Harker: Bad journalism and being a nasty woman

Jessica Harker, Managing Editor

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Last year, at about this time, I wrote a welcome column about starting my year as Editor-in-Chief of the Independent Collegian. I wrote about how before I found the IC I was totally lost at school and had no idea what I wanted to do in life.

My work the last three years at this newspaper has sparked my passion. I found my niche, and I finally answered the question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” The answer: be a journalist.

But today, after a full year in the position of EIC, I can tell you the biggest lesson I learned in that time is that I am not a good journalist.

Crazy, right? How you can love something and still have society telling you you’re totally wrong for it?

But not only am I a bad journalist, I am also awful at being other things in my life that I consider essential parts of my personality. I am a bad feminist. I am a bad woman.

Also, by bad at it I don’t mean that I lack skill, but simply that if you were to ask anyone what the general depiction of one of these three things, you would find I simply don’t fit the bill.

During the year, through my studies for my women and gender studies minor, I read a book called “Bad Feminist” by Roxanne Gay.

The book talks about how Gay has reclaimed the term feminist for herself by labeling herself a bad feminist because, based on a typical definition of feminism, she did not fit at all.

Gay talks about how she isn’t white enough, that she’s too straight, and that she likes pop culture and rap music way too much to fit the rigid feminist mold. And who cares if she does or doesn’t? Gay is totally fine being herself, in her own bad feminist way.

I have been inspired by Gay’s book to reclaim for myself the labels that have been forced upon each step that I take into my future and my career.

Since I declared a major in communication, everyone always asks, “What are you going to DO with it?” I’d always answer that I wanted to go into journalism.

That response, for whomever I was talking to at the time, would elicit images of television reporters in front of burning buildings, giving five-minute summaries of major events. That never seemed right to me.

When I think of journalism, I want long nights up late, thousands of phone calls to different people, talking, learning and writing. So much writing. In our age, the face of journalism has shifted, and this is no longer what we think of when we say the word.

I’ve been told that I am too passionate for this job and too heavily involved in it. I’ve even been told by one professor that I don’t have the right look for broadcast journalism — I’m not blonde and I’m not skinny — and then again that I am bad at my job.

So, I guess you can call me old school, when it comes to journalism at least. I don’t go on Twitter, I prefer a pen and a paper to typed-up notes and I love facts, but that’s just me, a bad journalist.

That’s just on a local level here at the University of Toledo. If you look on a national level, in today’s political climate, there is no such thing as a good journalist or a good feminist.

With a minor in women and gender studies, it’s not surprising to people when I say I have been an avid feminist for most of my life. I have been able to explore that side of myself even further with my last three years in school.

Through these studies, I have learned how to integrate intersectional analysis into my daily life and especially in my work as a bad journalist.

But what I have found is another failure on my part. There is no way for me to be a good woman, at least not in today’s society.

I am more than happy to accommodate this. Earlier this year, Senator Mitch McConnell infamously said of Senator Elizabeth Warren, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Feminists immediately took up the quote as a newfound mantra, one I personally embrace wholeheartedly. I love this new wave of women who are working against the norm of what they are supposed to do to embrace what they want to do. I plan to continue to do the same.

So, in conclusion, be bad. Be a nasty woman. Be charismatic and passionate, outgoing and willful. But, more than anything, be unapologetic. I will continue to be bad at the things I am passionate about, not until I change for them, but until these labels change for me.

Jessica Harker is a third-year communication student and the IC’s managing editor.

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Harker: Bad journalism and being a nasty woman