Last week Media 7 ran a show discussing, amongst other things, whether the demise of Women’s Studies programmes was in any way related to the increasing laddishness in contemporary media (witness the wretched ‘Win-A-Wife’ competition). Clearly they needed some people to talk about women’s studies programmes, and the media, so they got John Campbell, and Chris(topher) Trotter.
I’m betting that your first reaction is an almighty *headdesk*. Because it seems bloody odd not to have some women discussing the issues. Chris Trotter himself has raised an eyebrow over it, wondering why on earth the program couldn’t get at least one woman to front.
It wasn’t for want of trying. I know this because Media 7’s researcher approached me.
Media 7, Russell Brown’s show on TVNZ7, is next week looking at the demise of the Women’s Studies course at VUW…. it’d be great to have a discussion about what effect women’s studies had on those who work in media (particularly journalism) and if it disappears from our universities as a subject of serious research, how will that affect our media? It seems with all the male antics going on right now …, that a discussion of this sort is more important than ever. It would be great to talk to you about the possibility of being our guest for the show, on a panel.
I was delighted to receive the request, and I would have loved to have been able to say yes. But I said no. No, I would not appear on the program to discuss the decline in women’s studies programmes, and the increasingly boorish treatment of women in the media.
I couldn’t because I am not a Women’s Studies graduate, nor have I ever taken a Women’s Studies paper, nor even a paper that could be credited to a Women’s Studies major, and not even a paper in feminist philosophy, or feminist political theory. I have simply not been in contact with professional academic women’s studies. I have no expertise in the area.
I couldn’t because I am not a journalist, nor a person who studies the media, or a person who has any expertise in the media, at all. I have no expertise in the area.
I am not willing to hold myself out as an expert in these areas. End of story.
More than that, I now work in a university, in a completely unrelated discipline. But just down the hallway and up the stairs from me, literally, are people who work in media, even in gender and media. This is their turf, not mine.
These are professional and academic reasons for saying no. But some personal reasons counted too. Taking a day out to go to Auckland is not an easy matter for me. It can be done, but it takes a power of organisation, of juggling schedules and organising childcare and making sure that homework is done / school bags are packed / evening meals are planned. I find it very hard to be a last minute, or even a few days before, traveler.
This might all sound like me trying to plead that I am a special case, but I know I am not. I know that many women in academic jobs are not willing to trample all over their colleagues’ areas of expertise. I know that many women in academic jobs feel too vulnerable to speak out about particular areas of research and study. Critic and conscience of society is all very well, but critic and conscience of your own workplace’s management might be a DCBM matter. I know that women in public service jobs simply cannot speak at all. That goes with the territory of having a job in the public service. I know that women with children find it hard to simply take a day out, because they don’t have a wife at home to ensure that everything will run smoothly in their absence.
So when Chris Trotter asks what the hell is going on, and implies it is all the fault of the women who wouldn’t appear, well, whatever, really. Instead of asking why individual women felt that they could not appear, perhaps he might like to examine the systemic factors that constrain women’s actions. Alternatively, he might like to think about whether is is a good idea to hold yourself out as an expert in an area in which you know nothing. Chris himself works in media, and is conversant with left wing politics. I do not wish to criticise his own appearance on the show, nor Media 7 for asking him to appear. Nevertheless, I think he misreads the non-appearance of women on the show.
And… umm… Media 7, perhaps with just a little more lead time, we would have been able to come up with a woman who was able to appear on the show. Not easy, I know, in a fast moving media landscape, where timeliness is critical. But something that would be worth having an eye to, if possible.