Women come back

“I am tired of seeing the same old faces dominate news and politics. I want to hear and see young, sensitized, informed, and clever people, from all perspectives and backgrounds, populate my infoscape.”

For the past few years, I’ve had the good fortune of being invited to make predictions about what’s to come in the new year for journalism by the kind folks at Nieman Lab.

Thus far, I’ve been a lousy fortune teller. My predictions rarely pan out. They are presented more as wishful thinking. My crystal ball appears to be out of tune.

Last year, Rachel Sklar’s prediction, however, was on point. She wrote: Women are going to get loud.

And they did. In 2017, women fought back. They fought back against sexism in the workplace, in politics, in everyday life. The #metoo movement is only the latest iteration of female indignation. I have been watching, along with everyone, as women step up and step out to claim social injustice, in the realms of entertainment, politics, and the workplace.

I think about due process, but I also cannot help thinking that due process, as practiced in the U.S., typically contains a socio-cultural bias that inevitably privileges men and makes it easy to delegitimatize claims brought forth by women. It is because of the flaws in how due process is applied that women have been silent for so long. Amplified by the social dynamics of the #metoo hashtag, the collective voice of women gets louder. It drowns out the noise that in the past questioned these claims of harassment and mistreatment, muting them out.

What will come out of the #metoo movement? I don’t know for sure. Some cultural shift, I would hope, that goes beyond superficial acknowledgments of injustice.

But here’s what happened as the voice #metoo grew and reverberated throughout the infoscape: I started to see women journalists again. I didn’t notice them at first, because I had gotten used to a news environment filled with manels (male panels) populated every once in a while with the token female: not too aggressive, not too provocative, not too opinionated, not too ethnic but ethnic enough to fill certain quotas, never as chatty as the male panelists, and frequently interrupted.

But there they have been, for the past few weeks or so. Women. Several younger. Intelligent. Articulate. Funny. Sharp. Informed. Women it was a pleasure to listen to. Some reporters. Some journalists. Analysts and commentators. And several politicians. Female politicians, new faces. And then it hit me. Where have these women been all this time? Did it take the discrediting of male behemoths of journalism and politics to get them to come to the forefront?

I am tired of seeing the same old faces dominate news and politics. I want to hear and see young, sensitized, informed, and clever people, from all perspectives and backgrounds, populate my infoscape. And especially, I want to hear what young intelligent women sound like. I want them to have the opportunity to shine. We don’t get many opportunities, and we get even fewer opportunities to make mistakes. I want these women to have the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them.

So here’s to 2018 marking a female comeback in journalism. I hope this time I get it right.

Zizi Papacharissi is a professor of communication and political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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