Women in media, sexism and the threat of burnout

I was never really interested in women’s issues and feminism until I entered college. I thought I’d been fortunate in my life and thought I had never experienced sexism or discrimination based on my gender. But as I spent more time in college I began realizing little ways in how I was being treated differently because I am female — the catcalls I’d receive when driving in my convertible, the men on the street who would tell me to smile, the older men (often residing in positions of authority or who were sources I was interviewing) who would call me “a nice, local girl,” when they learned that I’m from Missouri.

Before college, I never thought of myself as a feminist. I thought sexism was largely a thing of the past and I wasn’t interested in the topic. Now, I go on tangents about women’s issues and the patriarchy and male gaze. I listen to Beyoncé’s “Flawless” at least once a week on full volume and have a Rosie the Riveter poster hanging in my room. Last night I was watching “National Treasure” with my roommates (don’t judge) and it bothered me that someone like Diane Kruger was cast as Nicholas’ Cage’s love interest — because, really, when would that ever happen?

Today I went to the Women in Media panel as part of the Missouri Honor Medal celebrations and classes. I was immediately interested in the topic and as soon as I heard that Jacqui Banaszynski was the moderator, aka a goddess badass journalist and everything I want to be, I made the decision to skip my Ancient Western Philosophy class and go.

Jacqui immediately threw out a statistic that terrified me — she said, about 70 percent of journalism students are women, but there are only about 25 percent of women in newsrooms.

So, what happened to all the women?

The answers vary. Sexism, internet trolls, and the demands of the job tend to drive women away. The panelists talked a lot about how journalism isn’t a regular, nine-to-five job. “Journalism is your life,” they said, and that demand is hard on a lot of women.

Burn-out is something that worries me. I can see how women are especially affected, since many women want to have families and it can be difficult to be married and have children while you’re working a job as demanding and unpredictable as journalism. Personally, I don’t know if I want to get married and have kids, but one thing I have always been adamant about is that I refuse to let a job rule my life. I don’t want journalism to be the main focus of my life. And sometimes it worries me that it will be.

A fellow student asked the question that has been burning in my mind for the last year — when your career is affecting your personal life in a negative way, what can you do?

The answer: “Cry and drink.”

Tbh that’s how I coped with the stress of journalism and personal issues all last year, and I can’t say it worked out well for me. Yes, journalism is a hard job, but I think that I and other women can find that balance. (Insert obnoxious: “Can women have it all?” question. What the heck is “IT”?).

Welcome to Junior Year, the Missourian, and Eight-Hour GA Shifts

This week has held a lot of firsts for me. My first day of junior year. My first time getting a parking ticket. My first time taking a sunrise yoga class. And today was my first GA shift at the Columbia Missourian, Columbia’s city newspaper.

From the moment you step onto campus as a freshman journalist, the Missourian is this big, scary, impending obstacle that looms over you. You know it’s coming, you’ve heard how hard it is, and all you can do is practice writing at the campus newspaper and hope you can just get through the J4450 semester.

When I walked into the newsroom during orientation, I was, and honestly still am, intimidated.

It didn’t make things better when I realized that my first General Assignment shift would be held during a walkout demonstration by graduate assistants. After prepping for the day to come by reading through articles for hours the day before, waking up before dawn for sunrise yoga, and grabbing my favorite Starbucks combo — a grande white mocha with a chocolate croissant — I set out for GA, armed with my reporter’s notebook and pen.

After some early-morning live-tweeting, my GA shift mainly consisted of calling MIA sources and leaving voice mails from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Two stories fell through simply because nobody would respond to my messages, and a third story is looking like it’ll be dropped by tomorrow.

This wasn’t exactly how I wanted it to go.

But even though the day was full of setbacks, I found myself enjoying the job. I love being in a newsroom. I love making friends with the other reporters, something I’m finding astonishingly quick and effortless to do. I love working with editors and ACES who take the time to help us newbies.

I may not have a byline just yet, but I’m excited for the semester and stories to come. Maybe the Missourian isn’t so scary after all.

A reflection on my first semester of college

I came into college terrified.

I was so excited to move away, to be on my own, to surround myself with new people and new situation and figure out who the person I want to be is. College was all I could think about for the entirety of my senior year in high school. When I graduated, I was even more ready to enter the world of higher education. And then, unexpectedly but completely normally, when it got down to the one month mark until the fantasy became a reality, I became scared shitless.

Granted, my school is only two hours away from my home and nearly forty of the kids I graduated with in high school are attending the same institution, but on move in day I realized I was completely and utterly alone. Two hours is a long way. Of those forty other Lee’s Summit West survivors, I was only friends with two of them. Neither of which I had any classes with or lived in the same hall with. To top it all off, I had never been away from home before. It was more than a little scary, and I definitely cried in front of my roommate, whom I was meeting for the first time that day.

The first few days were strange. The hall was deserted. I knew there were other people, but I had no idea where to find them or what to say once I did. All but two of the girls in the hall were rushing, which meant they were out of the dorm all day parading around Greek Town. The very first interaction I had with other real living, breathing residents of Hatch Hall were with two guys who kept trying to show me Adventure Time videos on Youtube, which I had no interest in.

But after people started opening their doors and coming out of their rooms, Columbia became a much less frightening place.

A stranger invited me to (an illegal) game of darts in his room with a bunch of other strange and diverse people. I found myself in an unlikely group outing to a magic show, a movie, and Target. Somehow I ended up as part of “The Sandy Balls” volleyball team. We were all in a new town, at a new school, and most of us didn’t know anybody.

As the semester continued, the hall has morphed into what I now refer to as the “Hatch Five family.” It’s amazing how people bond over endless hours of ESPN (against my protests about sharing the lounge tv), cheering on the tigers at football games after degenerate tailgates, almost dying at frat parties, etc. Without a doubt, my favorite part of college is the people I have met and come to care for.

Another big highlight of my first semester of college has been working at The Maneater, the student-run newspaper. I am incredibly honored to be able to work there as a beat writer, and next semester I will be the movie columnist, which is pretty much my dream career. From day one, I have felt nothing but accepted with open arms by the editors and other writers who always work with me on stories, give me advice, and  let me crash their parties unannounced.

Put all of that together, along with classes that went (mostly) without a hitch, and I had one amazing first semester. I’ve made friendships that will last through years to come, memories that I will always hold on to, and a fair share of embarrassing and hilarious stories that I will be sure to recount in the future when I talk about my “college days.”

The year is half over. And that’s scary as hell. I don’t want this time to end, but I’m looking forward to the next semester and the six others that will follow.

Someone once told me, “People say college is the best four years of your life. And yeah, they’re good years, but they’re not the best.”

And right now, I say back, “Bullshit.”

College is the best.