The Gender Beat was born in 2022 out of a conversation between Eliza Anyangwe, the Netherlands-based editor of As Equals, a CNN series looking at systemic gender inequality, and Megan Clement, the editor of Impact, a French-English newsletter covering feminist movements and women’s rights worldwide.
A collaborative project has since emerged, resourced by As Equals; it now includes over 100 journalists across Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. Its objectives: to build a community for gender journalists and editors, to share best practice, and facilitate conversations about how mainstream media can change how it approaches stories about, and by, women and gender minorities.
They spoke about how to advance the field of gender journalism collectively.
“Gender journalism is a pretty broad subject; it’s not just about expanding coverage on topics that are considered niche, but also about unlearning certain things that we have been socialised into,” explains Tan Hui Yee, one of The Gender Beat’s four co-founders, who is the Bangkok-based Indochina bureau chief of The Straits Times.
The #MeToo movement brought this into sharper focus, leading to newsroom change and the introduction of policies to ensure more balanced voices, both in the newsroom and in content. It also sparked various journalism initiatives focused on women’s agency.
But in some parts of the world like Asia, the impact of the #MeToo movement was limited, says Tan. “In fact, in some political environments where it is too dangerous to criticise the state, it is just as difficult to call out influential sexual predators. One feminist organisation I know tried to steer clear of the ‘#MeToo‘ term as it was deemed too Westernised.
“So I think the real challenge here lies in raising awareness of the extent to which gender determines the way societies are structured and run, and the implications of that. And then helping to bring about this news ecosystem that reflects that accurately. And also ask the questions about what needs to change.”
Megan Clement is a longtime feminist writer specialising in gender-based violence and abortion stories, and has been advocating change for over a decade. “Even though there are now women in positions of power, and there’s an awareness or sensitivity around women’s issues, equality and inclusion, there still seems to be a barrier, a sort of ‘gender washing’ approach, and many gender-focused initiatives have now been killed or mainstreamed,” she notes.
“We have a lot to learn from climate reporting, where journalists have been blazing a trail in terms of how to report on a crisis and how journalistic objectivity functions within a crisis. By not giving a climate denier a platform, or the same kind of importance in a story as a climate scientist over the question of whether humans are causing climate change, this was the basic shift. And I think we need a similar shift with gender journalism, where we say, okay, if it comes to abortion, do we platform the views of people who misrepresent the science of a basic health care procedure alongside a gynaecologist or an obstetrician?
“I understand that the challenges are still great for climate journalism, but I am thankful for the trail they’ve placed in terms of how to bring an issue of huge magnitude to the fore, and to report on it with the rigour that it deserves as well.”
Anyangwe, who in 2016 set up a media project focusing on African women’s stories, believes that inclusive collaboration is key to the collective’s success.
“It’s really important that The Gender Beat try as much as possible to reflect the world that we live in, because we know that there are a plethora of women in news or media initiatives – and we don’t want to usurp that space, particularly for initiatives where they are always competing for resources, because they are considered niche,” she explains.
“Our focus is on the whole ecosystem rather than the one piece of it, because gender journalism is more about societal issues than women’s issues.”
– Eliza Anyangwe
They’re making inroads, having already set up Noodle, a Telegram-based global community to connect people working anywhere in the gender journalism ecosystem, and to share resources and best practices.
For now, they’re intent on growing the community, says Ankita Anand, an independent journalist based in Delhi, India, who is also an editor for Unbias The News. “We are launching a global survey to help us understand the needs of the community of journalists who focus on gender and feminist issues, and hoping for representation from different regions of the world, from people of the LGBTQIA community also and people who work in different languages.”
The survey is open to anyone working in the space, including activists, journalists, editors and funders. Gender Beat will use the findings from the survey as a launching point to host a series of online and offline conversations in 2023 about the future of reporting on gender issues.
To find out more about what The Gender Beat is up to, to take the survey or join the Telegram group, click here.