NUJ Women’s Conference 2009 – with friends like these…

Posted by Irresponsibility

It’s too early for April Fools so the following email from the National Union of Journalists is apparently in earnest.

Dear Colleague

You are invited to register for the NUJ Women’s Conference 2009 to be held on Saturday 28 February at Headland House from 11.15am to approximately 3.30pm. A light lunch will be available on the day.

“You’ve come a long way, babe”
Images of women in today’s media

In 1975 the NUJ’s Equality Working Party published “Images of “Women” – guidelines for promoting equality through journalism. Over thirty years later the NUJ Women’s Conference will be asking if this ground-breaking guide to non-sexist reporting has made any difference or has the sterotyping just got more subtle?
We may no longer read about the “blonde housewife, mother of two” but are we now too fat or too thin?
And how far does our portrayal influence the way women are treated in the workplace?
What is the image of women in our own union?
When you think of the NUJ’s National Executive, do you see a diverse group of people or just a group of men?

Where to begin? First of all, I am staggered, absolutely fucking bowled-over, to discover the NUJ is devoting a whole four-hours-and-fifteen minutes (inclusive of a “light lunch” because that’s what the ladies like, right?) to discussing the image of women in today’s media. It’s almost as if they think there’s not much to discuss; which in itself is worth discussing.

Second point: Calling a conference to address the image of women in media and calling it “You’ve come a long way babe“? Sweet loving lord on a bike. Someone tell me that’s a poor stab at irony.

Third: “We may no longer read about the “blonde housewife, mother of two””. Do these people not read the tabloids? I could come up with a dozen references to women by their appearance, marital or maternal status without breaking a sweat. A better question would be, when was the last time one of these classifications wasn’t used to label a female subject?

Fourth, my personal experience with the NUJ and their attitude towards women is hardly encouraging. I pitched a feature to the Union suggesting a series of interviews with women in different areas of the media, highlighting the skills they needed for their job and opportunities within their fields. The (male) editor replied saying the suggestion was ‘vague’. I sent a thorough outline which he never bothered to reply to at all.

At the time it felt like a snub, as if the NUJ doesn’t actually give a damn about women’s progress in media. Nice to see them going all out with this rigorous conference and proving me wrong…


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