Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Women's issues don't only lie between their legs

Published:Saturday | September 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Ramona Lawson

Ramona Lawson, Guest Columnist

The standard life cycle of most polarising women's issues is that they almost always germinate in Parliament and then are swiftly ushered into the media to die. Then again, that is pretty much the case with most topical issues; the fervour and interest in the conversations gradually dissipate.

But to be fair, whatever the headline-grabber at the time, be it gender quotas, the perpetual pro-life/pro-choice debate, or flash-in-the-pan ideas such as caps on births, the media usually assemble the most qualified panel of learned experts in what is all too often a failed attempt to fully ventilate the issue.

Let's not fool ourselves: Media are first and foremost a commercial space. Sex does very well there. So do controversy and sensationalism. The fact is, most bona fide women's issues are not sexy. They are often inconvenient, taboo, too real, or too heavy to command a slot in precious prime time or score premium column inches except, of course, where the issue is sex itself.

One can just imagine the viewing party of voyeurs that is assembling as one local female reporter readied herself to step into the red-light district. It was not too difficult to pre-empt the content of her report based on the teaser thrown out prior to the actual reports. While I will withhold my own opinion on why we perhaps have been watching, I have to question whether local audiences genuinely have the appetite for an investigative look at transactional sex, or are we simply lured by the promise of salacious scenes?

So no serious-minded proponent of women's issues would be seeking out only the media to lend voice to the cause; well, I can only hope so, for the number of very serious issues that are concomitant with being a woman can never be satisfactorily aired in the space known as media. One-off media publicity does very little to propel a subject matter that is as far-reaching and wide-ranging as women's issues.

NOT JUST ABOUT GENDER EQUALITY

I would caution against forcing the 'issue', too, lest 'women's issues' be discounted as an agenda like politics or gay rights or be crammed into the little available media space and time which could easily reduce it to a euphemism for the more loudly debated issue of gender equality when women's issues is so much more.

Personally, I am not at all slighted by the spartan coverage of women's issues, for truth be told, they attract no less media attention than other subject matters which are considered equally unsexy such as environmental protection or the disabled.

Of far greater import is that the growing numbers of women who command a platform in the media are sensitive to the dynamics of being female. While they are not obligated to speak on women's issues and should not attempt to do so unless properly informed, they ought to be cognisant of how easily any errant behaviour is stereotypically attributed to their being female, and women in media are especially vulnerable.

Women are famously chastised for being overly emotional, for example, yet women's issues continue to generate great debate even among men. Despite the irony, it is far more common for women to be labelled feminists. Moreover, if they were to demand preferential treatment from the media, they run the real risk of attracting the other uncomplimentary label of chauvinists, especially since the separation of women's and men's issues has become increasingly difficult.

Power struggles in relationships and the realities of incest, rape, polygamy and objectification are no longer gendered. How's that for a headline?

The quality of the conversations around women's issues, post-parliament and otherwise, is more likely to improve the closer it moves to more forbearing environments such as the home, the Church, the school (provided, of course, that the content of the conversations is thoroughly vetted for age appropriateness since evidently well-intentioned efforts are magnets for distracting side stories and headlines).

But I am pretty sure that stalwart proponents of women's issues (such as Dr Glenda Simms) are well aware of the most effective strategies (media and otherwise) to promote the subject matter.

Ramona Lawson is a community and communications liaison. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and ramona.m.lawson@gmail.com, or tweet _Meng_Na.