Thursday, March 22, 2001

Journalism students. They deserve a few lines today, since they managed to shake me out of my comfortable thoughts about computer games and in this case females and aggression. Actually, this is about females and aggression as well.

With just the pretense of a knock on my door, two young pretty girls stormed my office, leaving a male colleague looking surprised and a little shy in the background. Trapping me in my chair, they introduced themselves quickly, and then started telling me what they wanted me to do for them... they had this case, a matter of a public relations officer (the head of the cinema in Volda) wanting to manipulate independent journalists (in the college newspaper) by asking that they did not make public a certain piece of news before a certain date. And they really needed me to be present in this forum (a journalist-student ethics discussion-group) while they discussed how public relations professionals attempt to manipulate journalists.

Being as bitchy as any young student girl can dream of, I told them that I didn't accept their problem as valid, that I did not wish to be present as a hostage while they stamped an entire profession as manipulators, and that their initial case was a matter of maintaining a good relationship to their sources, and sorted under journalist ethics and work-morals.

They left in anger, of course.
For me, the interesting thing here is my own reaction. The entire time while I told them no, I knew that had they approached me a little differently, I would have said yes. Had they paused long enough for me to say "enter" after they knocked, had they not entered my private space by rushing up to the chair and grabbing my hand, had they presented the case itself slower, and without telling me that "we all agreed that what we did was right", had their topic not been "how journalists are manipulated by PR officials" but perhaps "Is there a conflict of interest between journalists and their sources?" - if they had moderated their approach a little... I know I would have said yes. What I am left asking myself is - did I react like that because they were girls? Would I have let boys bully me into saying yes?

According to Deborah Tannen, I would have accepted that behaviour in boys. But actually - no, I wouldn't. I have met my share of pompous caricatures of agressive journalists, storming my office to make me say something about what they consider "a case". Since these were two pretty girls, even I, a woman and a mother of a girl almost their age, thought: "Oh, look at those enthusiastic girls, aren't they cute?" Had boys behaved like that, the reaction would have been: "what the ¤%&# do those idiots think they are doing in my office!" Does that make me sexist? Yeah. And poor boys, they don't have a chance now the girls have the guts, the arrogance, the confidence... and the looks on their side.

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