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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Essay on "Journalism for Women: A Practical Guide" by E.A. Bennett

E.A. Bennett had a lot to say about women journalists.  His title alone is quite intriguing “Journalism for Women: A Practical Guide.”  It raises so many questions such as why he is offering the practical guide on journalism to women alone? Or, why does he think that there is a need to provide women with practical guide to journalism?

Initially, it seems that he wanted to give say that journalism is for both men and women.  He said “Despite a current impression to the contrary, implicit in nearly every printed utterance on the subject, there should not be any essential functional disparity between the journalist male and the journalist female.”

However, he compares the profession of journalism to the medical profession.  He states in the medical profession there is no real difference between a male and female doctor since they are both subjected to the same tests and training.  He goes on to say that the same is not applicable in journalism and distinguishes between journalists and women journalists. He states “…two species--journalists and women-journalists--and that the one is about as far removed organically from the other as a dog from a cat. And we treat these two species differently. They are not expected to suffer the same discipline, nor are they judged by the same standards.”

He affirms that the distinction between real journalists and women journalists is not based on sex.  He stresses that there is no sexual reason why women journalists should not be as successful as men journalists.  He points out that the difference lies in the training between men and women.  He reduces this difference into three points.  First, Bennett states that women have difficulty appreciating the maxim Business is Business.  While women have proven themselves to be generally serious with their job and are reliable, they have not yet completely grasped the code of conduct in journalism.  For Bennett, journalism is a field which has recently opened to women which is why they are still unfamiliar with its culture.  Second, women journalists lack the quality of being attentive to detail.  Journalists are particular about their literary style and are attentive about their spelling grammar, and punctuation.  The same however cannot be expected of women journalists.  Third, women journalists lack restraint in the literary style.  He states that while women have been cured of the habit of italicizing they have not tempered their eagerness to immediately say what they want to say. 

The same attitude towards women was subtly described in “Purple Heart Valley.” Bourke-White had sought the assistance of a pilot whose name was Captain Marinelli to take airline pictures of a piece of land which is a battlefield during the World War II.  Captain Marinelli willingly agreed as he was at the time assigned on a specific mission.  He informed her that she can come along if she wants to.  The sole ground crew however made the following remark, “Jees, you don’t want to take a girl on a mission.” Impliedly, what is being said here is that girls are not supposed to be taken on a mission.  They will not be of any help in the mission but may even affect the outcome of the mission.  On the other hand, Ernie Pyle’s “Ernie’s War” gives proof to how attentive male journalists to details.  In Ernie’s War he recounts with particular attention to details the events during World War II.  Despite being in the midst of danger himself, Ernie Pyle was still able to take his readers to World War II through his articles. 

Maybe, women journalists are indeed not fit for a field like journalism.  Perhaps Bennett was right when he said that women should instead remain inside the home and concentrate on maintaining the household.  It could be that Bennett was simply trying to be objective when he said “Or perhaps it would be kinder and truer to say that the influences of domesticity are too strong to be lightly thrown off. For commercial or professional purposes these influences, in many cases, could not well be worse than they are. Regard, for a moment, the average household in the light of a business organisation for lodging and feeding a group of individuals; contrast its lapses, makeshifts, delays, irregularities, continual excuses, with the awful precisions of a city office.”

 On second thought, however, I disagree with Bennett’s statements.  Based on the language of “Journalism for Women: A Practical Guide”, it is clear that this was written during the time when discrimination against women was tolerated in the society.  Perhaps, this was even written at the time when women were not even allowed to vote.  Had this been written today Bennett would encounter hundreds of feminists who shall protest against his writing.  Given the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, any employer who will adopt a similar attitude will likely be filed charges for violation of Title VII.  Gone are the days of institutionalized discrimination, bias and prejudice against women.  Bennett’s thoughts of the women being more included to manage the household is a thought that dates back centuries ago.  Right now, women are now recognized in almost any field that they have decided to venture in.  Women have proven themselves to be competent in fields once dominated by men.  There are women lawyers, engineers, architects and even leaders nowadays.  Right now, given the number of successful women in almost every activity known to man, this article is simply a thing of the past.

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