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International Women's Day

New York Times gender editor pushes feminism in fight for equality

Jessica Bennett is the New York Time's first gender editor
Jessica Bennett is the New York Time's first gender editor Sharon Attia

Jessica Bennett made headlines in 2017 by becoming the first ‘gender editor’ of The New York Times, appointed to raise awareness about women and gender issues. On International Women’s Day, the author of Feminist Fight Club, discusses how she’s closing the gap in male-female reading habits.

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"We know that at The New York Times, more men than women read the paper and log on online and share articles and comment," says Bennett.

Jessica Bennett NYT Gender Editor

"We need to close that gap, so at the end of the day, my job is to close that gap," she told RFI's Camille Sarazin.

Five decades ago, The New York Times had a dedicated section to gender issues, known as the "women's pages".

However, Bennett insists she wants to move away from "ghettoised" content.

"The reality is that every section of the newspaper is also for women. We want to seamlessly infuse a gender lens onto everything that we do."

The task is a tall one. The media, and The New York Times is no exception, has long been dominated by men, who design and define policies and agendas, including how women are portrayed.

The creation of a gender editor is designed to break this ingrained patriarchy.

"Part of my role is noticing if there are stories we write in which there is not a single woman quoted," she comments, suggesting there could be formal quota tracking in the future.

After MeToo

Bennett is no stranger to writing about feminism. In 2016, she published the Feminist Fight Club, an office survival manual for a sexist workplace.

A year later, she was thrust into her role as gender editor at the height of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, documenting sexual assault claims against the disgraced film maker dating to the 1970s.

"My work is to contribute to a better understanding of the challenges facing women. The #MeToo movement has certainly helped," she says, referring to the changing attitudes towards harassment, sexual violence and abuse.

Since the scandal, Bennett has started a newsletter (The #MeToo Moment) and hosted a series of live events about male abuse of power and the role of technology to upend it. And she's inspiring others.

"Since MeToo, several media outlets have created their own gender editor roles," she comments in reference to the Washington Post and the Associated Press.

"I think the idea that the media must better engage female readers is becoming more and more recognised," she said.

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