5 tips for reporting on gender — as told by you
How to get better at investigating questions around gender and sexuality.
As I previously mentioned, I’m working on a data-heavy investigation about resource-extraction projects and their impacts on women on Canada’s West Coast. The further I get into this investigation, the more I find myself returning to the roots of my work in this space — roots many of you helped cultivate.
When I first started reporting on gender, I sent out a survey to members of this community. One question I asked was how journalists could do a better job investigating issues around gender and sexuality.
I received close to 50 thoughtful responses, and feel grateful that I get to learn from smart, resilient feminists like you. So, in the spirit of growing together 🌱, here are five reporting tips you’ve taught me:
In order to tell honest stories about gender issues, media must acknowledge society’s power structures because there’s no balance in patriarchal narratives. You told me:
“There's a disturbing trend of journalists referring to sex offenders (esp. white males) by their accomplishments first (eg. Brock Turner being referred to as "Stanford swimmer" in headlines). I think it's important for the media to be aware of the ways in which (usually) male perpetrators are cast as sympathetic characters while (usually) female victims are cast as unreliable, dangerous, immoral, etc. I feel that too often the reporting of female victims centres around questions of her morality.”
Stories about Indigenous women aren’t accurate without context, so media needs to acknowledge Canada’s history of colonialism. You said:
“Understanding the colonial legacy that permeates Indigenous communities is critical to understanding the social and economic conditions on many reserves ... Especially when reading about Indigenous communities, it is really tempting as a settler to feel sad, and then guilty, and then move on. I think the media could do a better job encouraging folks to move past that and potentially get involved in productive work, rather than just dismissing the article, blog, podcast, whatever as another sad story of violence on a reserve.”
Media gets it wrong — a lot. I heard:
“The media needs to stop labelling our Indigenous women as sex workers, drug addicts, drunks, runaways. They stereotype us. Whenever you hear anything about a woman missing or who has been murdered, the fact that they were sex workers is the first thing they say. Calling them drug addicts when they weren't even drug addicts.”
It can be emotionally exhausting to share personal experiences with a journalist. You reminded me how it can feel to tell stories of trauma:
“There's been a few times where I've had to deal with media all day, for three days. I'm telling my family's stories over and over again. It affects my body. ... I know that I get emotionally drained when I speak to media about this. I know that I need to take the time to do self-care. It's emotionally draining, but those times I've wanted to quit, I say, 'This is nothing compared to the violence that our women are going through. I have a daughter to fight for as well.’”
Media can’t produce better journalism on gender issues until it addresses structural inequalities within our own organizations. You pointed out:
“Look internally first. Media outlets have a longstanding history (recent) of being one of the worst perpetrators of workplace discrimination and sexual violence.”
Thanks for your knowledge, and for taking the time to share it with me — even when it’s not always easy. How else can I get better at telling stories about gender in Canada? Sound off via Facebook, Twitter or email.