Women of the newsroom
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Yesterday, March 8, was International Women’s Day, a worldwide event celebrating women’s achievements. Since the early 1900s, this day has been observed and is not affiliated with any one group, but is meant to bring together anyone and everyone to celebrate the many female triumphs, from social, to professional and political, while also calling for gender equality.
After the success of The Women’s March on Washington back in January when women all over the world came together to support women’s rights, the organizers of this event launched a new campaign titled, “A Day Without Women.” This movement encouraged women worldwide to strike from going to work on March 8 in protest of the economic equality, insecurity and prejudice women experience in the workplace.
As I look around the newsroom, I start to realize that if we at The New Hampshire took part in this protest, this paper would not be on stands. Out of our entire staff, just about half is female, 14:15 female to male. As for the editors, us women out number the men 5:4 with two females, myself and Elizabeth, as the two leaders of our organization. Not only are these incredible women my best friends, but intelligent and powerful leaders that I am lucky enough to surround myself with every week. I have asked each of the female editors to write a small segment on what being a women means to them, which you can read below and on page 12. It is truly inspiring to work within an organization where females are respected in positions of power in the chaotic world of journalism.
When I first took the time to think about it, I thought that journalism wouldn’t be a profession taken seriously for a woman of the past. Forget just trying to get published as a writer, but making the big decisions as an editor? I thought that would never happen. Then, add in the need for sources and access to people willing to be interviewed. It was a fight for approval or job advancements. After really digging into the history of journalism in America, I found that women have been running the newsroom since the start. They may not have gotten credit then, but, every stride and courageous step taken counts and made a difference.
If you really want to go back, take it to the time of printing on a printing press and you will see Elizabeth Glover founded America’s first printing business after her husband passed away on their voyage to the “new world.” In the 1700s, women are said to have edited 16 of the 78 small, family owned weekly newspapers in the British Colonies. But sadly, because of “domestic” responsibilities, women did not take over publications if the male relative who was the head of the press passed away.
But women ruled the small business newsrooms. Working as journalists, publishers, printers and typesetters, women often also drew the engravers that created the letterhead, alongside political cartoons. In 1738, Elizabeth Timothy became the first female newspaper publisher and editor in America after her husband passed away. She ran the South Carolina Gazette alongside Benjamin Franklin. In 1767, Anne Catherine Hoof Green took over the Maryland Gazette after her husband passed. Green used this as an opportunity to publish many forward thinking feminist articles and controversial pieces in the Anglican Church, as well as debates over the Stamp and Townshend Acts. In 1777, Mary Katherine Goddard, arguably the most famous female editor and publisher of the revolution, was the first to publish who had signed the Declaration of Independence. The list of powerful and influential women in journalism goes on and on.
What is interesting, and should be noted, is that in the beginning of women journalists in America, is all of these people were put in a position of power because their husbands passed away. My take is that yes, it is unfair that they couldn’t have just started it on their own and be the original owners or founders of a newspaper. However, these women knew this, and they seized the opportunity. That is what is important, to me. That’s courage.
I think it is easy for any woman to say they have felt overshadowed by a man before. There are so many prominent individuals, not to mention the millions of unsung, who have made such courageous advancements for all of us today that will continue to grow. I could be, and hope to be, someone who can do the same for the generation below me. Be fierce, be confident, be strong, be sexy, be courageous, be relentless and always let the fire that burns inside of all of us shine brighter than any fear or injustice. Girl power.
Strong women in the family
For me, one of the most special parts of being a woman has been learning from the other strong women in my family and feeling a special bond with them. Because I am the youngest of three daughters, I have always had strong role models setting an example for me in my immediate family, and showing me that “feminine” and “independent” aren’t antonyms. Many of the men in my life, especially my Dad, have also done a great job encouraging me to take pride in my work and strive for my goals, regardless of sexist stereotypes.
In fact, I think my father, though not outspoken about it, is one of the greatest feminists I know. I believe his attitude is due in part to my abuela (grandmother) raising him and his three siblings mostly by herself when they first came to this country from the Dominican Republic. Despite never having attended college and not speaking the language, she managed to raise four college graduates. Because of her actions, my sisters and I have been able to live an extremely privileged life full of opportunities, while still understanding the meaning of hard work. I’ll always be grateful for that.
More than biology
To me, being a woman is more than biology and it constitutes more than being an adult female. To be a woman is to be an empowered and self-sufficient individual. However, not all women practice these qualities in the same fashion. Some show their womanhood in the form of providing stable homes for their loved ones, others show their womanhood through advocating for equality. Some show their womanhood through being supportive wives and outstanding mothers; others show their womanhood through unapologetically pursuing the highest of education. Some women can embody all of these qualities. Regardless, all women show their womanhood through their extraordinary minds, resilience and strengths, which differ from woman to woman. Each and every woman is needed in the universal chain of womanhood. Each possesses their own strengths and weaknesses that are progressively being realized in order to apply those traits in the most powerful way. To be a woman is to unapologetically pursue our dreams, to take responsibility for our actions and then we may become the best women we can be.
Dominating the male world
I went to a pretty small high school. So small, in fact, that we didn’t have enough students to support a girl’s soccer program, which meant that if I wanted to play soccer in high school, I had to try out for the boy’s team.
Growing up, the girls and boys always played together, but the older I got, the more girls switched to field hockey or volleyball, transferred schools or just stopped playing. Eventually, there were only three girls left in the entire high school program, and my junior and senior years I was the only girl playing on a boys’ varsity soccer team. As a girl in a male-dominated sport, particularly as the only one, I learned that I had more to prove than the guys I was playing with. Showing up to tryouts, games and even just practice everyday, I felt like I was fighting the assumption that everyone was holding that I would be the slowest, the weakest or the least capable player on the field. For all of that, though, I think I became a better player, a harder worker, and a stronger woman.
Being a girl on an all-boys team can be intimidating, to say the least. I got my fair share of comments about how I didn’t belong, or wasn’t as good as the boys I was playing with or against, sometimes even from a few of my own teammates. Even when I was having a good day, some people made me feel like my successes on the field were just the result of the boys around me making a mistake or having a bad day. I still remember scrimmaging at practice one day, and a teammate playing opposite me yelling at the other guys for “letting the girl beat them.” At first, that kind of thing could get in my head and ruin a day for me, but I learned to let it fuel my drive to be better, and I was incredibly proud of the fact that my coach and most of my team made me feel like just another member of the team.
Four years later and about to graduate college, that is still one of my proudest and most empowering successes.
Proud to be a woman
To me, being a woman means that I am, quite literally, the tits. In all seriousness, I believe that being a woman means having the utmost strength.
Women are responsible for harvesting life; they are the reason that any of us are standing here, on this earth, and breathing at any given moment. Being a woman means fighting harder than others for what you want, because you have to. It means being beaten down and broken throughout history, and still being here. Being a woman is about graceful power and fearless strength. We can comfort and sympathize like no others, then breathe fire at the drop of a hat.
It means having a different experience than others, one in which you are looked at differently because of your organs. One in which you are more likely to feel unsafe walking home alone. One in which you are biologically weaker, and are constantly reminded of it.
But most truthfully, being a woman just makes you a person. There are a number of differences between men, women and other genders. In the end, they are all just people.
I am proud to be a woman; I can birth a life and feed a human being and I have a rich history of my female ancestors that have carved a path for women everywhere. But women are people. They are equals. They are humans. And, truthfully, being a woman means you have to remind people of that. But the best part about being a woman, is that you are fierce enough, confident enough and strong enough to do so. I will live my whole life being forced to remind people of my humanity. But, luckily, I am a woman, so I will not go down without a fight.