As a feminist, I recognize that I was born into a man's world. I will probably raise my children in a man's world. All I can do is fight for equality, and teach future generations of women that they are just as worthy, intelligent, and valuable as men. As a journalist, writing and telling stories is my escape. I often find comfort in seeing what I have created go to air. When I interview someone, they listen, and when one of my stories airs, for about a minute and a half, people care what I have to say. I've always been encouraged and taught that I can be successful in this world, and taken seriously.
I recently started my internship for graduation from Ball State. In May, I'll receive my Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Telecommunications, and then the clock starts ticking.
This clock is my shelf life in the world of journalism.
One of my fellow female journalists recently told me what it's like being a woman in this profession. I wondered if people recognize her in the grocery store. I asked what it was like to know she had made it and to be so well respected in such a large market. She's been in the business for 10 years. She said people do stop her sometimes, and say, "Hey! I know you!" She loves meeting people. She loves the thrill of deadlines. She's just like me. Then she said something else...
"Let me tell you something. Being a woman is so hard. Once they don't think you're pretty, they don't want you, so get good at everything, even behind the camera."
This resonated with me. We live in a world where no matter how good you are at what you do when you lose your looks, it doesn't matter what you can do. Ever wondered why your news anchors are always a young 20 something woman and an older man? They like him for his talent. People trust him. He has experience. They want her because she's as beautiful off camera as she is on.
All I've ever wanted to do is tell stories. When I was about 7, I kept a folder full of all of my goofy creations, and every time I wrote something new, I stowed it away neatly in my Lisa Frank folder and put it on my side table for future Abby to have published. My English teachers use to tell me I was talented, and I had a real future in this. I'm really scared for my future in journalism, though. I've been trained to do it all. I can write, I can produce, and I can run a camera, but all I want is to be in front of the camera. I want people to invite me into their homes for dinner to deliver the news and keep them informed. I want people to recognize me in the grocery store. But the reality is I won't be able to do this for long while people think the way they do. Don't get me wrong, nothing can change my mind about what I want to do. And it's not the news stations. It's the viewers. The media appeals to what you want. Ratings show the audience responds well to a pretty face, and years of experience. But why can't a woman be considered experienced? Is it threatening that I'm educated? Does it emasculate male viewers to see a 40+-year-old woman teaching them about what's happening in the world around them? Even the most well-respected female journalists, such as Katie Couric, have spoken out about the pressure to be sexy still. She looks back at her old interviews and asks why she had to wear such a short skirt when she could've told the same story in a tailored suit.
By writing this, my goal is not to point fingers. I'm not blaming men. I'm not blaming the media. I'm blaming years of socialization. You've all been taught this behavior, and surprise: It's sexist. Make the change now. Have faith in female journalists. I've received the same education as my male peers. I'm qualified now, and when I'm 40 and have a few gray hairs and a couple wrinkles, I'll have years of experience, and the confidence to keep doing my job to the best of my ability. And hopefully, by then, I won't feel like I have to hide behind the camera because someone doesn't find me attractive.