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Amplifying Women’s Voices
S hould we try to infiltrate mainstream media or put our considerable energies into creating our own communication channels? An energized group of 200 women writers, radio producers, and critics debated this and other questions during the second annual Women and Media conference sponsored by the Center for New Words in Cambridge, Massachusetts on March 18-20, 2005.
While conference participants tended to answer the “inside or outside” question toward the “build alternatives” end of the spectrum, a good deal of energy focused on the nexus of the two options, specifically increasing women’s by-lines in mainstream op-ed pages. A long-standing question of why women, especially feminists, aren’t better represented in the mass media was cranked to a new level of intensity this winter by Susan Estrich’s recent campaign to pressure the LA Times to increase its percentage of women editorialists. Women average between 10 and 25 percent of op-ed writers in the largest U.S. dailies.
While figures on rates of rejection by gender are not widely available, a number of op-ed page editors have asserted that women submit only one-tenth the op-eds and letters to the editor that men do. Feminists contend that this reflects patriarchal training for females to defer to the leadership of men and their general lack of access to time and other resources. The supposition that there is a biological basis to women’s reticence was given little credence by WAM participants, though that angle has been well represented in dozens of articles on the controversy published in March and April. Groups such as Women in Media and News are developing a detailed database of experienced women writers to ease the expansion efforts of mainstream editors who are trying to include more women’s perspectives.
One of WAM’s key purposes is to give women the skills and support to amplify their voices in all sorts of contexts. “Ms.musings” blogger Christine Cupaiuolo led a workshop on setting up your own blog, which succeeded in meeting its advertised goal of having everyone make their first post to their new blogs within the workshop itself. Conference workshops addressed the politics and infrastructure of community radio, cartooning, book publishing, newspapers, and magazines and zines, in addition to electronic media, such as blogging and podcasting. Issue-oriented sessions included those focused on Muslim women, lesbians, women of color, the right wing, poor and low-income women, and pop culture.
ambitions of WAM participants ranged from the independence of blogging
to the collectivity of public relations for movement groups. With
scores of organizations represented at the conference, and given
the existence of related conferences such as the Journalism and
Women Symposium (JAWS), one recurring theme was the need to minimize
overlapping missions and competition for resources. Coordinating
the timing of WAM and JAWS was proposed, along with the potential
of regional WAM gatherings. Many participants cal- led for electronic
coordination between feminist media groups, envisioning something
like a “Craig’s List” for resource sharing among
feminist media activists and producers. Women’s E-Media Center
(www.womensemedia.org) offered to serve as a resource listing site.
Another recurring WAM debate weighed the pros and cons of nonprofit versus capitalist structures for our enterprises. The nonprofit model dominated, as seen in the fact that an entire panel was devoted to fundraising. But even nonprofit advocates urged women to create strong business plans identifying diverse funding streams, pointedly noting that “foundations will not fund revolution.” In a follow-up meeting on funding, Filipina activist Mavic Cabrera- Balleza, Communication Program Officer of Isis International-Manila, noted that grant money for women’s projects is tighter than ever but that feminists could find funders for information and technology projects.
Women even debated the old question of whether or not to use “feminist” as a descriptor of their projects. The Minnesota Women ’ s Press, a bi-weekly newspaper, is unveiling a new masthead this season, dropping the word “feminist” from its tagline in the hopes of expanding beyond their loyal feminist readership to include less politicized readers. In an editorial announcing the change, editor Editor J. Trout Lowen writes, “We think this change will resonate with young women, many of whom don’t identify as feminists first and foremost. Many of them have told us they see themselves and their lives as bigger, bolder and more complex that any single label.… Sadly, we must also admit that…there are some women who share the feminist values of equality and justice for women worldwide who don’t feel comfortable sharing our feminist identity. We hope they find kinship in our independent spirit,” as expressed in the new tagline “Independent news of independent women.”
The paper is funded largely through advertising by Minneapolis-Saint Paul women’s businesses. Lowen, in a follow-up posting to the Women and Media listserv, used the recent editorial change at Ms. Magazine to reflect on the economics and politics at the heart of “inside/outside” debates in whatever movements and contexts feminists and other social change agents face, “Can we afford to talk only to those who think just like us?”
Advocacy aimed at pressuring mainstream media to more fully represent and include the perspectives of women and other mar- ginalized communities was another prominent theme at the conference. In one workshop entitled “Root Causes, Our Cures: Women’s Activism for Media Justice and Reform,” women detailed today’s mainstream media mess and discussed the problem’s roots in capitalism and the structures of oppression which limit people’s ability to challenge the mainstream and create alternatives.
Inja Coates, one of the workshop leaders and director of Media Tank, described the work of the Philadelphia Grassroots Cable Coalition to hold Comcast and other cable companies accountable for their legally mandated support of public access resources. Noting communication is recognized by the UN as a human right, the Philadelphia coalition is remarkable for the diversity of its constituents including welfare rights, labor, and consumer advocates—such as the Kensington Welfare Rights Organization, Communications Workers of America, and PIRG. The Coalition has issued a Code of Conduct that calls on Comcast to set an example for smaller cable companies by adopting public interest positions in areas such as consumer pricing, customer service, worker rights, community access TV, and open access internet.
Jill Nelson, freelance journalist and author of Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience , gave a well-received keynote address slamming mainstream media’s capitulation to Bush administration deception. Citing a friend’s decision to withdraw her commentary from NPR when a producer challenged her contention that Bush is a liar, Nelson urged those of her audience who work in the mainstream to be prepared to find other ways to make a living rather than submit to political whitewashing. Neither did she hold out any hope for change under a potential Democratic president in 2008. The Democrats are “losers” and the system is “broken,” she declared. Even if someone with the personal and political integrity of South African Nelson Mandela were somehow to win the U.S. presidency, Nelson noted that no one person would be able to fix the chaos that has become our national predicament.
Nelson, an African American, characterized the years of the George W. Bush administration as a time when more and more people have become “niggerized.” Referring to 9/11 as an event that taught white men what it is to know fear, Nelson welcomed into the “niggerized” community those women who have not experienced the fear that people of color, gays, and poor people have lived with for all or most of their lives. Nelson urged white women to “anticipate the higher price that people of color pay for speaking out radically” and act in a solidarity informed by close scrutiny of white supremacy and white privilege.
Nelson’s admonition to build a “human cloak of fearlessness” and to create our own media resonated with the crowd. From blogs to news wires to newspapers to op-eds, women strategized the multiple ways to increase the power of feminist opinion and institutions.
ColorLines senior writer Daisy Hernandez led the closing strategy session of the conference. Urging feminist writers to understand that journalism is the work of community, she listed several insights she credited to her mother. Among others was “la que sabé, sabé,” (the one who knows, knows) which Hernandez elaborated to mean get the grassroots story, find out what people are talking about on the bus, and know what’s happening on the block.
WAM organizing committee member and Beacon Press editor Gayatri Patnaik noted she was “so completely taken with the conference” after attending the inaugural WAM in 2004, that she eagerly joined the organizing committee with the goal of seeing women of color participating more in the 2005 conference. Noting presentations by radio activists Sonali Kol- hatkar and Deepa Fernandes, journalists Daisy Hernandez and Jill Nelson, and book publisher Jill Petty, among many other women of color, Patnaik felt that the goal had been “absolutely achieved.”
Argentinian American Rita Arditi echoed the sense of determination that was palpable throughout the weekend when she recounted a saying by one of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo: “La unica lucha que se pierde es la que se abandona” (“the only struggle you lose is the one you abandon”). Judging from the huge burst of postings to the WAM listserv after the conference, the energy harnessed by WAM is being put to good use.
Loie Hayes is a freelance book editor and writer living in Boston.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.