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There are times when people are mean. When I was younger, school days were full of talking behind backs whilst the magazines we swore by were brimming with headlines that criticised women for their looks, for their actions; for their choices in clothes, men and makeup. Life was, for the most part, spent putting others down and beauty was the characteristic deemed most desirable. As I've grown, so has the realisation that you can enjoy intelligence and wit in a person and I have also recently started to appreciate another characteristic, one that was demonstrated so passionately by Pankhurst; the capacity to celebrate others.
There is nothing better than witnessing the sheer joy that someone gets from supporting their peers. Maybe they're simply being vocal when praise is due or lending a word or two of encouragement. It's the total opposite of the all-too-common 'me vs you' mentality and the reverse of what so many young girls- myself as a 17 year-old included- are used to. 'One of the worst obstacles that can arise for women, is from women themselves,' my friend Jenny recently reflected.
The celebration of others is something I'm hugely grateful for and it is a characteristic that can come in many forms. Perhaps most often it comes as appreciation; I, for one, will never forget the teacher who encouraged me to take A Level English or the newspaper editor who convinced me that I could, and should, write an article to voice my opinion. Ultimately, it's the celebration, the appreciation, of others, that's become the major force behind Manchester Media Group's Women In Media Conference (#WiM16). We hope that celebrating others and their differences will only encourage the same behaviour.
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#WiM16 is rapidly approaching. With little over a week until the doors of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation open to a flurry of excited student journos, one very under-slept committee and some of the finest women the media industry has to offer, I'm looking forward hosting one huge celebration- of television, of radio, of writing; but most importantly, of each other.
We'll be celebrating the stories of those who have succeeded in the industry that so many want to enter into whilst questioning the role we can personally take within the campaign for gender equality. Roundtable panel discussions include 'Is this what a feminist looks like? An in-depth analysis of feminism and the fashion industry' and 'Inside journalism: the rise of the influence of a woman in the media'. Guest speakers will be coming from as far as Hawaii and we are thrilled to be working with The Independent to bring #WiM16 to life. Yet, with great platform comes great disagreement and anonymous trolls are criticising our practice, seemingly misunderstanding it for 'whining', for man-hating, for the spreading of negativity.
The Manchester Media Group- the media wing of the city's University and the organisation behind Women In Media- is not a hostile place. It's full to the brim of encouraging, kind-hearted men who notice student media's gender imbalance just as often as we, their female counterparts, do. Threatening tweets from those who disagree try their hardest to dampen spirits, and yet only serve to confirm that a conference is, indeed, necessary. Endeavouring to promote a range of contrasting opinions and critical stances, and with absolutely no negativity intended, it's a weekend open to anyone and everyone interested in my favourite world; the wonderful world of media.
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Over 100 years have passed since our liberal and forward thinking home of Manchester became the birthplace of the Suffragette Movement. Emmeline Pankhurst spent her life celebrating women- and now, rightfully, it's time for the city to celebrate her. This year, as she becomes the first female statue erected in just as many years, the 3000 who voted confirm that our city, MediaCity, is the perfect home for #WiM16.