The Gender Beat was born in 2022 out of a conversation between Eliza Anyangwe, the Netherlands-based editor of As Equals, a CNN series looking at systemic gender inequality, and Megan Clement, the editor of Impact, a French-English newsletter covering feminist movements and women’s rights worldwide.
The group’s steering panel has since expanded, and so too their network, which now includes over 100 journalists in Asia, India, Africa and the UK.
They spoke about how to advance the field of gender journalism collectively.
“Gender journalism is a pretty broad subject; it’s not just about expanding coverage on topics that are considered niche, but also about learning certain things that we have been socialised into,” explains Tan Hui Yee, Gender Beat member who is the Bangkok-based Indochina bureau chief of The Straits Times.
The #MeToo movement brought this into sharper focus, leading to newsroom change and the introduction of policies to ensure more balanced voices, both in the newsroom and in content. It also sparked various journalism initiatives focused on women’s agency.
But in many parts of the work, like in much of Asia, the impact of the #MeToo movement was limited, says Tan. “In fact, in our political environment, it was just simply too dangerous to criticise the state, or call out sexual predators, as one activist from a feminist organisation did; he was just deemed too Westernised.
“So I think the real challenge here lies in raising awareness on the extent to which gender determines the way societies are structured and run, and the implications of that. And then helping to bring about this news ecosystem that reflects that accurately. And also ask the questions about what needs to change.”
Gender Beat President Megan Clement is a longtime feminist writer specialising in gender-based violence and abortion stories, and has been advocating change for over a decade. “Even though there are now women in positions of power, and there’s an awareness or sensitivity around women’s issues, equality and inclusion, there still seems to be a barrier, a sort of ‘gender washing’ approach, and many gender-focused initiatives have now been killed or mainstreamed,” she notes.
“We have a lot to learn from climate reporting, where journalists have been blazing a trail in terms of how to report on a crisis and how journalistic objectivity functions within a crisis. By not giving a climate denier a platform, or the same kind of importance in a story as a climate scientist over the question of whether humans are causing climate change, this was the basic shift. And I think we need a similar shift with gender journalism, where we say, okay, if it comes to abortion, do we platform the views of people who misrepresent the science of a basic health care procedure alongside a gynaecologist or an obstetrician?
“I understand that the challenges are still great for climate journalism, but I am thankful for the trail they’ve placed in terms of how to bring an issue of huge magnitude to the fore, and to report on it with the rigour that it deserves as well.”
Eliza Anyangwe, Gender Beat co-founder and Managing Editor of As Equals, believes that inclusive collaboration is key to the collective’s success.
“It’s really important that the gender beat try as much as possible to reflect the world that we live in, because we know that there are a plethora of women in news or media initiatives – and we don’t want to usurp that space, particularly for initiatives where they are always competing for resources, because they considered niche,” she explains.
“Our focus is on the whole ecosystem rather than the one piece of it, because gender journalism is more about societal issues than women’s issues.”
– Eliza Anyangwe
They’re making inroads, having already set up Noodle, a Telegram-based global community to connect people working anywhere in the gender journalism ecosystem, and to share resources and best practices.
For now, they’re intent on growing the collective, says Ankita Anand, an independent journalist based in Delhi, India, who is also an editor for Unbiased News. “We are launching a global survey to help us understand the needs of the community of journalists who focus on gender and feminist issues, and hoping for representation from different regions of the world, from people of the LGBTQIA community also and people who work in different languages.”
The survey, still in pilot phase, is open to anyone working in the space, including activists, journalists, editors and funders. Gender Beat will use the findings from the survey as a launching point to host a series of online and offline conversations in 2023 about the future of reporting on gender issues.
Take the Gender Beat Survey here.
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