VOF Week 1: (Women Given Voice with Web 2.0)
It should not come as a surprise to anyone (unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 50 years) that women are underrepresented in all forms and functions of media. According to “The Celluloid Ceiling,” a study conducted by Professor Martha Lauzen (San Diego State University), women comprised 15% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 U.S. grossing films in 2007 (http://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu/files/Celluloid%20Ceiling%202007%20Full%20...). The percentage of female journalists in newsrooms is around 37 according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ 2008 census (http://www.asne.org/files/08Census.pdf). In a study of the 2007-2008 season of prime time television, women comprised a mere 26 percent of all creators, executive producers, producers, directors, writers, editors, and directors of photography (http://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu/files/Boxed%20In%202007-08%20Report.pdf) In print public forums, women author only about 10-20 percent of newspaper opinion pieces (http://www.theopedproject.org/cms/). The cost to our society? People are only hearing the voices and opinions of a very narrow slice of society. Only half of the nation’s best minds and best ideas – women’s minds and women’s ideas – are left out!
BUT when it comes to online public forums like blogs and other forms of social media, the tables have turned – WOMEN ARE TAKING THE LEAD! A Rapleaf study shows both men and women are using social media in huge numbers, but women clearly outpace men (http://business.rapleaf.com/company_press_2008_06_18.html). Considering the revolutionary potential of Web 2.0, I am excited about what this phenomenon will do for the global women's empowerment movement.
The beauty of Web 2.0 is the democratization of knowledge and cultural production. Anyone with access can create information, tell their stories, display their art, make a video or podcast and share it globally. By eliminating professional gatekeepers, society benefits from more wide-ranging topics, more independent perspectives, and more varied opinions! People who have traditionally been locked out can raise their voices and bring to light issues that would otherwise have gone unreported.
Yet unlike print, radio or television, Web. 2.0 is not a one-way dissemination of information, but a dialogue, and at times, debate. It enables sociality and builds community through interaction, and the mutual sharing and collaborative creation media. I know this is what I love about it. I never feel quite at ease without my daily dose of feminist blogs including Broadsheet on Salon.com, Feministing, and RaceWire. The struggle for social justice can often feel like a lonely, uphill battle. Web 2.0 helps by offering community of like-minded people and reminds me that we are in this together; we are a movement – locally, nationally, and globally.
However, there are a few things to bear in mind in all this excitement. Social media has to maintain commitment to quality and content, to seeking truth, deep analysis and balanced judgment. Web 2.0 has to do more that build virtual communities – online organizing has to translate into offline organizing and action! Lastly, we must keep in mind the digital divide that cuts across gender, class, race, age and location not just in the U.S. but also globally as well.