It is infuriating to see women portrayed in ways that are offensive, demeaning, or adding to an outdated cultural portrayal. I can't count the number of times I've read an article, seen a movie, experienced a cringe-worthy advertisement, or listened to a pundit discussing "women's issues" with no concept of authenticity.
Chances are good that if this has been your experience as well, it's also been on the radar of Jennifer Pozner, the founder of Women In Media & News (WIMN ). The stated mission of the organization is "to increase women's presence in the public debate, emphasizing those who are least often heard, including women of color, low-income women, lesbians, youth and older women."
Pozner has been on the frontlines of media activism and analysis for over two decades. She has appeared on television to discuss media equity, penned op-eds and articles, and is the author of Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV . Yet, perhaps her most important work is the media literacy lectures and workshops, and media trainings that she conducts at colleges and universities across the nation.
I caught up with Pozner after she had completed a speaking engagement at the California State University in San Marcos.
Allen Ginsberg said, "Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture." Do you agree? If so, is this part of why you founded Women In Media & News?
"That quote gets to the heart of why I am a media activist (working for structural changes in the media industry, fighting media mergers, advocating for net neutrality, and supporting independent media), in addition to my lifelong work as a media critic and media literacy educator. The last twenty years of corporate media consolidation have resulted in a system in which six powerful, multi-merged conglomerates own, operate, and control the majority of what we're given to read, watch, and hear in print and broadcast journalism, scripted and reality TV, movies, music, children's programming, and more. These media behemoths hold the reigns of public debate in America, with devastating results. Yes, whoever controls the media controls the culture -- and, by proxy, our legislation, our economy, our lives.
When I founded WIMN in late 2001, we were the first media analysis, education, and advocacy group to ever specifically center women as a constituency for media justice. In addition to the media policy work, WIMN has acted to increase women's presence and power in public debate, both in media content and behind the scenes in the industry. As Executive Director, I lead strategic communications media trainings for gender, racial, economic and other social justice groups, providing the tools and frameworks they need to become effective spokespeople for their causes. I run the POWER Sources Project to connect journalists and media producers with an ethnically, professionally, and geographically diverse set of women experts to serve as sources for their stories. In doing so, we explode the excuse/myth that, 'We'd love to quote more women, but there aren't any qualified women to speak to XYZ.'
The Ginsberg quote is so on-point because other than money in politics, media is the only thing that connects virtually every issue we care about: from rape to racism, hate crimes to war crimes, reproductive justice to climate change. We can never achieve substantive progress without our citizenry having access to accurate, diverse, challenging journalism, and creative, artistic entertainment media. Today's corporate media prioritize profit over journalistic ethics when producing news (as we recently saw with MSNBC unceremoniously canning their most challenging and unique host, Melissa Harris-Perry). They also prioritize profit over quality storytelling in the entertainment realm, which is the sole reason reality TV is so prevalent."