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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Because it is 2018, it's high time

Saturday, 13 January 2018 12:01
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If we ignore Gender, we aren't seriously reporting about the struggles of people who run the real world

 A few years ago the feminist writer Laurie Penny wrote in the New Statesman, "While we all worry about the glass ceiling, there are millions of women standing in the basement - and the basement is flooding." There are two parts to this. We can (and should laud) the ascension of women into the boardrooms. But merely a seat at the table is not enough. By not questioning what happens in those boardrooms, the responsibilities, participation and the wage gap, the media falls into its familiar trope - it celebrates the numbers, the heroic CEO or women who "can have it all" while true equality remains a long way off.

The second, more crucial part is that most women spend time in the workforce, elsewhere. They are on farms, in contingent labour, care workers, in offices, factories, brick kilns, mining sites. Women in rural India can spend up to a third of their waking lives on three chores: fetching water, collecting firewood and gathering fodder. But they do a lot more beyond that. The economy of millions of rural households rests largely on their labour. As P Sainath says, "the rural women's problems are a vital part of the struggle of the Indian poor as a whole for a better life. Like millions of other rural poor, women need land reform. And a recognition and enforcement of their land, water and forest rights."

This is where most women spend their time. This is where media should be spending their time, too. Far too often, the coverage of Gender or mainstreaming Gender is taken up occasionally, out of obligation, not frequently and as a core concern.

At #GenderAnd, all of December and earlier in June 2017 we brought coverage that helped close this very schism somewhat. We explored gender and the many axes on which it intersects, rural women and their relationship to the land, history as men and women write and make, the multitude of ongoing struggles against caste, class, the religion where gender is intrinsically linked. We remained mindful of the pitfalls. That the coverage of Gender isn't about adding a "customary woman" or the belief that this is an additional "angle", bestowed on a woman journalist who has an interest in "gender".

These are baby steps, mini-revolutions and small dents. Much more needs to be done. In 2018, we hope to report from many more parts of India, about how women and gender minorities are accessing power, justice, inclusion. Who has the rights to a city, how do urban spaces curb the rights to everyday life, what happens inside factory floors - we have a long way to go. (Courtesy: IE)


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