In the ‘Feedback’ section of last week’s Leeds Student, amidst the cries of disagreement and support over the Nick Griffin article sat a letter that asking for more female voices in the paper. A refreshing change from the barrage of letters calling for silence (albeit, from a racist and homophobic dick). The letter encouraged “women to write in and make their voices heard”. Booyeah, feminism.
Pushing for more female voices in a student newspaper is a worthy pursuit, though the way in which we achieve this is something that poses a difficulty for most editors. The term ‘positive discrimination’ springs to mind, a phrase that so frequently muddies the feminist waters. ‘But like, how is holding the door open for you sexist?’ someone exclaims, a confused look spread across their face. Well, imaginary-person, holding the door open for me isn’t innately sexist, holding it open because I’m a woman, is.
Picking female writers over male writers unfortunately also falls into this category. Currently going through the EU is a referendum to call for quotas to ensure more females in high-level boardroom jobs and indeed, there are many arguments for this. When the issue with getting women into management positions comes down to not whether they’re good enough, but that they’re just simply not applying, the problem is the perception, not the women. Changing the number of women in these positions allows other women to see the possibility of achieving these jobs, more women apply and et voilà, change occurs.
There’s a significant difference between the boardroom and journalism though, apart from the fact one is dull and one is the bomb. Whereas women frequently feel what’s expected of them to become the CEO is in tension with what they feel they are, journalism is different. Obviously to say that a particular job appeals to a particular gender is to make assumptions about what each gender is, or is expect to be, which is hugely regressive, but regardless, journalism reaches beyond presumptuous gender generalisations. It is because of this that picking female writers over male writers specifically for the newspaper would be massively harmful. The author of the letter acknowledges this later on when she asks for women to write, not for us to just put more writers in – however, we should be aspiring to put the best articles in, because they’re the best written, not because they’re written by women.
Comment is chosen ultimately on the quality of writing, and how relevant the articles are to the paper that week, not based on the person who has written it. We should look beyond the author of the piece, and see that feminist issues are so frequently covered, and aren’t only cared about by women, so shouldn’t be expected to be written by women. It is the articles that are interesting, contentious, ambitious and thought provoking that get put in the paper, irrespective of the author.
By Ruby Lott-Lavigna, Comment Editor