A blog by Amanda Alcantara

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

No Place for Women in Journalism of Dissent

I’m almost done with my seasonal job as a camera-person at a TV station in NYC and I’ve decided to take a break from journalism until at least November. I’m not satisfied with my career choice- Journalism- which doesn’t mean I will give up; it just means my approach has to change.
It almost feels easy (although it’s not) to be a reporter for mainstream media sources. Whether that be a network television station or an online liberal newspaper, it seems that these places are open to you as long as you have connections there and are in line with their politics. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have either. As a first-generation college-graduate with Dominican parents, having connections anywhere is difficult, and even with internships at TheGrio.com orEL Diario La Prensa, the relationships that I have built through hard work and commitment haven’t led to a full-time position.
Nonetheless, getting the job interview is not my only issue, the stories that I want to write about are meant to reveal the real truths of how social differences and systematic oppression affect people in their everyday lives; The very things that keep me personally from moving up in my career. I want to write about homelessness, gentrification, and real political stories that don’t involve what scandals politicians get into in their free time nor what the sex of the royal baby is (ugh).
With all that being said, I’ve come across some amazing journalists lately who are shaking up the conversation in media.  After attending a talk at a Chicago conference with Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald (Greenwald was skyped in), I became hopeful of the fact that the work that these men were doing is out in the forefront of news. Scahill was recently on The Colbert Report and Greenwald, well, no need to even say it (hi NSA!). And yet one thing is clear to me, one thing that brings unwanted resentment not because I blame them directly for anything that they’ve done (I actually celebrate them) but because of the advantages that they have: they are both white men. This does not make their work any less valuable but it definitely does make it more credible, and even possible. I almost feel like a child whining because his dreams of saving the world with words and reports cannot come true because of the fact that he is a girl.
Francesca Borri, a female freelance journalist in Syria, writes this:
And then, of course, I am a woman. One recent evening there was shelling everywhere, and I was sitting in a corner, wearing the only expression you could have when death might come at any second, and another reporter comes over, looks me up and down, and says: “This isn’t a place for women.” What can you say to such a guy? Idiot, this isn’t a place for anyone. If I’m scared, it’s because I’m sane. Because Aleppo is all gunpowder and testosterone, and everyone is traumatized: Henri, who speaks only of war; Ryan, tanked up on amphetamines. And yet, at every torn-apart child we see, they come only to me, a “fragile” female, and want to know how I am. And I am tempted to reply: I am as you are. And those evenings when I wear a hurt expression, actually, are the evenings I protect myself, chasing out all emotion and feeling; they are the evenings I save myself.
How are women supposed to go out there and write these reports on drone strikes in Yemen, war zones in Syria or uprisings in Egypt when those are not places for women? From sexual assault to lack of credibility, journalism and real reporting is not an easy task when one is constantly sexualized.
And it is even less of a place for women of color. Whenever I express my discontent for the field I am immediately directed to a website that caters to a niche audience, or to a Spanish-speaking news station like (please-don’t-mention-it-again) Univision.  I do appreciated many of the websites and independent news agencies that write of Latino issues, and I do want to write about these issues as well, but when will the time come when I will be seen as more than just someone to fill that gap?
In the end, I wish I could go back to somewhere in the early 2000′s and turn off the TV whenever I had it on Univision’s Primer Impacto, a sensational Spanish news show that for some time featured an all-female cast. I looked up to these women and now I realize that it showed me a clear glimpse of the side of journalism that I would later grow to hate: the side where women are flaunting flowy hair, pale faces coated in makeup and reporting from the comfort of a news room on a poor chicken that was born with three legs. It seems that today not much has changed. Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill are the real journalists of the world: holding up the torch of freedom because their stories, and most stories on the left, are so powerful, so relevant, so controversial that only they can afford to be put in dangerous positions to report them and then be criticized and scrutinized by mainstream media, but in the end walk out of there alive. They represent power, intellect, security and trust. And despite their stories being so important, one wonders how much is happening that is currently being lost? What stories are being kept on the sidelines because they are told by courageous women of diverse backgrounds rather than your typical journalist?
Well, I guess I am a woman and I lack some assertiveness so I cannot end without this disclaimer:  I am new to the field, and I bet there are some bad-ass Latinas out there writing some amazing stories and receiving tons of support from different websites and independent news sources. Women, sisters, if you really are out there, wait for me…I’ll be joining you soon.
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I feel so alive lately. I guess it's summer. Maybe it's because I don't eat meat anymore. Maybe it's because I started writing again. Or maybe, just maybe it was the awesome feeling of unity that came after this:

People took the streets of NYC on Sunday night to claim justice for Trayvon Martin. I was one of them. When the verdict was read I knew that actions would take place, and once the protest was planned I decided to purposely leave my camera home. That day I wasn't going to take pictures. That day I wouldn't write an article on the march. No, I was angry and I needed to feel like the subject of that anger rather than a viewer documenting what others felt. 

We gathered at Union Square where the crowd felt much smaller and as we marched most of the response from the crowd was fiercely positive. People recorded us, chanted with us, and many joined. So much that by the time we got to Times Square there were seven to ten thousand people pouring in the streets. We were walking through cars, I noticed that most cab drivers had a smirk...I guess we gave them some hope too. 

And let me be clear that what happened shouldn't have even been necessary:

George Zimmerman shouldn't have gotten acquitted. George Zimmerman shouldn't have shot Trayvon. George Zimmerman shouldn't have pursued Trayvon. Trayvon shouldn't live in a world where his skin makes him a target. Trayvon Martin shouldn't live in a world where schools are still systematically segregated, where his brothers and sisters are not only subjected to gun violence but also blamed for it. He shouldn't have to live in a world where racism is so deeply entrenched in people's minds that even those subjected to it have become apathetic to this story. 

And Sunday night and the different protests that have occurred throughout the country since then are a beautiful demonstration of how many people are awake and well-aware that even though the "justice system" has found Zimmerman "not guilty" because apparently he acted in "self-defense", the real crime here was that this young man was walking home and he died simply because of the color of his skin. People are angry and tired and outraged at Zimmerman and a system that makes it okay for a man of equal or bigger build than the subject being discussed can claim that he felt threatened by this subject who had nothing but skittles and iced tea. Think about it: many things need to change in order for those people to not exist anymore. In order for those views to change. We need a new system where the real problem- not just isolated cases of lunatics shooting people because they can- but rather the oppression of people of color through racist sexist and economics means are tackled.  

I hope that the energy running through me right now is felt by many people. A piece of us died inside when the verdict was read, and yet we woke up and came back with newborn energy: ready to explore, ask questions, fight for solutions, and claim justice for ourselves and generations to come. 

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