Calling all 'female' journalists: Mediawomen conference 2013 ramps up

Calling all 'female' journalists: Mediawomen conference 2013 ramps up

We live in the world of free speech, particularly when it comes to expansive online commentary.

That’s lovely, but along with it come the nutters, the detractors, and those people – those people – who post inflammatory comments on mainstream media websites. You know what they say – never read the comments.

But the mainstream media itself – and those it’s quoting – is still susceptible to its share of, ahem, alternative views.

It means we live in a media world where, for example, Andrea Vance was repeatedly described as “a FEMALE journalist” by One News; the race for the Auckland Central seat between two serious political candidates, Nikki Kaye and Jacinda Ardern, was framed in terms of physical attractiveness and trivialised in the “battle of the babes”; and a dinosaur such as Alasdair Thompson, well, exists.

In 1977, the group Mediawomen was founded by writers, researchers, technicians, producers and directors across all media, tasking itself with challenging the way women were portrayed in the media and also female media workers. Is it now redundant? The postfeminist discourse would say yes; the above examples – and social media movements such as #everydaysexism, #MissRepresentation and #destroyingthejoint – would indicate otherwise.

Regardless, the group is experiencing a revival, sparked by the death of founding member Marcia Russell last year. The Mediawomen conference is scheduled for September 19, 20 and 21 at the University of Auckland. It’s a not-for-profit event comprising of a memorial lecture in honour of Russell, a Mediawomen reunion, a panel discussion and a series of workshops, among other things.

I’m personally supporting the conference in the hope of a continued revival of the group and in celebration of its achievements (and its members’ achievements) over the years.

I’ll be on the panel alongside Mango Communications managing director Claudia Macdonald, Sandra Coney and others, as well as giving a conversational workshop on media.

Auckland Council has given the conference its practical and financial support and is offering a internship for one media studies student, to be announced at the conference.

The conference co-incides with Suffrage Day (September 19) and is being organised by Mediawomen founding members, novelist Sandi Hall and Liz Greenslade, who ran a feminist PR company Bluestockings.

If you’d like to be added to an email list for conference updates or be involved in the conference, email editor@idealog.co.nz.

Read more about the awe-inspiring Marcia Russell here.