On January 20, 2018, there was a meeting before the Women’s March in New Bedford, and the organizers limited the attendance to women, although men took part in the March afterwards, the rally in front of the downtown library, and the small get together after in the room where the meeting had been held.
This was understandable as those in attendance may have wanted to express thoughts and opinions in a safe space with people of like mind and experiences. The presence of men could very well have limited the free flow of the discourse. Some women would probably want to speak without fear of judgment or lack of empathy, while others might have been attending the meeting after much internal debate having never attended a meeting like this before and at which they may speak about their concerns and experiences publically and for the first time ever.
Although the media was not barred, the organizers specified they wanted only female reporters in attendance.
Again, the desire was to have the coverage as close to the actual proceedings and content as possible without the fear of its being filtered through the male perspective which, as pure as the intentions of the reporter may have been, had a greater chance of misrepresentation and bias than with women reporting.
The male reporters would have filtered their coverage through a male perspective and understanding, and their presence could have impaired free expression and would have been a subtle and unintentional form of control and disruption.
A male host on the local talk radio station, a station that is known for its heavily conservative bias, wrote an opinion piece on the event the following day on the radio station’s website condemning it as having been an example of hypocrisy as the women who in his words “screech” about discrimination, not only exercised it themselves, but in so doing violated the freedom of the press by their requirement that reporters be women.
It is important to note, they did not bar members of the media from attending, but wanted those who did to be women for obvious reasons.
With women reporting on women and the content of the discussion they had, there would have been a better chance of reportage being more faithful to the meeting than how a male might have reported it. Something that was important to the women may not have seemed so to a male, with the opposite being true, and the reportage could be skewed because of that.
The radio host’s claim of First Amendment suppression was somewhat illustrative of the problem many of the women may have spoken of, ie the lack of women employed in certain male dominated positions because the station had no women reporters to send, or so it claimed, nor, it would seem, any female employees in any position who could be sent to cover the event for that matter. This would be hard to accept, especially when, once it was pointed out that only 15% of the station’s on air talent are women, the defense was that 50% of their off air employees are female, yet it was decided that none of them were capable of covering the meeting for the station.
I am not a reporter, but this blog has shown I can report on things I have participated in, as could a woman from the station have done in this case.
In spite of the time between the event’s being announced and its taking place, the station could not find a woman employee who would attend and report? Or was their intention to create a situation they were hoping to complain about?
Again there was no lock out of the press, but obviously the station was unable to send a woman, or chose not to so it could have a false issue to bloviate about.
They sent a male reporter.
The women may not have been all that incorrect in assuming a male would not speak about the discussion in the meeting in a faithful way. The opinion piece to which I referred described the meeting as being held in the bowels of the building, obviously to imply something hidden and nefarious. In reality, the meeting was held in a building that had once been a department store, and took place on the ground floor in a large corner room that had two glass facades, one facing a street with high pedestrian traffic due to its location, the other the vacant lot behind that is used as a pedestrian walk way.
Obviously a purposeful misrepresentation.
Further evidence of bias was the author’s describing the women who participated as “those screeching against discrimination”.
Males discuss and offer reasoned arguments concerning things they oppose. Women screech.
According to one of the radio station employees, defending the women’s restriction would have been a valid position if the male reporter “had been allowed in, stripped himself naked and screamed something contrary or disruptive to the message of those speaking and assembling, but that isn’t what happened.”
Obviously this lacks the understanding that disruptions do not always have to be loud and demonstrative, but can be quiet and subtle if it effectively silences those who would have spoken without it.
Sometimes presence is enough to stifle.
At the school I taught at in Southern California in the 1980s many parents and students were immigrants, and of those many were refugees from the wars taking place in Central America at the time. On one particular parents’ night the parents were gathered in the auditorium for the introductory speeches and award presentations. While it had no affect on the other parents, when the Junior ROTC students walked unannounced into the auditorium for the presentation of colors and quietly lined up along the two sides of the auditorium, there was panic among the Central American parents and students, some of whom fled out the doors at the rear of the room. Those who remained were visibly nervous and kept surreptitiously looking over at the ROTC, and only became visibly relaxed when they left. However, they were obviously not as cheerful about the proceedings then as their smiles and chatter had shown they were before.
The JROTC were not screaming and acting in a demonstrative manner, but their mere uniformed presence was threatening and disruptive to those for whom the quiet entrance of people in military uniforms had been a harbinger of death.
Fear is disruptive.
Having not experienced what the Central Americans had, the other parents may not have understood the reaction, but their understanding or lack of it did not change the reality of the people whose participation in the program was stopped immediately.
This had been a silent and silencing disruption.
So here, with the pre-Women’s March meeting, we have yet another case of those with privilege feeling persecuted because something either does not include them, can happen without their input, or they experienced the same treatment they have traditionally meted out to others.
People without the experiences should not be so eager to pass judgment on the actions of those who have had them.
It must be tough to be a male in the United States what with all the historical mistreatment they have suffered at the hands of women.