Voices /
Editor’s letter

We need a space to discuss what it means to be female

In our series giving a glimpse of life at The Independent, Harriet Hall hails the newly launched Women section as a crucial endeavour to cover issues outside the usual agenda

I often get asked, when revealing my job title, what it means to be a lifestyle editor. How, after all, can someone edit a lifestyle? Am I a journalistic Trinny and Susannah, a one-woman version of Queer Eye’s fab five? Or do I walk into people’s houses on a daily basis, armed with paint samples, fabric swatches and an eye for a “statement lamp”?

None of these are the case (although they do sound immeasurably appealing). My job is to make sure we’re covering the less immediately urgent stories of the day, ranging from health to relationships and fashion, which are often mistaken for being fluffy and occasionally dismissed as irrelevant. But there’s so much to be said about the way we live our lives, how we consume and our broader impact on the social, economic and political spheres. 

For a long time, issues relating to women were seen as divorced from the “important” news. But a year after the Harvey Weinstein allegations were published by The New York Times, spearheading the global #MeToo movement and kickstarting a conversation about what it means to be female in a patriarchal society, I decided it was pertinent to dedicate a section of The Independent entirely to women’s interest stories.

Here, in our newly launched Women section, we are able to celebrate female pioneers from history in our weekly “Forgotten Women” column, call out continuing sexist double standards, and discuss women’s careers – a crucial endeavour for those of us who believe that gender equality can only be achieved by understanding the issues affecting women, which have historically been ignored by male agenda-setters.

Yet this section is not just for women. We know that people of all genders understand the value in amplifying and investigating women’s issues.

Liaising with our women’s correspondent, I strive to ensure that the stories we place in this section are right for lifestyle, rather than news, and are covered by writers who can relate to the story from a personal point of view, rather than following the outmoded style of reporting on women from a male perspective.

Earlier this week, we marked Ada Lovelace Day with a piece on who she was, but also her enormous impact on computer science. We’ve also covered the story of Rebecca Humphries who spoke out about her ex-boyfriend Seann Walsh’s behaviour, and we’ve written about a woman who penned a brilliantly funny song poking fun at a sexist comment made by Donald Trump. On Wednesday, we saw a feminist collective release guidelines for journalists covering domestic violence stories that include avoiding sensationalist headlines. And, of course, last week we covered the social media reactions to a man accused by three separate women of sexual assault being instated into the highest court in the world.

These are the kinds of stories we want to keep focusing on, to promote The Independent’s mission to speak for the historically oppressed and create pioneering journalism from a new perspective. We hope our readers feel the same.

Yours,

Harriet Hall

UK Lifestyle Editor