By Julie Brinker
While the #MeToo movement may seem like a difficult topic to discuss openly, three scholars were able to speak to this, not just with empathy, but with passion and conviction at the second plenary of #RCCACP2019.
The #MeToo movement has created a platform calling for change around gender issues in nearly every sector of society. This panel took an intersectional approach to exploring and challenging the present state of gender representation in media and media production. The panelists, all engaged in a range of ongoing efforts to raise awareness about gender disparities, were Dr. Glory Dharmaraj, U.S. coordinator for the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) of the World Association for Christian Communication; Dr. Sarah Macharia, global coordinator of the Global Media Monitoring Project; and Dr. Karri Whipple, a speaker, writer, and activist who promotes transformative justice work within communities.
Whipple spoke about the urgency of understanding the #MeToo movement as it keeps cropping up in each of our news feeds on social media. “We need to realize our role of religious communities… we have a responsibility to speak out about the daily reality of this, not just in the face of crisis.”
Dharmaraj pointed out that faith communities are also not immune to sexual assault and abuse. Many times younger people do not know how to speak about this issue, they “know it is not okay, but do not know what it’s called.” Further, she said, “Naming the issue is important. The enemy is not ‘men.’ The enemy is patriarchy and violence.” Dharmaraj went on to point out that “certain religious texts have been misused to silence women who are not able to distinguish the voice of patriarchal culture from the sacred scriptures.”
Macharia spoke about the major challenges that face religion communicators. “As faith communicators, we sharpen the lens even further… so justice and gender and professionalism are seen truly.”
Whipple spoke about the need to take it further. “How are you educating those you are reaching? How can we make this more than just a hashtag? I’m hoping we can think about what does it look like to have long-term structural change.”
Dr. Glory Dharmaraj is U.S. coordinator for the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) (@whomakesthenews) of the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) (@waccglobal). Since the project’s inception in 1995, she has led media monitoring on the role and image of women in the United States. She also participated in WACC’s peace journalism project, coordinating peace monitoring for the United States.
Dr. Sarah Macharia is the global coordinator of the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) (@whomakesthenews), a 114-nations longitudinal research and advocacy initiative for gender equality in and through the news media running since 1995. She represents WACC on the International Steering Committee of the Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMAG) initiated by UNESCO to follow up on the implementation of the media recommendations (Section J) of the UN 1995 Beijing Platform for Action for the Advancement of Women.
Dr. Karri Whipple (@karriwhipple) is a speaker, writer, and activist who promotes transformative justice work within communities. Her work focuses on the intersection of trauma, identity politics, and religion. She is particularly interested in the ways in which gender, sexuality, and race shape responses to violence and trauma within faith traditions.
The panel was moderated by the Rev. Eric C. Shafer. He is Senior Pastor at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Santa Monica and Vice President of the Religion Communicators Council (RCC).
Julie Brinker is Community Relations Director for the Church of Scientology in Nashville, TN.