Brazilian magazine AzMina addresses women's issues without reinforcing stereotypes

A free Brazilian digital magazine is proving that it is possible to produce specialized journalism while also reaching the general public. Two-year-old publication AzMina focuses on gender issues and produces complex and in-depth reporting with accessible language.

Nana Queiroz, founder and editorial director of AzMina, said the magazine was created to democratize the discussion on gender issues in Brazil.

"In Brazil there is an intellectual elitism, and feminism was very much in line with that. Discussions appeared in an incomprehensible and exclusionary manner, and there was no way to reach out to young women, or women with little education," Queiroz said in an interview with the Knight Center.

In less than two years since its launch, the publication has won important national and international awards. In June of this year, it received the Women’s Press award in the category of best journalistic project from Imprensa, a magazine and website specializing on the media industry. In the same month, AzMina's work was also recognized at Cannes.

An awareness campaign addressing the pay gap between men and women, and another that used football to reveal statistics on the adversities faced by women in Brazil received five trophies at the Cannes Lions Festival.

For Queiroz, organizing awareness campaigns is not the same as activist journalism and does not interfere with journalistic impartiality.

"What AzMina does follows all the good journalism manuals. We exhaust all routes, listen to the other side, reference all the studies, have internal checks,” she explained. “What we do is journalism that specializes in coverage of gender issues. Awareness campaigns are a way to make our magazine's editorial position clear for our readers, like a modern editorial."

The magazine’s investigative reporting is broad-ranging, with many stories addressing topics marginalized in traditional press, like indigenous motherhood and the treatment of Roma children. Queiroz said the team is always sensitive to cultural differences, without being condescending.

The journalists quickly realized that the magazine had the potential to go beyond investigative journalism, and currently offer workshops and lectures to companies.

"Journalism has several functions. A function of oversight of the public powers, the function of informing, the function of entertaining, and the function of educating,” Queiroz said. “And we realized that this educational function, in a country like Brazil where the macho culture is so ingrained, was an important function for us to play."

For Carla Rodrigues, professor of philosophy at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ for its acronym in Portuguese), initiatives such as AzMina are a way to break with the stereotyped way women are treated in traditional media and to create other forms of representation of woman in the press.

"The female editor has always been busy with cake recipes, issues like family, home care, decorating," Rodrigues told the Knight Center. "There is a long trajectory of women's affairs focused on conventional themes, where the woman is considered the target audience for these supplements, even when she is an emancipated woman, she is still kept in what is conventionally called the female universe."

She claimed that the assumption behind making these supplements “feminine” is that women would not be interested in the general news. "This is a historical problem, this separation between the universe and the female universe, as if women lived in a world apart."

Rodrigues pointed out that these new publications have found a niche market to speak to a public that has nothing to read, engaging in political-feminist issues in an engaged way and discussing topics that do not fit into the mainstream news or the women's supplement.

One of the problems in traditional media, according to Rodrigues, is that the press is immersed in an advertising market that also reinforces stereotypes.

To maintain editorial independence, these new magazines are seeking other forms of funding. AzMina magazine, for example, counts on donations and digital subscriptions. All content may be reproduced for free, provided that no change is made and the source is quoted.

One of the sponsored subjects was the "The Myth of Legal Abortion," a series of reports that showed the difficulties of accessing abortion in the country, even in cases guaranteed by law. Last year, the report received a prize from the Brazilian Federation of Hospitals.

Another sponsored report that had great impact dealt with women's police stations in the country, and found that many of them only existed on paper. The project had an interactive map so that readers could provide information about the realities of the police stations.

To reduce gender inequality, Queiroz said changes in legislation, education, and culture are still needed. These changes must also happen in Brazilian journalism, which continues to show machismo in choice of voices, sources, columnists and language, she added.

In addition to serving as newsroom director of the magazine, Queiroz is the author of the book Presos que Menstruam (Prisoners who Menstruate) and organizer of the work Você Já é Feminista – Abra este Livro e Descubra o Porquê (You’re Already Feminist – Open This Book and Discovery Why), a collection of news articles and unpublished texts that serves as an introductory guide for those who want to deepen the discussion on gender equality.

For her, feminist journalism is not a journalism that prioritizes women, but an equal journalism, which treats women and men as equally balanced beings. Queiroz’s dream is that the magazine will someday no longer need to exist.

"AzMina magazine is self-destructive. Its journalists want to build a world where they are no longer needed."

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.