“Soft” feminism via the mass media

This is an archived article

The buzzer next to the red door does not even carry a nameplate, but everyone who comes here knows that the door leads to a cornucopia: a rich abundance of information about women. That information comes in a very modern form – online from a news agency – or can be looked up the old-fashioned way: in an archive. Over the last twenty years, CIMAC (Comunicación e Información de la Mujer) has built up an excellent reputation – both as a source of information and as a communications agency.

In 1988, five women journalists wanted to go beyond simply producing feminist monthly supplements. They were determined to put the realities of women’s lives onto the front page, and get gender relations taken into account everywhere in the male-dominated country of Mexico. That could not be achieved through individual interventions and it was going to demand a lot of staying power, so the women founded CIMAC, and now they not only provide news stories, but also teach journalists (both male and female) to look at the news through a “gender lens.” So that Mexican women can make their own voices heard, CIMAC also helps women’s and human rights groups to present their concerns in writing or verbally in such a way that they will find a hearing. “We see ourselves as mediators between civil society and the media,” says board member Lucía Lagunes.

In order to assure continuity for their contacts and dialogue, in 1995 CIMAC joined with the national journalists’ association Red Nacional de Periodistas to create a network of women journalists. Today the network links up more than 1,200 women and a few men in all the Mexican federal states. In 2000, a tri-national network of women journalists (covering Mexico, the United States, and Canada) was formed, with around 300 members. CIMAC reaches a total of more than 1,300 professional print, radio, and television journalists. The CIMAC building is staffed by seventeen women; only the network administrator is a man. The well-stocked library, offering access to more than 15,000 items, keeps a record of what women have to suffer and what moves them to action.

The agency sends out news to 2,000 subscribers, daily or in a weekly digest. CIMAC women also write radio news items and maintain a website (www.cimacnoticias.com) with around 20,000 users. It is barely possible to cover the costs of these services, so that financial support, including that of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, is especially important.

Addressing such contentious issues in Mexico is a dangerous business. Again and again, journalists have been intimidated, attacked, or even murdered. CIMAC’s coverage of gender issues threatens established interests, and in 2008 there was a mysterious break-in. The burglars were not after only the valuables, but also audio recordings and files. Like so many similar attempts at intimidation in Mexico, this crime was never solved.

But despite the women’s communicative skill, progress is slow. In Mexico the proportion of news reports that address women’s lives remains below average. And every second of those reports revolves around violence and crime, which are severe problems in Mexico. “It will be a very long time before Mexico sees a consistent and sustained form of reporting that takes a long-term view of women’s concerns,” comments Lucía Lagunes tersely.




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This Article is published in Gender Politics Makes a Difference - Experiences of the Heinrich Böll Foundation across the world.