Female Exposure
We're All Newspukes on this Bus

January 2003

by Amy Bowers

Shutterbabes, shooterbabes, lensladies, cameramen. What to call female photogs. Is this difficult for y'all?

Women. All female shooters are women, right? It's solved. Female photjournalists are women. It's so boring, Dirck complains. It's not catchy, like click-chicks? Let's ask Trent Lott: WOMEN: THE OTHER WHITE MEAT. uh-oh. Let's not ask.

In the 1972, I looked for an entry level job in Boston. WGBH, the public television station, posted a job for studio lighting assistant. Perfect for me. I called the production manager who told me I would have to set lights from the catwalk. Sounded great. He said it wouldn't be a good place for a girl, because the studio crew were men who used bad language. Shit, they swear and stuff? I said I'd be okay and asked for an interview. Call me tomorrow, he suggested. The following day I called the production manager. The job's been filled, he told me.

After bolder more assertive women than myself filed lawsuits around the country, affirmative action was created. I caught that wave, landing a "minority" position as a lumper (camera assistant) at WCVB-TV. Maybe I beat out a white guy better qualified to schlepp equipment and reload film magazines; if so, it doesn't bother me. Every lumper before our group had been a white guy. Now we were five men of color and my female self.

Are you a Women's Libber? the cameramen asked me. Meaning, humorless bra-burner. No, not me, I said, (why be grim when torching your bra?) my arms crossed casually over my chest. I carried the gear and helped set lights. I don't think anyone called me a "lumpette."

One year later I was hired as a tv news photographer, trained but inexperienced. Les Kretman, the assistant news director at WBZ-TV, needed an affirmative action hire and thought I had the stuff.

The Boston cameramen helped me enormously. They taught me how to shoot sports at Fenway Park ("get ready, Amy, Carbo swings at the first pitch") and The Boston Garden ("where's everyone going?" I asked after the third period of Bruins hockey). They encouraged me to be aggressive in a crowd ("get in there or you'll get bagged") and told me not to get caught between cops and rioters during school desegregation.

I did lose a chance to follow the Red Sox to Oakland for playoffs because I wouldn't be allowed in the locker room to shoot post-game interviews. Len Berman, our sports reporter, argued that I earned the trip, and we should hire an extra cameraman for the locker room, but economics prevailed. The following summer I got a payback trip to Kansas City to cover the Republican National Convention with Pat Mitchell (now CEO of PBS), herself a consolation prize winner for some other slight.

In the eighties, women who were making it were supposed to enjoy something called "having it all." Some women didn't even think they were getting half. Anxious about kids while at work, worried about getting stuck on the Mommy track while at home, some newswomen hated the balance. But the opportunities were there for those who were ready. If you shopped at the grocery store at 2AM to stock up for the babysitter, it was more a result of life in the 20th century, than gender bias in the industry.

Are there gender issues in photojournalism in 2003? We're all newspukes, there's no such thing as a NEWSPUKETTE. Our contributors to The Digital Journalist report equal opportunity in the industry. But the portions are smaller, causing more of us struggle with "work issues" and "life issues." I do think women approach "life issues" differently than men. If you disagree, try walking a mile in our unburned bras.

© Amy Bowers
Contributing Editor

Write a Letter to the Editor
Join our Mailing List
© The Digital Journalist