A gender tally of my local news sources.
Yesterday I was at my local cafe over my lunch break, waiting for them to build my veggie burrito, and looking through the stack of newspapers and magazines while I waited, as I often do.
I was browsing through a story about Edmonton celebrity/public figures’ favourite local places to eat. As I flipped past pages of happy yeggers eating steak and Vietnamese soup, it struck me that there were a lot more men featured than women. “Naaah,” I thought, “it’s just my feminist lens skewing what I’m seeing.” But was it? Struck by curiosity, I felt an intense need to count. And count I did. On Thursday, July 7, 2016 I looked through 3 local printed news sources: a daily newspaper (Edmonton Metro), the newest monthly issue of a popular magazine (Edmonton Avenue magazine), and a weekly printed news source, Vue Weekly. This is what I found:
Out of the 25 people covered for that Edmonton food story I was reading in Avenue, 15 were men, 6 were women: ignoring the 4 couples featured for now, that makes for a total of 29% individual women featured.
Ok, ok, but that’s just one story – what about the gender representation across the magazine as a whole? So I went through and counted all the photos in the magazine (not including ads) that clearly featured a person’s face AND gave the person in the photo a name. I counted 40 photos total: 24 men, 16 women. 40% female representation, 60% male.
Just for a laugh, I looked at the Metro sports section (tears of laughter falling down my face) where I tallied an unsurprising result of 9 male athlete stories featured, with one lone woman (and a tiny thumbnail of her face) mentioned once in the middle of a story mostly about male athletes. 10% female representation.
Vue Weekly had a total of 13 photos (not including ads) that contained 21 men and 8 ladies (and that’s not even including the half-dozen male dancers in the background of a “Newsie” photo, or the dozen-or-so powdered white shirtless men in the background of the “Tarzan” photo). 28% female representation.
I know what you’re saying – that’s just what we’re featuring on the pages, but who’s writing, illustrating, and taking photos of this stuff? Good question. I counted that too. For Avenue‘s July issue I counted 16 total contributors: 11 men, 5 women (31% female contribution).
Vue Weekly won the day with the most gender-equal count on the contributor front, with 8 men and 6 ladies (43% female representation folks!).
I know what you’re all thinking – but Edmonton must be a city made up of mostly men! Hmmm… pretty much an even 50/50 split (actually skewing a little higher for women these days). Oh, but everyone knows women just don’t like to write – or illustrate – or take photos. Phew, glad we figured that one out! Also, have I mentioned that I’m a figment of your imagination?
This made me wonder – what would the world look like for me, a woman, if these stats were reversed? What if 71% of most stories published featured famous Edmonton women or female public figures, 60% to 72% of photos that I saw in my news sources were of women, 90% of sports stories were about female athletes and sports teams, and 57% to 69% of hired writers, illustrators and photographers were female??
This also makes me conscious of who I’m hiring, writing about, re-tweeting and featuring on the mediums available to me. A well-known (if annoyingly over-quoted) saying comes to mind, and I’m going to present it here with a slight twist: Be the PAGE you wish to see in the world. As a literal reflection of what’s “news worthy”, statements about believing in equality mean nothing until it’s being reflected in our news coverage. Because printed words speak louder than words.