WMC News & Features

Women's Media Awards honor Hillary Rodham Clinton, April Ryan, Maria Hinojosa, and other media trailblazers

Wmc Events Womens Media Awards 2017 Burton Fonda Steinem Maria Hinojosa Maria Elena Salinas
Maria Elena Salinas, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Maria Hinojosa, and Julie Burton at the Women's Media Awards. Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Women's Media Center.

“We, my friends, are in the midst of an all-out assault on truth,” Hillary Rodham Clinton declared while accepting the Wonder Woman Award at the WMC Women’s Media Awards Thursday evening in New York. The annual awards ceremony centered around honoring women change makers in the media, and it also focused on the importance of being a truth-teller. Clinton went on to say, “The Women’s Media Center’s database of women experts on every topic from climate change to technology has never been more important because, despite what some try to tell us, there is no such thing as an alternative fact.”

This theme of truth-telling is timely given the current political climate, the enormous surge in women running for office since the presidential election, and the many women who have courageously come forward in recent weeks about sexual assault in light of the Harvey Weinstein case and the #MeToo movement. As WMC cofounder Gloria Steinem expressed to me, “It's always important that women tell the truth ourselves, and support other truth-tellers.”

On the red carpet and in the ceremony itself, I felt a palpable energy among the attendees and honorees — a sense that more and more women are awakening to the urgent need to make their voices heard, as well as the work WMC does to make sure women’s stories and perspectives are accurately and fairly represented.

WMC Board Chair Pat Mitchell elaborated on this need, telling me, “It was media that brought this whole [Harvey Weinstein] case to the headlines, and it’s been media that has kept the story alive and media that has been bringing those stories forward from the very beginning. And if you look below the surface, it’s the women reporters who have really kept it going. And that’s what we’ve been saying all along: if you want women’s stories properly told and represented, you’ve got to have women writing, reporting, in the executive offices, making the decisions. And the more that increases, we’ll have more of these stories on the front page and we’ll have more change.”

The sense of urgency for women to speak up and create change was expressed by the host of the awards, Maya L. Harris, attorney, MSNBC analyst, senior policy adviser to the 2016 Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign, and former WMC board co-chair, who said, "Our voices have never been louder. Our resolve, it’s never been stronger. And the momentum for change has never been greater than it is in this extraordinary moment.”

One of the most powerful highlights of the evening was Hillary Rodham Clinton receiving, on her 70th birthday, the first and only Wonder Woman Award for, as presenter and WMC cofounder Jane Fonda put it, “breaking glass ceilings, championing women and girls, and fighting for human rights domestically and internationally by [leading with] compassion and passion and dedication.”

In her inspiring acceptance speech, Clinton said, “For years the Women’s Media Center has been helping to shine a light on subjects that were once swept under the rug completely: sexual harassment and assault, violence against women in conflict zones. Thank you for refusing to grow weary or be silenced…. So on behalf of the tens of millions of Wonder Women out there who get up every day and often against seemingly insurmountable odds, stand up for what they care about, what they love, what they are, dignity, freedom, I accept this award and ask you to not grow weary doing the good that we need to do.”

Another compelling moment of the evening was Ashley Judd being honored with the WMC Speaking Truth to Power Award. Judd, chair of the WMC Speech Project, which raises awareness about the scope and toxic impact of online harassment and its costs to women’s civic and political participation, was the first actor to be a named source and to share her story about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment. After receiving the award, Judd talked about her experience with Weinstein and her decision to become a named source in the case, saying, “I’ve been telling people for about 20 years, and I’m very happy that I’ve finally been heard.” She also shared a poignant truth about the shame that victims often feel, which can hold them back from speaking out, and how we need to change that: “We’ve been able to talk about how perpetrators are shameless and they put their toxic shame onto their victims, and we internalize it and take it around with us. Until we say, ‘Wait a minute, that was never my shame in the first place. I’m going to put it back where it belongs, which is on the sexual predator.’”

Other game-changers in media were honored at the event for the important roles they play in championing women and making sure their stories are told.

Maria Hinojosa, four-time Emmy-winning journalist, anchor and executive producer of the Peabody Award-winning "Latino USA" on NPR and of PBS' "America by the Numbers," as well as the founder of the Futuro Media Group, received the Women's Media Center Carol Jenkins Award. She said “I dedicate myself to never be silent. As a journalist, as an immigrant, as a woman and as an American, I will not be silent.”

April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, news blogger for "Fabric of America," CNN political analyst, and award-winning author, received the Women's Media Center She Persisted Award. As the only black female reporter covering urban issues in the White House, she shared with me that there is still a need for more diversity in the White House press room: “Each person brings something totally different to the job. And in a time when the ‘other’ is not the focus, we need the ‘other’ in the room — be it women, be it minorities — it’s important that all of our voices are in that room.”

María Elena Salinas, Peabody, Walter Cronkite, Emmy, and Gracie Award-winning long-time anchor of "Noticiero Univision," author, philanthropist, and spokesperson for "Ya Es Hora," received the Women's Media Center Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award. When receiving her award, she spoke about the strength of women, saying, “We know how to be patient and how to be perseverant. When we fall, we pick ourselves up so that we can get stronger. We are stubborn enough that when they say no, we do the impossible to turn that into a yes. We speak out when we are abused, when we are discriminated against, when we are intimidated. When they throw us bricks, we build bridges. We build bridges. We don’t build walls, that’s for sure.”

Gail Tifford, vice president of Media NA and global digital innovation for Unilever, cofounder and executive sponsor of GALvanize@ Unilever Women's Network, and cofounder of #Seeher, an initiative to drive a more accurate portrayal of women and girls in media and advertising, received the Women's Media Center Marketing for Change Award. She urged the audience to get more involved in making a positive difference in the world: “I ask all of you not to wait. If you're doing something already, do more. Do more. Instead of doing nothing, do something.”  

Jane Fonda — two-time Academy Award-winning, three-time Golden Globe-winning, Tony Award-nominated actor, and Emmy Award-nominated actor, recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award, producer, bestselling author, advocate — was celebrated for her milestone 80th birthday and for her lifetime of achievements in media, in front of and behind the camera, as a writer, an innovator, and an activist. Steinem shared this with me about Fonda: “As an activist, speaker, writer and philanthropist, she's always right there being brave, vulnerable and helpful about everything from an unjust Vietnam War to unwanted teenage pregnancy. And always, she is her own authentic self, taking risks, admitting mistakes, and being a friend to women and men who are striving to get free of hierarchy and violence.”

As Fonda accepted the award and reflected on turning 80, she said, “Oddly enough, I feel like I’m just beginning.” And she joked, “My eyesight is dimming, but my insight is enhanced. I’ve got more metal in my body than these teleprompters, but I can still kick ass!”

On the red carpet, when I asked Fonda how she feels about the work WMC is doing today, she told me, “My hopes are the same as they were when we founded it. That we will manage to amplify women’s voices in the media and expose women’s stories, because women tell stories and choose their stories differently. Every issue in the world affects women differently — usually worse — and if women’s voices are not part of the narrative, the effect on women is profound in terms of feeling ‘less than,’ but also men lose out on getting the whole story.”

As always, the annual WMC awards left the attendees feeling energized by the example of the many outspoken and visionary women there and inspired to keep doing all that we can to keep the momentum going. With that in mind, I’ll leave you with something Hillary Clinton stated in her powerful speech: “I don’t intend to be silenced, and I know none of you do either. The world has never needed your voices more, never needed the vision of fairness and quality and opportunity that the Center represents more than it ever has today.”

More articles by Category: Feminism, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Media
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