Glenda Daniels
Glenda Daniels
Sexism and sexist attitudes, norms and values prevail in the newsroom and media even though the numbers of men to women journalists and editors have finally evened out.

But there is hope: many women journalists in the past were “minorities”, and ignored the sexism, sexist jokes and antiquated patriarchal tendencies - to survive the male domination they were ensconced in. So they didn’t rock the boat.

This is changing, the Glass Ceilings Women in South African Media Houses 2018 research which we (Sanef and Gender Links) have launched, shows. The change is characterised by scathing words and speaking out could be due to the general zeitgeist of the times internationally with the #MeToo campaign and the new wave of feminist militancy witnessed in the national #totalshutdown march, earlier this year led by mainly younger women.

Identities are shifting and women journalists are saying #HearMeToo as women journalists not just journalists. The gender component is important because women are speaking out against discrimination on many different levels as seen in the research, including that they are subjected to more cyber and online bullying than their male counterparts; experiencing increased sexual harassment while out on their jobs; prodded to wear sexy clothes to get the story, are paid less than men of the same experience in media, passed over for promotion; paying what they call the “family penalty”.

In other words, many women say, they often go home after work to look after children while men network over a drink, and on weekends at soccer matches, where key decisions are made. Women journalists are speaking out against the “all boys club” from which they feel excluded and where many decisions about what takes place are made.

I have experienced the same thing from years ago that young women journalists are still experiencing today in the newsroom, and that is, being “cut off”. You pitch your ideas at diary conference and get cut off by a senior male journalist/editor with a louder voice who then pitches the same idea in a slightly different way 10 minutes later. There is no other word for this kind of undermining; it’s called bullying but you can go further by saying it’s a form of theft (stealing a story idea).

“The old boys network is alive and well, with men in senior positions making editorial decisions, which exclude women, which often blocks the rise of capable women.

“Patriarchy, as reflected in society at large, is mirrored in the media with gender stereotyping and women being assigned to soft beats.”

This may sound depressing, but they are welcoming the comments which highlight the discriminatory attitudes so they can call out and shout back with some of the excellent key messages of our time: #HearMeToo and #TimesUp for your stupid sexism.

Daniels is an Associate Professor of Media Studies at Wits. She co-authored the Glass Ceilings: Women in SA Media Houses, 2018 research. This is part of the 16 Voices for 16 Days series.