Published 06 Jul 2017
Arnold Bennett, who was known to be a prolific writer and critic, wrote “Journalism for Women” in 1898. In this book, he presents books and letters to exemplify writings of English women during the 19th century when women joining the literary marketplace were on the increase. Although there were women who wrote and published books before the 1800’s, they never planned to get serious is establishing careers as writers until the end of the century. Furthermore, this book expounds on how female authors achieved a smashing success in a profession that is populated by men and on how women survived in a culture where literary ambition are no that well accepted. “Journalism for Women” further presents a historical transfiguration of women’s role in journalism. With the improved educational opportunities, increased literacy rates, and the technological advancement of printing and publishing, there was a demand for more reading materials by the literate audiences.
The influx of periodicals, newspapers, magazines provided for publishing opportunities of women. Shilling magazines during the 1860’s created a demand for more stories, book reviews, and essays. Many aspiring women writers became journalists anonymously. Arnold Bennett identified and described the prospects and chances that women were presented as career women in the field of journalism. With still being a profession proliferated by men journalists and writers, the opportunities for women seem to crawl at a slow pace yet the improvement and progress was steadily felt. There was an obvious presence of gender issues with regards to this profession that race issues were overshadowed. This paper shall try to compare what author-editor Bennett wrote about the prospects of women working as journalists with the concepts explored in the 1948 newsreel `White Collar Girls` using examples of real-life women and fictional images featured in the clips from the film `Women of the Year` exploring real and fictional women before 1950s.
In the 1948 newsreel “White Collar Girls”, a very vivid presentation on the gender issues is done. Specifically it dealt with how women were depicted then. Many pictures and feature films were produced where themes revolved around topics and issues relating to women, their positions in the society, in the workplace, in the family and the expectations that society has on them. It cannot be denied that even today as well as in the past, that there is still a felt presence of relativity towards women in some film making productions. During the classical Hollywood era, the emergence of the Production Code that regulated what should be contained in a Hollywood script. It served as a censor and a blue pen in the controversial issues regarding women that can be included in line pages.
The term “womens film” came about as special genres were created to appeal to female audiences like melodramas and romance themes. These kind of films concentrated and played around the women characters and tribulations like self-sacrifice, career choices, family, romantic affairs. In the 1950’s, famous “tearjerkers” were Stella Dallas (1937), Blonde Venus (1932), A Child is Born (1940), and Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) to name a few.
In the 1942 film “Woman of the Year” that starred Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, it provided for a classic romantic comedy for the viewing audience. It basically was about how a feminist was chosen as woman of the year while trying hard to spark up a romantic/personal relationship. Here Hepburn played an intellectual and political columnist in a New York paper. She made some negative comments about sports on national radio and that started their conflict with the sportswriter who later became the apple of her eyes.
In September 14, 2002, four women journalists were honored by the United States Postal Service by commemorating them in postage stamps. Nellie Bly (1864-1922), Marguerite Higgins (1920-1966), Ethel L. Payne (1911-1991), and Ida M. Tarbell (1857-1944) were considered “unsung heroes in their time and displayed great courage and great integrity in uplifting the profession of journalism. They also made great contributions to America by exposing corruption, the inhumanity of social discrimination and the horror of war. And they understood the need to keep the American people informed about the great issues that affected all their lives in the 20th century.”
Nellie Bly, Marguerite Higgins, Ethel L. Payne and Ida M. Tarbell made their contributions to journalism at different times, but they were all trailblazers in a field dominated by men. Avoiding the limitations of working on women’s or society pages, they entered the fields of investigative journalism, war correspondence and political reporting. Through their work they won awards and fame and opened doors for future women journalists.
The above mentioned female journalists are just examples of the struggles that women writers underwent during an era when gender discrimination was at its peak. However, their enthusiasm and inner strength made them stand out and prove to the world that women can be equal or even better than male journalists when it comes to creativity, sensibility, resourcefulness and hard work.
Fictional or for real, the status of women journalists in the past and in the present share commonalities, though the degree of the segregation and the intensity of the issues are somewhat mellowed down. The onslaught of more freedom for women and the options for career development did make a difference in the propagation of the equality between genders. Women have proven that it is not the weaker sex nor is it bragging about its strength. There is still a thin line that separates the issue on gender equality in journalism or in any profession for that matter. Freedom of speech in written and oral form is right that every human being should enjoy and the catalyst who can bring that about can either of the sexes. Good and responsible journalism does not choose gender or race.