This I Believe

It’s apparent – maybe just to me – that there are three basic rules to becoming a journalist:

1.       Learn how to write.

2.       Learn how to stop procrastinating.

3.       Learn how to throw a decent punch.

Two of the three rules are common sense. In fact, you could say that journalism has a Peter Pan-esque quality to it – if you believe you’re a journalist then, with the help of YouTube, Twitter, and the blogosphere, you can damn well be one without needing to go to j-school.

The dissemination of opinions has never been so readily available, though I’m not sure if that is always for the reader’s benefit.

Rule Three, however, is more specific: it seems to apply particularly to females who wish to be journalists. Woe to me and my vagina. How dare I, a little young woman, attempt to become a journalist and put myself in harm’s way like CBS reporter Lara Logan did? Shall I relegate myself to the newsroom, while the big boys get to play in the field? That’d be the smart thing to do according to Debbie Schlussel and hundreds of anonymous commentators who blamed Logan for provoking the attack because of her ever so unfortunate luck of being born a female.

No thanks, I rather learn how to throw a decent punch if the situation calls for it. And, according to Judith Matloff, the situation will call for it more often than not. Matloff has written comprehensive reports detailing the compromising situations female journalists find themselves in. Sexual assaults on female journalists, especially for local journalists in developing countries, are a widespread problem in the industry that rarely receives attention beyond the journalistic community.

What’s a girl to do? I’ve been asking myself this question for the past three weeks, ever since I learned about Logan’s attack and since I’ve received admissions into graduate programs at Canadian j-schools. Is my gender jeopardizing my career ambitions?

But I refuse to apologize for my gender. My gender has nothing to do with a perpetrator’s lack of self-restraint and civility. If there is a collective message from the upcoming International Women’s Day, it should to be to re-focus the issue of sexual violence and shame the perpetrators rather than the victims.

Instead of questioning what the female victims were wearing or how they behaved to try to make sense of the assault (or to even justify it like one ridiculous judge did), we should start asking the most obvious question: “who exactly is the weaker sex?”

Hanna Rosin wrote a fascinating article in last summer’s issue of The Atlantic, where she predicted the “end of men” and the economic rise of women in the United States. Rosin argues that women may have become more adaptive to the “modern, postindustrial economy” than men, especially since women are now outpacing men in university classrooms and dominating several industries. And men, well what about them? Rosin notes their decline is fictitiously documented by man-child characters often played by Seth Rogen or Adam Sandler. The recently published book, Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys, carries on Rosin’s arguments as if to say that the Era of Women has officially arrived, and men – in all their unnecessary existence – better get the hell out of the way.

While I’m ready to proudly sing along to Carole King anthems, I’m not entirely convinced of these observations – they seem more like a ploy to increase readership rather than a realistic assessment of the progress of women. Women still endure obstacles because of their breasts or their beauty (or lack-there-of) or their weight or their call to motherhood. Whatever the reason, women continue to face an uphill battle in achieving gender equality in all aspects of their lives.

But that’s not to suggest that women are homogenous and all face the same obstacles in achieving gender equality. My Canadian citizenship protects me against the disadvantages that women suffer from in India, my native country. The argument that women continue to surpass the glass ceiling limitations of their mothers and grandmothers is more suitable in a North American, Western context than for societies where explicit gender biases still exist, like Afghanistan, India, and Iran.

Regardless, I know that I will inevitably encounter gender-related problems as I aspire to become a journalist. It saddens me that most of my favourite journalistic articles or books have been written by men (such George Saunders’s article, “Tent City, U.S.A.” and Bill Buford’s Among the Thugs) and that Canada’s newspaper dailies are still dominated by men.

So I intend to enrol in j-school in hopes to not only to become a successful journalist, but also a strong, confident female who can hold her own against her male colleagues. I think that the two-year graduate program in j-school will give me sufficient time to learn how to throw a decent punch or two or three. Whether I’m making a poor financial decision is another story since we all know how well journalists are paid. But I hope that the Bank of Parents continues to make a substantial financial contribution to women’s programs, well at least to mine.

I plan to celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day by launching this blog as a diary that describes the inherent complications and successes (hopefully) of a young, aspiring female journalist’s life as she is trying to live it.


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