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Women Now Have a Voice in Chile’s Press

SANTIAGO, Aug 10 2012 (IPS) - “We always dreamed of a ‘heroine’ who would not only denounce violence against women, but would also represent us in other spheres,” Kena Lorenzini, the director of Chile’s first feminist publication, told IPS.

She was referring to the on-line daily La MansaGuman, created solely by women.

The new publication is aimed at shedding light on the inequality and discrimination suffered by so many women in a country where two companies, El Mercurio and Copesa, which belong to some of the country’s richest and most powerful families, control 90 percent of the written and on-line press.

Against that backdrop, launching an independent, progressive media outlet was not an easy task.

The heavy concentration of the media also translates into an ideological monopoly of the political right, which has a direct effect on the editorial line of publications, and more specifically, on the sources consulted and the way the news is approached.

Economist Gloria Maira told IPS that La MansaGuman “fills a major vacuum with respect to the media and the news available to people.

“In general, women are absent in the media, or we appear as something ‘different’ or interesting, or as a secondary news item. But the sources are generally men, and the voices of women are missing. We decided that it was a big need that had to be filled,” said Maira, assistant editor of the new publication.

She added that women’s issues tend to be treated as those of a “minority, and they talk about us as if we were a small group whose problems aren’t really national issues.

“We want to tackle the major women’s issues like the gap in wages, the segregation of the labour market, the decriminalisation of abortion under all circumstances, and problems of democracy that affect half of the population of the country, and which must thus be approached as important political, economic and cultural questions,” Maira said.

Lorenzini said that “99 percent of the media have male editors and male owners, which means that those who write and talk are 85 percent men.”

She said the most radical aspect of La MansaGuman is that there are no male sources. “But this is not a digital newspaper for women, but for everyone, because it is immersed in the national debate.”

The name of the new publication, La MansaGuman, means “big woman” in Chilean slang (“mansa” means “big” and “guman” is a deformation of “woman”).

The staff of the newspaper is a multidisciplinary team of women photographers, economists, lawyers and family counsellors.

The editorial committee is made up of human rights activist Diamela Eltit; Ana González, four of whose family members were forcibly disappeared by the 1973-1990 dictatorship; Danae Díaz, one of the leaders of the country’s secondary school students; Mexican anthropologist Marta Lamas; Ecuadorean writer Tatiana Cordero; and Fatma Mehdi, secretary general of the National Union of Saharawi Women, who is also one of the leaders of the national liberation movement of El Frente POLISARIO

Financing is fully based on donations, which made possible the creation of the web site and even the design of the publication.

La MansaGuman is “a critical and sassy publication” created to highlight women, up to now excluded from the agenda of the mainstream media, the publication’s founders say. The idea is to focus on the spaces where women are present, and the agenda that defines them, that they care about, and that affects them.

There is no censorship, they say, but there are two requisites for participating: being feminist and leftist.

“Being feminist is a thing of pride for women,” Maira said. “There are some women who may not yet have assumed this identity. But if we look at our history, the fact that we are here talking today about what democracy still owes us is thanks to the feminist movement, both in this country and in the rest of the world, in terms of fighting and pressuring for the recognition of our rights.”

She added that, although many say feminism is outdated and obsolete, “as long as women remain a subordinate group, in symbolic, political and economic terms, it is more relevant today than ever.”

“Thus, if we want to come up with a transformative discourse, towards an inclusive society based on solidarity, that is governed by these values and principles, feminism is evidently a current of thought, of proposals that nourish that transformation,” she added.

With respect to the question of being leftist, Lorenzini said it meant defending gender, social and economic justice.

Maira said “We are among those who believe that in our country there is unbridled capitalism that affects society as a whole.

“The principles of solidarity that inspired Chilean society in other times have been lost; we have been transformed from citizens to customers, and it is the rules of the market that determine not only the economy but also politics and values.”

La MansaGuman aims to be “the political voice” of women, to put an end to the “historical invisibilisation” to which they have been subjected.

“We have the right to vote, there are some public policies to address certain manifestations of violence against women, but we have to admit that women remain a subordinate collective in society, as all indicators show,” the economist said.

She added that “in political representation, participation in the labour market, level of wages, decision-making spaces in companies, as producers of culture in cultural circles, etc, women are frankly consigned to the margins.”

“We believe this is democracy’s big debt to women, which is necessary to tackle, from the media as well,” she said.

All women will have a place in La MansaGuman, and articles will be written by anyone from intellectuals to trade unionists, businesswomen and ordinary citizens.

The editorial criteria “are not strict, but are not lax either,” Lorenzini said.

From now on, Maira said, “hysterical women, saints, witches, madwomen, whores – all women” will have a political voice and “will always be at the forefront.”

“The heroine will do everything possible to make that true,” she added.

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  • Silvia de Marenco

    As women we have the capacity to do so many things in favour of humasn beings, and this is being demonstrated in so many parts of the world, as latin american many follow the instructions of Rugoberta Menchu, we have to struggle at the side of our men, not against them.

  • Silvia de Marenco

    As women we have the capacity to do so many things in favour of humasn beings, and this is being demonstrated in so many parts of the world, as latin american many follow the instructions of Rugoberta Menchu, we have to struggle at the side of our men, not against them.

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