On crisps, chivalry and showing off bits…

21 Jul

I originally wrote this for another women’s organisation with the intention of posting it on a bigger, more well known, blog. However, after serious thought decided it might not be taken the right way and shied off the thought. To complain about media attention is never going to go down well and particularly not for a bigger, more well known, women’s organisation which needs all the serious media attention it can get. So, I changed it around a bit and decided not to waste the article entirely. Its a bit of a ramshackle job, and some of the statements about the IFN are a bit grandiose but anyway, I hope the general gist of it comes across…

The phones are ringing off the hook with media calling for comment. Newspapers, radio and television appearances are requested while I attempt to find a moment to speak to each journalist. You’d think this would be an excellent result, the Irish Feminist Network in demand, with the media attention we’re often seeking. However, the journalists aren’t seeking our opinion on the serious issues we’ve been working on for the last couple of months. Instead, they’re seeking comment on the newest controversial advertisement presenting half naked women on the telly.

Of course we view the objectification and degradation of women’s bodies in any media forum as an important women’s issue. However, it’s frustrating when our work is narrowed to such sensationalist news items. It seems that when we’re talking about issues such as cuts to low paid workers; justice for Magdalene’s; more balanced gender representation in parliament and on boards; and campaigns around prostitution; we have to shout to have our voices heard. Yet as soon as a new controversial ad hits the airwave we’re called upon immediately to be the outraged feminist voice.

This is the situation for many non-governmental and charity organisation’s and don’t get me wrong, any publicity is good publicity. But occasionally one can’t help but feel disappointed that out of all the work we do, all the campaigns we initiate, the only time we get widespread media coverage is when journalists are seeking the voice of moral outrage.

It’s disappointing for anyone to be used as a pawn in someone else’s game, even more so as an organisation desperately trying to get attention for serious social justice issues. By being constantly associated with faux news items, the more in-depth research we do is overlooked and we end up being bound up in age old arguments we’ve repeated a hundred times before. As an organisation focussed on women’s rights we are not naïve in thinking that there won’t be occasions when we will be called on for comment about issues in popular culture, however when they start becoming the main thing we’re talking about, we get a bit tired of it.

So what’s the solution to this problem? At the moment women’s issues are seen as a side-show to the main event. When issues of inequality are raised they are often dismissed as being frivolous, philosophical discussions, which should only be referenced on a slow news day.

When women’s issues become societal issues the IFN, and other women’s organisations, will just be a voice in the discussion. We will be included on general discussions about economic, political and social issues without there having to be any particular event to force our inclusion. Instead, women’s perspectives will be asked for on all issues and our voices will be the voice of the people, rather than featured as if we’re the voice of a minority group. We’ll know we’ve come to this point when the first question in an interview isn’t something like “So, what do you think about naked women being used to sell washing detergent?”

This is not a whiny cry seeking sympathy for too much news coverage, but rather a statement on the inclusion of women’s groups in national discussions. We look forward to the day when instead of being viewed as the voice of feminist outrage, we can finally be one of many voices discussing how we can improve society across the board.

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