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”?).

Why #YesAllWomen is the Most Powerful Hashtag I’ve Ever Seen

Because when a guy wanted to dance with my friend, she had to tell him she had a boyfriend so he would leave her alone. When he moved on to me, my simple “No thank you,” wouldn’t deter him and I had to weave through a sea of people to get away from him. (Why should I have to lie about having a boyfriend to get men to stop their unwanted advances?)

Because, at a party, a guy my friends and I had never seen before walked up and said, “You’re gonna blow me, right?”

Because, at that same party, a guy told me to “bend over.”

Because I’ve had to ask my male friends to walk me somewhere through campus at night because I’m too scared to walk alone.

Because people give girls respect based on how much clothing they’re wearing — including one of my female friends, who regularly refers to girls at parties as “whores and skanks.” (People can wear whatever they want and that’s cool, dammit.)

Because my RA felt compelled to make a bulletin board about rape.

Because I receive police clery emails about rapes on campus — rapes in dorms.

Because a friend of a friend is struggling to get a restraining order against her rapist.

Because we tell little girls that the boys are mean to them “because he likes you.”

Because it’s not “men hating,” it’s courage and bravery to speak out about the reality women face every day.

Because no means no and women don’t owe men anything.

Because “Blurred Lines” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

Because ignorant men created #YesAllPeople as a response.

Because I, a teenage girl, have been honked at and cat-called by middle-age men while walking down the street.

Because my friend has had suggestive racial slurs yelled at her from guys who slow their cars as they pass us when we walk through campus.

Because I’ve grown up in a society where I’ve been taught that only guys can make the first move, so I bite my tongue and swallow my feelings and grow used to being romantically frustrated while I wait for guys to text me first.

Because the high school I went to holds annual self-defense classes for only female students.

Because a man wrote an article about how women shouldn’t cut their hair short because it makes them less appealing, as if women should dedicate their physical appearance to pleasing the eyes of men.

Because I walk a little faster and look over my shoulder when walking home/to my car at night.

Because a man went on a shooting rampage because he thought women owed him affection.

Because of tweets like these.