Book review by Samaya Borom
Australian Women War Reporters: Boer War to Vietnam | Jeannine Baker | NewSouth Publishing
War reporting has traditionally evoked images of fearless and iconic men like Ernest Hemingway, Neil Davis and Father Francis Timoney, who reported directly from the battlelines, took risks and waxed lyrical about the destruction they witnessed on both landscapes and human bodies.
Such reporting was viewed as a masculine endeavour, with much less written by women on their involvement in the theatre of war, When they were referenced, it was traditionally in reference to nursing, humanitarian aid or pastoral care, not as authors of war reports themselves.
Female war reporting provided a decidedly different view to the countess reports flooding out via popular newspapers and magazines.
Jeannine Baker’s Australian Women War Reporters: Boer War to Vietnam gives a voice to the countless Australian female reporters who traversed the globe in defiance of traditional gender roles and who, arguably, paved the way for the modern female war reporter.
Baker expertly illustrates the important contribution that female Australian war reporters have made not only to the media landscape of the time, but to historical records that further our understanding of key military events that have shaped contemporary society one way or another.
Female war reporting provided a decidedly different view to the countess reports flooding out via popular newspapers and magazines. From singular reporting on British concentration camps in South Africa during the Boer war and reporting on the Korean war during the 1950s to the eventual mass accreditation of at least 75 women reporters in Vietnam – Baker illustrates the slow growing acceptance of female reporters in the field and the move away from romanticised experiences of women in war.
It is, however, clear that the growing acknowledgement of Australian women war reporters in the media was slow. As a result, Baker frequently returns to pointing out long held gender discrimination in war reporting in the hope that the industry, and audiences, will display more enlightened attitudes.
Australian Women War Reporters: Boer War to Vietnam is a book about the struggle of women attempting to define themselves outside of stereotypical notions of gender – a topic relatable to not only the media industry but also other professions where there has traditionally been a gender imbalance.
Recreating key female war reporters’ journeys, the book is an insightful read for those wanting to know more about these courageous Australian women war reporters and how their experiences ultimately shaped the war reporting landscape of today.
The quest for gender equality and recognition continues, but the path is no longer a lonely one.
Australian Women War Reporters: Boer War to Vietnam is now available from NewSouth Publishing.
Originally published at Right Now: Human Rights in Australia