CITY GIRL: My three rules for women in politics to tell their story
Now that the “baes” of Naii, the “msupa na works” and the “Miss Bs” candidates are out of the way, we have been left with the serious women candidates to whom I dedicate this piece.
Women politicians have criticised the media, accusing them of covering women in negative light. The media have also been criticised for asking women “soft” questions like “How do you juggle a husband, children, and politics”, while tough questions are left to the male candidates.
Today, I come bearing advice for female aspirants who wants to be taken seriously by Kenyan media. I will be drawing my thoughts from a few conversations with colleagues in the industry who have interacted with female politicians. But first, a few facts.
The reason why you will see media coverage tilting towards male politicians is simple. Numerous studies have shown that media focuses the spotlight on the elite of the society.
In most cases, these happen to be men. Across the globe, men make up the highest number of CEOs, presidents, judges, elected politicians and other elite positions that would be of interest to the media.
The fact that men make up a substantial amount of the society’s elite is a deeply entrenched tradition that will take ages to dismantle.
So how do women politicians who are hoping to get elected in August get more meaningful media coverage?
1. Stop being too timid: Female politicians are media shy and their aversion for public scrutiny is their biggest undoing. A fellow journalist told me how helpless he was the other day when he called a female politician — the vice-chair of a parliamentary committee — for a comment on a story he was working on. The politician was too timid to talk to the journalists.
Female politicians need to up their game. They need to acquire that some level of aggressiveness. They should not sit pretty waiting for journalists to call them for a comment. Instead, they should call the journalists and tell them they have a story and ask the journalists to cover them. That is what male politicians do. They bombard journalists with calls. They give them tips and dossiers.
2. Stop thinking that you are special: You are not. Male politicians are available for an interview on short notice. Female politicians require journalists to serenade them into an interview. Male politicians never fail to comment on a story when approached by a journalist.
Female politicians, on the other hand, approach journalists with excessive caution. Politics is not about introversion. It is about courage. Female politicians need to man up.
3. Stop being boring: Female politicians like to play safe. They don’t like controversy and controversial topics. Save for the Millie Odhiambos and the Gladys Wangas, the rest just like to “lie low like envelopes” and prefer to let men handle all the controversial subjects. Bad move. Take it from someone who made a name from being controversial.
Controversy does indeed sell and the media are attracted by controversy. I am not saying you run your mouth like some male MPs do. I am simply asking you not to be afraid to speak what is truly on your mind. Speak boldly and controversially. Do not be afraid of spawning nasty headlines. Any publicity is good publicity.