Opinion: Shooting down mansplaining as a female photographer

I face a lot of condescension from men in my work, and I’m just one of thousands of women in media who face similar problems.

Opinion%3A+Shooting+down+mansplaining+as+a+female+photographer

Katina Zentz, Creative Director

I’m a photographer. When I’m working and out in the field, nothing else matters. It’s me, my camera, and the subjects I’m shooting.

Photographing any assignment is stressful; at the Big Ten basketball championships I had to physically push past a line of photographers in order to snap a flawless vertical shot of Gustafson and Bluder holding up the trophy. All of the elements came together in that magnificent array of disorder and utter completeness. There is a lot of pressure, but the amount of worry and anticipation always coincides with feelings of confidence and excitement.

In those moments, I am unbreakable. That is, until I feel a light tap on my shoulder and turn around.

It’s always a man. Either another photographer, a fan, an athlete, or a security guard stopping to tell me something. I wait for the comment, hoping it’s something friendly or worthwhile, and it never is.

The photographer says, “Here’s a tip if this is your first time shooting here: It’s helpful to go behind the benches at Kinnick to get to the other side.”

The fan looks at me and laughs asking, “Who gave you permission to carry a huge lens like that?” in reference to my 300 mm f/2.8.

The athletes whistle at the games or media days and try to flirt when you are simply trying to get their portrait.

It can be estimated that around 81,600 female photojournalists are discriminated against each year.”

The security guard says, “You look so mad when you shoot. Why don’t you try smiling more?” And like clockwork, the wall breaks down.

These sorts of problems affect more women than just me.

Although photojournalism is a male-dominated field, this does not permit the discrimination inflicted upon female photographers. In 2017, the Census Bureau reported that fewer than 120,000 female photographers are employed in the U.S.

With data provided in the December 2018 report for World Press Photo, 69 percent of women in the study said they experienced discrimination in the workplace. Another study from McKinsey & Company this year found 73 percent of women have reported discrimination in their line of work. Based on this data, it can be estimated that around 81,600 female photojournalists are discriminated against each year.

Taking a step back from focusing on photojournalism, violence and discrimination toward female journalists is a major issue. The percentage of women in the news media in the U.S. reaches just under 42 percent, according to data collected by the Women’s Media Center. Even though almost half of the employees in the U.S. media are women, it does not stop the unfair and sexist behaviors toward us.

Women have been constantly working toward more leadership positions through the last five years, but the gender bias is still a major factor in their everyday routine.”

This all circles back to my original problem: mansplaining, where a man condescendingly explains something to woman, assuming she doesn’t have any prior knowledge. Often, it just so happens to be something where the woman knows more than her male antagonist.

Mansplaining in the workplace promotes gender inequality and enforces stereotypes. Ultimately, it diminishes the true success of the woman in her place of work.

Disrespect toward women extends to all women in the workforce. Women have been constantly working toward more leadership positions through the last five years, but the gender bias is still a major factor in their everyday routine.

So to the other photographer who randomly claimed it was my first time shooting — I’ve shot countless games with portfolio-based work.

To the fan who laughed and asked who gave me permission to carry a seven-pound, $7,000 lens — because I oversee all visuals at The Daily Iowan — I did.

To the athletes who holler at me — it’s just a portrait, and no, I’m not flirting with you.

And to the security guard who told me to smile more on the job — I’ll smile when I get that perfect shot, not to please you.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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