Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Ballsy journalism at its best

Journalism has balls and that’s why I like it.  Whether it’s scandalous, brutally honest, or so hard-hitting you feel physically violated, it has a shameless audacity which you can only admire.

Growing up, I was constantly reminded of the fact that the world of journalism was ridiculously hard to infiltrate, especially as a woman.  However, this all changed when I stumbled across the book Cupcakes and Kalashnikovs, a book containing extracts of ‘the best journalism by women over the past 100 years.' A book which was to soon become my bible.

Reading through the various articles, I discovered women with balls, and big ones at that.  Women such as Djuna Barnes, who in 1914 endured force feeding to express some of the anguish experienced by women during the suffragette movement.  Not only did she take it upon herself to suffer for her art, she also provided a voice for the women of that time who had too often been silenced.  Judy Syfers also makes poignant criticisms about feminism with her article Why I want a Wife, by cleverly using the satirical device of role reversal to highlight inequality in the 1970s.  This article was published in the very first issue of feminist magazine Ms. Magazine which would have marked a time of feminist revolt.

Although this book touches on feminist themes, for me it redefines out-dated stereotypes of bra-burning and man-hating, and instead just celebrates women.  These are women who are part of history, they have both recorded and contributed to changing times.  This was something I found to be extremely empowering.  Joreen Freeman’s, The BITCH Manifesto and Martha Gellhorn’s Dachau are incredibly liberating both in content and context; Freeman’s manifesto is so feisty and ruthless (by the end of the article you find yourself resisting the urge to punch your fist in the air and shout “you go girl!”), and Gellhorn’s in the sense she is a woman giving an account of a prisoner of war camp in the midst of WWII.  These are women shown fearlessly pursuing their passions, women considered pioneers in demonstrating the limitless possibilities for women in journalism.

The article which has perhaps stayed with me the most is Gitta Sereny’s article On the Murder of James Bulger.  The way in which she reports the case of the two young boys is utterly compelling; the honesty of her words are incredibly haunting, to the point where I still often find the hair on the back of my arms prick up.  This is journalism that has inspired me, stayed with me and driven me.  It is journalism which has picked me back up when I'm having a terrible time and encouraged me to carry on because I am a strong woman.

Cupcakes and Kalashnikovs fills me with a sense of pride and gives me confidence; it reassures me that if I want something badly enough, I should go and get it.  It makes me feel proud to be a woman because the women in this book, together with their stories, are just so inspiring.  I aspire to be like these women and to write great articles like them, articles that say far more than what is just written on the page.

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