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Egalitarian NZ's big step backwards

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| Wednesday, June 19, 2013 11:47 AM

Egalitarian NZ's big step backwards

I'm angry. I'm not sure what's come over New Zealand in recent weeks. It's like we've decided to take out the prize for holding the most sexist and misogynist views towards women in the media.

As a FEMALE (I'm also blonde and quite small, but don't hold that against me) reporter with just ten years experience working in a variety of media in New Zealand, Australia and London, I'm gobsmacked. Yes, I'm over 30. So in the words of some commentators, my career is over.

The reality is by the time you get to my age and you're still in the media, it's easy to feel positively ancient. Many of my colleagues last just a few years before the bright lights of PR, marketing or pretty much anything else beckons. Despite what so many seem to think about journalism, it's not easy. Every man, dog and blogger out there is ready to criticise our every move and it's even worse for those of us in the press gallery.

We work hard, have spent years studying, many of us still have huge student loans, we work late night and weekend shifts for low pay. In the end many of us sacrifice family, friends and an ordinary life to do it. You don’t do this job unless you love it.

I'm not complaining - ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I am proud to say I am lucky enough to have the best job in the world and I absolutely love it.

But the treatment dished out to female reporters is frankly disgusting. The vitriol thrown at the very talented Andrea Vance in recent weeks has been abhorrent. She is a very, very good journalist. I'm not afraid to say that I'm jealous of just how good she is. The comments and insinuation following her stories on the GCSB leak have left me, and many others, infuriated.

For some, it seems the idea a female reporter would (shock horror) manage to get a story purely by working hard and being tenacious, is impossible. Surely some sort of seduction or honey trap was involved? How else could this possibly have happened?

It's not just the treatment of Andrea that has shocked me. It feels like it's become open slather on female journalists, particularly those of us in the press gallery. Apparently we all have "daddy issues" and we flirt and flutter our eyelashes to get stories. We're all temptresses. If only it was that easy.  I myself have been belittled and had my abilities questioned because I'm young, blonde and female - that clearly means I can't get a job based on my any merits other than how I look. The four years at university and experience at numerous media outlets count for nothing.

Guess what? It's 2013. We live in New Zealand.  I've always been proud of being a Kiwi. Having lived in Australia, I've been so relieved we don't behave in the openly racist and sexist way our neighbours do. The treatment of Julia Gillard is evidence of their shocking attitudes towards women.

So let's grow up New Zealand. Stop attacking people based on their gender. If you have a problem with a story or a journalist, criticise them for that - not for how they look. Journalists are pretty hard. We can take the criticism. But be fair with it.

Photo: Supplied

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