By Megan Clement

As the editor of a publication about gender inequality and the co-founder of a collective of journalists who advocate for increased investment in gender journalism, I am often asked whether we need more specialist publications dedicated to these topics, or whether we instead need to embed gender perspectives throughout news coverage. My answer to this question is always the same: “Yes”.

It might seem greedy to say we need both, everything and all of the above, but not when we consider the statistics. An analysis by Luba Kassova found that just 0.02% of global news coverage since 2017 has referred to the gender gap in any way. This is despite no country in the world having achieved gender equality. 

We need mainstream newsrooms to consider gender perspectives

Four billion people on Earth are poorer, less educated, more vulnerable to sexual violence, less likely to hold political power and less likely to have autonomy over their own bodies than the other four billion, and we barely talk about it. With coverage of gender inequality so vanishing as to be undetectable at scale, the global media is sending a clear message to women and gender minorities: you are not important. 

So yes, we need publications specifically dedicated to the lives and experiences of those four billion people, and yes, we need mainstream newsrooms to consider gender perspectives more in the work that they do on a daily basis. 

Yet rather than expanding, the space dedicated to reporting on women’s rights and the movement dedicated to securing them – feminism – is shrinking. 

This month (November), the owner of the feminist website Jezebel, G/O Media, announced that the site would shut down. Many sites dedicated to women’s rights and feminist issues have disappeared in recent years, including The Lily at the Washington Post, Broadly at Vice, In Her Words at the New York Times and Bitch Media, among many others. Happily, it was announced this week that Paste Magazine had acquired Jezebel and planned to swiftly resurrect it. One feminist voice will hopefully be preserved.

The pain of losing an outlet for sophisticated reporting and analysis on women’s rights is all too familiar to me: in 2018, Women’s Advancement Deeply, a site I edited dedicated to gender inequality in the Majority World, was shuttered when its parent company, News Deeply, folded. 

When we lose these publications, we lose institutional knowledge on how to produce high-quality journalism that does not take men as its default subject or audience. Specialist journalists who have developed the skills required to report on gender inequality as a structural issue without reinforcing the stereotypes on which it thrives lose an outlet for that reporting. And of course, audiences lose out on the basic information they need to make decisions about their own lives and how they act within their communities. 

Megan Clement.

The argument for shutting down feminist publications or verticals often hinges on the same question of mainstreaming that I am so frequently asked. In closing down The Lily and In Her Words, respectively, The Washington Post and the New York Times both claimed that they would integrate more gender coverage across their newsrooms. But of course, without specialist verticals or publications dedicated to gender inequality, there would be no one left to hold them accountable to that promise.

And in a world where reporting on gender inequality is left to the daily newsroom, women’s rights issues are too often pushed off the front page by global events that are (incorrectly) perceived not to require a gender perspective: Kassova’s analysis found that the Covid-19 pandemic led to a decline in the number of women quoted in news stories, with each woman’s voice drowned out by three, four or even five men. Since then, major stories like the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and the rise of artificial intelligence have received justifiably widespread coverage, but often without treatment of their gendered consequences.

The truth is that without a fundamental understanding of gender inequality and how it manifests, we cannot understand an event like the fall of Roe v Wade in the US, or conversely the “green wave” of abortion rights sweeping Latin America, or the rise of the far-right in Europe with its emphasis on women producing legions of white babies as a response to migration from the Majority World, or the situation in places like Sudan and Ukraine, where sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war. 

There is a pressing need for everyone to understand the roots and consequences of gender inequality, not least because of the vast and growing manosphere online, in which figures such as Andrew Tate — currently facing charges of rape and human trafficking in Romania — hold sway over legions of boys and young men who are absorbing dangerous and violent views about women and girls. High-quality, rigorous information about the rights of women and gender-diverse people must be part of the solution to this, and it must be consumed not just by its subjects but also by men and boys. In my opinion, this is the challenge that gender journalism has not yet met. Part of the solution may lie in getting more men to do gender reporting alongside the women and gender-diverse journalists who have pioneered it so far. 

In a hostile climate, the work of funding media that prioritises reporting on gender inequality currently falls mostly to philanthropists, and mostly to one foundation in particular, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (full disclosure: this includes Impact, the publication I currently run), but this is not a sustainable long-term solution on its own. Philanthropic priorities change, which means verticals are at risk of disappearing if parent media companies do not value and ultimately invest in gender inequality reporting in its own right. 

Worker-owned publications – a promising idea

Kylie Cheung, a former staff writer for Jezebel, has suggested that worker-owned publications could protect feminist journalism from the whims of mercurial owners and the vagaries of private equity. This is a promising idea, particularly given the passion and drive shared by gender journalists around the world that my colleagues and I found in a recent study of the experiences of journalists working the gender beat. 

There is a business case for newsrooms to embrace gender inequality, and we need more people to make it. In the meantime, it is vital to support the feminist media projects that do exist before those spaces, too, are lost. Consider supporting or subscribing to BehanBox, Unbias the News, the Fuller Project, the 19th, Feminist, CNN’s As Equals, openDemocracy’s 50.50, the 51% at France24 and The Nation Media group’s gender reporting desk. Until we achieve gender equality worldwide, we need all these publications and more to stay on the story.

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