Jewish Journal

The War on Women or the Women on War?

by Maya Paley

July 17, 2012 | 1:48 pm

Gwen Stefani. Photo by Wikipedia/compulsiveprep_8

Is there a war on women? Is this an exaggeration or is it reality? I wonder if I’ll ever know considering that most of the reporting about women in this world is conducted by men.

Look at our US election coverage this year, for example. When it comes to print media (as published by The Atlantic), when discussing women’s issues the Wall Street Journal, the NY Times, and the Washington Post only quoted women 15% of the time. It’s the same statistic for top media TV news shows. 81% of those quoted on abortion are men.

Are you asking yourself what the hell is going on here, or is it just me?

First off, as a mainstream-radical-feminist-post-feminist-Jewish-Iraqi-Ashkenazi-Israeli- American- hyper-educated-woman, I think it’s pretty critical that this information is accurately reported and I’m not sure how I can figure that all out if I keep getting information about my body, my health, and my rights from men.

The Power of a Woman’s Voice

They keep telling us we’re holding up ‘half the sky’, so why are we being heard much less than half the time? And why is it even important? It’s scary for us women to use words like expert, powerful, and smart when describing ourselves. We’re more comfortable describing ourselves as giving, sensitive, and caring. Last I checked none of these adjectives were mutually exclusive.

In a recent seminar I took on op-ed writing workshop with the OpEd Project, I watched the 25 women in the room struggle to say they were experts in anything, many of them having PhDs and awards for their years of work in their fields. In contrast, the two men there eloquently expressed their expertise with confidence and ease. I was once one of those women—never thinking I was good enough and shying away from expressing myself in public. But I’m over it. I know that I can legitimately say that

I am an expert in some things

—not in many things, but in some things. I have the knowledge, credibility, and experience to talk to you about women’s rights, sexuality rights, human trafficking policy, and international refugee and asylum seeker policy. I call myself an expert because, by all means, I’m just as much an expert on these topics as many of the men being quoted on these topics are, if not more. And I’m 100% positive that there is an abundance of women who are experts on the topics discussed in the US election coverage. I know this because I am privileged enough to know many of you woman experts out there.

More than Just a “Girl”?

Let’s discuss what it even means to be a feminist today before we start judging others or ourselves for using the F-word. Let’s use our words wisely, and really delve into their real meaning and purpose. That’s why I’m writing this blog—to get my voice, as well as the voices of women and our allies, out into public view.

Gwen Stefani’s song, “Just a Girl,” is popping into my head right now among other ridiculous old school jams like ‘Whatta Man’ and ‘You’re so Vain’ (I know…there’s an interesting theme going on here, huh?).

“I’m just a girl in the world/That’s all that you’ll let me be.”

People—is Gwen speaking the truth? Are our minds, our thoughts, our words, our actions, our levels of power still being controlled? Or is it we who are holding ourselves back?

I’m not so sure, but let’s explore this question among many others in this blog together. I hope you’ll join me for a weekly conversation on women’s issues, women’s rights, gender, activism, world affairs, and sometimes the “sillier” things in life like work, family, balance, and karaoke choices. I welcome your comments, your questions, and your expertise. We’re all experts in something, so let your voices be heard!

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Maya Paley is Director of Legislative and Community Engagement at the National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles. The programs she works on include the annual Jewish...

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