Female Photojournalist of color in a Male-Dominated Career



By Vanessa Martinez, PHOTO EDITOR
In many of today’s newsrooms, women alone face major barriers, but especially if you’re a woman of color. Entering this line of work, I knew that this was a male-dominated career and people of color lack representation, you can see it on any news stations on television or if you’re a journalist yourself you can see it on your own work environment.
Quick question, can you think of a well-known woman of color journalist off of the top of your head? I, myself, cannot think of a single person and this isn’t our fault. We just happened to be underrepresented in this career field. We lack representation and we lack respect and deal with being mistreated. Here’s my first hands on experiences as a journalist dealing not only feeling out of place, but having to deal with being treated differently compared to predominantly male journalist at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.
My name is Vanessa Martinez and I’m a journalist/ Photo Editor for The Pioneer Newspaper at California State University, East Bay. I was giving a wonderful opportunity to attend and cover the 2020 Caucus in Las Vegas with my fellow colleagues Ethan Alonzo and Nolan Higdon.
I was definitely looking forward to this trip, (Especially after losing an important figure in my life this month, Rest In Peace Adolfo and Mary Jane Corral). After being invited to report on the caucuses I believed I had earned a level of respect as my male colleagues and however this was not the case. Before this event I felt experienced and was optimist about honing my skills especially since I’ve worked for my Community College newspaper in Santa Barbara and putting them together with my new skills from The Pioneer.
My illusion of being treated the same as my male teammates and the other women in attendance became shattered after facing a memorable moment. The question then became why, after all we had come to this space as professionals in our field.
One of my memorable moments was when I gathered around with my colleagues to discuss on what we would be covering with in that moment there was a group of white males setting up their cameras. The sound of tape and cables being dropped was easy to distinguish, as I was listening in to what Higdon wanted Ethan and I to report, this white male seemed to be in his late 40s tapped me on my shoulder expecting me to move without saying excuse me.
In my opinion it’s common courtesy to let someone know that if you’re trying to get through somewhere and someone happens to be in your path is to kindly say excuse me, but instead, he decided to touch my shoulder, and pat me in the hopes that this would make me move. Which it did, I was also taken back with what just happened because I grew up saying excuse me when I was trying to get through at a group of people. After moving he walked past me without hesitation, I looked at Professor Higdon and gave him a face of disbelief what just happened. With experience, it became more prevalent how dominant male culture is, but specifically in journalism.
That wasn’t the last time this man placed his hand on me, it happened again in the same room but different location. The second time I was photographing and there was a lot of space to move around especially since I was further away from the group and I saw the guy again, and he passed by me and to go to that group and then came back, this time instead of a pat he placed his hands on my both my shoulders so I can move this time shaken my shoulders a little after that he proceeded to walk away to wherever he was rushing to do.
This industry will always underrepresented women, and lack respect specifically women of color like myself. As a young journalist, I experienced my first and I’m sure not my last male womanizes situation. Women of color shouldn’t have to face a different level of respect, we should be treated the same and respected the same. Think of it this way would you have enjoyed this story if it came from your mother, sister or daughter?
With these expenses, I can say it helped me be more on my toes with the way I’m treated and won’t let that stop me from earning the same level of respect as a male.