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Women Prevail in History of Women and Media

February 22, 2010

My first major act as a feminist was to ask for the same pay as a male colleague in my first job out of college — as a reporter for the Monroe Morning World in Monroe, La.

He had been hired two weeks after me and had exactly the same amount of professional experience: none.

He was hired at $10 a week more than my salary, which would have been about a 12 percent increase and would have made the difference in whether I could pay my monthly rent with one week’s paycheck.

I got the “raise,” even though my boss seemed incensed that I asked.

My second major feminist act was attending the National Women’s Conference in Houston in 1977. I was the only person I knew who attended and most people I knew thought it was weird that I wanted to go.

I’ve been a feminist since I first saw my father give my mother an allowance and I sensed that his word meant more than hers.

I never advertised my feminism, but I never hid it either. Most women I knew were in favor of “equal rights” in a general way, and we all had fun making our way into the world of work in the 1980s, with our skirt suits and sensible heels.

This post isn’t intended to go over all that, but to say that I’ve noticed lately that it’s quite okay to talk about feminism — not as “equal rights” — but as an everyday part of the social fabric.

I’ve been noticing that for awhile but it’s particularly true with women in the media, who probably avoided labeling themselves for fear of not being neutral or objective.

Now, there are activist media women all over — in places like the International Women’s Media Foundation, the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press, and on and on.

And, there are particular women like Gail Collins and Joan Walsh, for example, who are out there in the mainstream media, representing themselves as feminists, openly and unapologetically.

The uninformed don’t even know that feminism has transformed society and is alive and well.

At the same time, a lot of feminists aren’t satisfied with the current state of affairs and are chagrined that women still face discrimination.

But, I, for one, feel comfortable for the first time in a long, feminist life with regularly identifying myself as a feminist in everyday conversation and action. Sad, perhaps, considering how long I’ve been around, but liberating nonetheless.

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