“I’ll decide that”: Patriarchy in the media industry – CIDSE

“I’ll decide that”: Patriarchy in the media industry

As a documentary photographer, Ana Palacios shines light on post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding projects. She photographs the world’s broken places: orphanages, asylums, hospitals, psychiatric units, and ghettoes. Her intention is to make vulnerable communities visible with a sense of optimism and hope.  

Her work on cooperation in development has been published worldwide in media such as Al Jazeera, BBC, The Guardian, and the New Internationalist, and she has received international awards. 

She is the author of “Fragile Amazon”, the photo exhibition organized by CIDSE and REPAM at the Pan-Amazonian Synod. But we interviewed her about feminism and how her photography has an impact on the issues it displays. 

1. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why? 

First, we need to define exactly what feminism is to answer this with precision and with nuance. 

Feminism analyzes injustices, seeks and uses existing mechanisms to eradicate them. It is a movement or philosophy to build a better world, an antidote to these injustices. 

My activism or militancy comes naturally. Since I was little, I’ve always noticed that we had to fight harder to be present and that there were absurd inequalities and prejudices in terms of our abilities, just for being a woman. 

Unfortunately, I normalized that struggle and now thanks to emerging movements I am realizing that I should not have to work harder than a man for the same job or the same salary, but that this is an issue of social justice. 

I am in the phase of deconstructing the acceptance, although not the submission, of the patriarchy in which I have been raised. 

2. Has feminism helped you in your sector/area or in your day-to-day life? 

Individual women suffer injustice on a daily basis, violent situations that they experience as ‘normal’ and have go unnoticed. The moment has arrived in which, thanks to all these testimonies that are now rising that normalization is broken, by observing that these are not isolated experiences if not injustices of a collective, that of women. It has helped me to understand that I am not alone, that the injustices that I suffer because of being a woman do not happen just to me. 

If “help me” means that you have allotted me the opportunity to be present in panels where “quotas” have been imposed, yes, but I will never know because I do not know if you have chosen me because of a quota or because of the quality of my work. Which gives me mixed feelings towards the imposition of quotas, since logically I prefer to be included for my “good work” not for the fact of being a woman, or being white or black, or being of this or of that country, because that does not stop being positive discrimination. 

I hope that soon there will be no need for a quota system to be justly present. 

3. In your opinion, what two measures do you think should be implemented to improve equality? 

That companies are obligated to equalize salaries for the same job and not for gender. 

That companies really support men and women to reconcile family life with the work they do, without sacrificing either of the two.  

Although I also believe this effort should not be reduced only to the legislative sphere as if equality were won only through state enforcement. With legislation there are two problems: 1) legislation can be revoked, and 2) these solutions overload the judicial system and serve only certain people. 

If there are laws, they should also be accompanied by social change, so that there is consciousness, by investment in educating that equality is the task of everyone, not only in the school system. 

 It is urgent to tackle sexist violence in a more effective and comprehensive way: budgetary provision, messages that put more emphases on “don’t mistreat women” and not on “woman denounces…”. 

4. Have you encountered any obstacles because of being a woman? Which ones? 

I have worked in many sectors: in cinema, in journalism, in sports, in broadcasting and other TV shows, in the social sector … and in absolutely all of them, without exception, I have experienced patriarchy and machismo. 

On top of this, in management positions, it’s usually men who “select” collaborators or employees, and the criteria for choosing a man are clear and appropriate to their professional capacity, but when selecting a woman, I have sometimes observed that the criteria are indiscriminate. I remember one film producer who was my boss, when he picked up some résumés that had his notes from interviews with candidates, he had noted if she was beautiful, very pretty, ugly. 

On the other hand, when I meet with editors of large media I feel their lack of attention and consideration towards my work, their condescension, and paternalism. I listen to comments like “You will get tired moving around with so much weight in your backpack from the camera, it will be dangerous for you to go to this or that country…” And I think: “I’ll have to decide that, not him”. 

I myself have a section in my networks that I publish every Sunday called “Fotógrafas que habitan” with the intention of highlighting the work of excellent women photographers who are not often given the space for their expression. 

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