Soraya Chemaly receives 2016 Women and Media Award

The Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press presented the 2016 Women and Media Award to Soraya Chemaly, a writer and activist focused on the role of gender in culture, politics, religion, and media.


WIFP staff gathered for the ceremony June 23 and in preparation the day before. Sharing the excitement: Elana Anderson (presenting the Award), Martha Allen, Briawna Gillespie, Angelica Sisson, Lucy Lu, Batya Marcus, and Tanya Smith-Sreen.WithSoraya

In the summer of 2015 Soraya gave a TED talk at the Barcelona Women conference. She presented “The Credibility Gap: How Sexism Shapes Human Knowledge.” At this talk she discussed an article she wrote concerning how gender is addressed in public spaces, specifically how men’s bathrooms are larger than women’s even though women routinely need the bathroom more and for longer periods of time (due to breastfeeding, periods, etc.). She said this article, written for TIME and called, “The Everyday Sexism of Women Waiting in Public Toilet Lines” is the one for which she has received the most backlash and verbal abuse. This was shockingSoraya to her because many of her other articles contain stories of violent gender-based crimes often of a sexual nature, yet it was an article about how women deserve larger public restrooms that was the cause of public outcry.

Recently, Soraya has written about the role gender plays in the ongoing 2016 Presidential Election. At a rally in Spokane, Washington Donald Trump said Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton is “playing the woman card.” In response, Soraya wrote the article “How Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, and Other Men Play the Gender Card” where she explained how men constantly bring their gender to the front of their campaigns. She said by being recognized first and foremost for their political ideals and not having to discuss their gender these candidates are themselves playing the male card.

Another powerful article Soraya published in May 2016 on The Huffington Post’s website deals specifically with the Washington D.C. Metro Area. In the article, “D.C. Metro Rape Highlights Why Women Are Always Aware of Rape,” she discusses how threats of sexual assault, harassment, and stalking are prevalent to women in the Metro area and to women who use public transit across the world. Soraya encapsulates the threats women face on public transit, writing:

We aren’t walking around petrified, saying to ourselves, “I could get raped today,” eagerly anticipating having legendary victimhood status, but by the time we are adults, at school, going to work, shopping for food, we have all been taught to adapt silently to the threat, and society’s leveraging of that threat to limit our public and civic engagement.

Through her many articles and presentations Soraya has shown time and time again that she is an eloquent speaker and a thoughtful researcher, able to pinpoint and comment on the problematic parts of gender treatment and expression in today’s society with accuracy and considerate judgment. In 2013, she won the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s (AEJMC)’s Donna Allen Award for Feminist Advocacy and the Secular Woman Feminist Activism Award. Now Soraya has been awarded the 2016 Women and Media Award from the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press.

Currently, Soraya is the Director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project and the organizer of the Safety and Free Speech Coalition. She has written for The Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, The Guardian, TIME Magazine, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone Magazine, and other assorted newspapers and magazines. Soraya serves on the boards of multiple organizations including: Women, Action and The Media, In This Together Media, No Bully, and the Women’s Media Center.

~ by Angelica  Sisson, WIFP