is down to the fact that I think people who work in media complain too much.
Or, rather, their complaints tend to resonate too publicly.
I mean, of course media is a sexist industry because labour is generally structured in a pretty sexist way. As a woman-of-today-in-the-media, I have, of course, encountered sexism of the type discussed in the recent report of my union, the MEAA.
As all women working in all sectors know, there is a hopeless standard of femininity against which we will be inevitably judged as failures. You’re either too much of a woman (“she’s meek”, “she’s never confident in her opinion”) or not enough of a woman (“she’s strident”, “she thinks she’s always right”) and at some point or another, your tool of a boss is going to tell you that he had “dreams of a sexual nature” about you during your performance review. Which, Ed, mate, was not only a clear violation of corporate policy, but a very unwelcome reminder that god gifted you a penis. Seriously, you never deserved one.
But, the tedious and ongoing sexism I encounter as a woman-of-today-in-the-media is not, I believe, particularly worthy of report. This is both because there are (a) already a jillion “inspiring” women giving career-boosting TED talks about it and (b) there are not that very many people who work in media — in terms of labour, it’s really a niche concern.
Nonetheless, tales of Sexism In The Media appear very regularly in press while investigation of, say, sexism within the healthcare and social assistance sector, the nation’s largest employment category, is not something I can remember having often read.
Of course, there was a good kerfuffle a while back about female surgeons and sexism and, really, it should give everyone the willies to think that people with scalpels are engaged in this crap. I don’t want anyone who is either (a) distracted by sexism or (b) sexist messing about with my liver. So, while this was a welcome report, it also had, like stories about women-of-today-in-the-media, a very elite focus.
Our falling wages notwithstanding, we who work in media are a cultural elite. We have direct access to policy makers. We create content and opinions that are widely read and shared. We, within the framework permitted by our employers, determine what many people will be chatting about.
Personally, I could not wish the problems of sexism that beset the woman-of-today-in-the-media further, and I understand the motivation of my union to describe it.
But, I do think it’s about time that the working conditions of other Australians were not so frequently eclipsed by a description of mine. Yes, it’s a terrible fact that a celebrity newsreader was asked to drop a few kilos, but there are millions of much worse facts in the lives of anonymous working women.
The volume of attention afforded to my industry, by my industry, is disproportionate.
In November of 2014, ABC MD Mark Scott announced the loss of 400 jobs. In the same week, 900 were to go from the CSIRO and this announcement, which I followed closely, did not attract anything like the same level of report. Last month, the loss of more than 2000 jobs from the extraction industry was predicted. This was not as interesting to media as the Fairfax cuts.
There are labour advocates working tirelessly on the behalf of their industries. They have things to say. But, media tends to report excessively about its own labour problems, giving less glorious coverage to those rather more serious ones faced by nearly everybody else. It seems to me that we could temper our claims that a “free press is essential to democracy” with the acknowledgement that good jobs for everyone, not just celebrity newsreaders, are essential to democracy as well.
I still hate sexism. But I hate that media deem their more glamorous brand of sexism as somehow more worthy of report.