“For many years women were considered mere autocue monkeys, while men did the really hard-hitting journalism. Thanks to a few important women in the industry, locally and abroad, this has begun to change.”
So says Joanne Joseph, presenter of 702’s Afternoon Drive show.
Joseph is, of course, herself one of those important women in the industry helping to bring about change.
Explaining how she entered into a career in journalism, she laughs self-deprecatingly: “Strangely enough, I have no journalism qualifications.
“My studies were in drama and film, English and literature. And I’d hoped to teach literature at university. But when YFM began, I ‘fell’ into news and have spent the last 20-odd years equipping myself with the skills to do the job. Most of it has simply been learnt along the way,” she adds.
Although she and other notable women in the media are helping to shift perceptions, Joseph concedes that challenges come in the form of “audiences [that] still display hardened attitudes toward opinionated women”.
“It’s somehow difficult [for them] to accept that we have a voice and opinions and we’re not afraid to share them,” she says, adding: “It’s often tricky when your job requires you to share your personal views and those views conflict strongly with those of certain members of your audience. What I often find difficult to come to terms with is how steeped we still are in identity politics in this country and how so many of us still align ourselves ideologically with others according to race, language group, class or gender. Luring people out of that, and into a space of empathy based on humanity, is a challenging task.”
Far from demoralising her, Joseph has instead taken it on as something of a challenge. “This is one of my biggest aims as a talk-show host — to try to get people who are seemingly disconnected to connect on a human level. At 702 we are speaking to such a diverse audience, but I really do believe there’s a deeper point of connection that extends beyond the categories into which we’ve been socialised.”
Being a woman in this role is, of course, not lost on her. “Women are the glue that has held this nation together for centuries. While our history mostly pays homage to powerful men, we fail to tell the stories of women who survived political abuse and patriarchy over hundreds of years, keeping families together as far as possible, acting in the role of both parents, often being both primary caregivers and breadwinners at the same time and trying to offer emotional succour to their scarred children. These are massive stories, although they sit in the shadows. And they’re examples of the change women have already effected.”
Adding to this, she says: “Many poor South African women who’ve lived difficult lives have scraped together all they could to break the cycle of poverty by educating their children. This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest achievements of many South African women.”
Her greatest achievement so far? “Without a doubt, raising my precious 11-year-old daughter. Motherhood did not come naturally to me, so I had to learn to be what I consider a good mom. She’s still teaching her father and I patience.”
It would appear her daughter is walking in the steps of her mother, as Joseph adds: “And as an introvert, a deep thinker and socially conscious child, she often compels us both to reconsider our world view and perspectives.”