Women, Gender & Media

The Asia Media Summit Pre-Workshop on Gender, Kuala Lumpur, 8 May 2005
Gender, Women and the Media: An Overview


This paper was presented at The Asia Media Summit Pre-Workshop on Gender, Kuala Lumpur, 8 May 2005. It outlines a brief overview on the issue of women, gender and the media at two levels, and some strategies that can be explored in order to address the situation. The summit is registered as a “Regional Thematic Meeting” with a view to contributing to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis in November 2005.





When I was a trainer at a media and gender workshop in 2002, the only
male participant there confessed, “Our organisation is not prioritising
gender actually. We are more concerned about other issues – issues
which are political”. This statement reveals much about the stand that
most media institutions take on gender.





Although it is almost impossible now to speak about rights and equality
without at least mentioning gender, the treatment is often cursory; as
though by the mere mention of the word ‘gender’, or with a token
representation of a handful of women, gender issues have been
sufficiently dealt with. This is not enough. There is a need to unearth
the various levels of unequal gender relations at play in media as a
vital institution that can enable or limit the progressive development
of a participatory and democratic civil society. This role is being
increasingly recognised and adopted by the various stakeholders and
actors within the field, and I believe that workshops such as this is
an important space for us to figure out what they are.






The issue of gender and the media can broadly be understood at two levels, both implicating and affecting each other:




1. the participation of women in decision-making and expression in the media



2. representation or portrayal of women and gender relations in the media






Participation and Expression


At the most basic level, women are under-represented in media
institutions. In the Global Media Monitoring Project participated by 71
countries in 1995, only 36% of journalists were women in Asia. Those
who are within the field are often not in decision-making positions and
are ghettoised into specific areas. What do I mean by ghettoised? A
ghetto means a space, usually a section of a city, which is occupied by
a minority group who live there especially because of social, economic,
or legal pressure. They are often unrecognised, hidden within the
margins and relatively powerless. Women’s relationship to the media
occupies this space in a very real sense.





Although women are increasingly entering into media, top management is
still largely male dominated and the culture of patriarchy is
perpetuated through this disparity. There is a gender division of
labour that is evident through the way that stories are assigned.
‘Soft’ issues like fashion, culture, arts and lifestyle are often
consigned to women media practitioners, whereas ‘hard’ and what is
considered ‘serious’ issues like finance, economics and politics are
often within the purview of their male counterparts. The criteria of
newsworthiness are similarly and consequently understood through this
gendered lens. Headline materials often constitute of ‘hard issues’
whilst ‘soft issues’ are shunted to ‘special’ and supplementary
segments of the media. Gender stereotyped views and attitudes, such as
the attachment of productive incapacity and women’s reproductive roles,
can hinder women’s opportunities to assume decision-making positions.
Further, sexual harassment has been particularly cited as one of the methods to control and exclude women from these positions in Asia Pacific.




There are few countries within this region that have specific legal
provisions that protects against gender discrimination. Even when there
are - like Article 8 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution which
prohibits discriminataion on the basis of inter-alia, gender - they are
seen to have jurisdiction only within the public sector. As media is
becoming increasingly privatised and concentrated on a few
transnational media giants, this can be a serious cause of concern when
individuals within the field are left with little legal recourse to
ensure the protection of their right to equal gender status. Government
intervention often focuses on licensing and ownership as opposed to
structures and practices within the institutions that discriminates
against women, or prevents their views from being expressed. This
contributes to the continued marginalisation of women’s themes in the
media, their exclusion from socio-political institutions in the public
sphere, and severely curtails media democratisation in the promotion of
diverse cultural, social and political worldviews.





Women’s Portrayal in the Media



Consistently throughout Asia, women have been portrayed in the
media as victims, subservient, nurturing, sacrificing and objectified
sexualised beings. This not only inaccurately represents the diversity
of women’s lives, roles and experiences within this complex and rich
region, women’s contributions to the socio-political and economic
development of society are often neglected.




The perpetuation of stereotypes in images and representation solidifies
women’s traditional roles and unequal gender relations in multiple
ways. Most visibly, women are seen as mourners at tragedies or as
victims of violence. The Global Media Monitoring Project
mentioned above found that out of the small number of women who were
interviewees in news stories (14%), 29% of them were as victims of
accidents, crimes or other events .This does not only represent women
as helpless subjects without agency, it also fails to emphasise men’s
role as perpetrators in instances of violence against women. Further,
the dissemination of these messages affects women’s self-confidence,
mobility and subsequently access and participation in public spaces
(for fear of assault).





There are many more examples, such as women’s portrayals in an
increasingly consumer-driven culture and the commodification of women’s
bodies in advertising, pornography and conflict situations, that can be
cited and raised, but that would take far more time than this session
would allow for.





Strategies for Change



I would like to instead, spend a few minutes looking at strategies
that we can explore in order to address this situation. These are two
strategic objectives that have been outlined in the Beijing Platform
for Action adopted by State governments at the Fourth World Conference
for Women in 1995. They address broadly the two levels of
discrimination as have been explained summarily. 1) to increase the
participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in
and through the media and new technologies of communication, and, 2)
promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.






As media practitioners and institutions, independent code of ethics
that specifically addresses gender issues within this field can be
developed and implemented. There are already media codes of ethics in
existence in the Asia region, such as Malaysia’s Canons of Journalism,
Singapore Journalists' Code of Professional Conduct and South Korea’s
Press Ethics Code. These codes can be further honed to ensure that
sexist and stereotyped coverage of women are considered ethically
unacceptable within the industry. Self-regulatory mechanisms such as
adoption of sexual harassment policies within media institutions can
dismantle one of the real obstacles that hinder women’s full
participation in media.





Consistent and sustained capacity building of all members within media
institutions – whether male or female, reporters, editors or producers
– on gender issues can not only raise awareness on the complexities and
implications of gender dynamics and power relations within this field,
but also broaden the base of ‘experts’ that are able to work with these
issues meaningfully. More space and airtime can be allocated to issues
related to women that break away from the usual ghettoisation of areas
traditionally considered as ‘women’s issues’. One concrete example
would be to increase the portrayal of women as significant contributors
to society as leaders, workers and thinkers, not just as carers, sex
objects or victims. The development of appropriate alternative and
community media can also enable the dissemination of diverse
expressions and experiences, particularly from marginalised groups who
are better able to own and manage them at the community level.






The issue of gender should be at the forefront of discussions
concerning freedom of expression. International commitments such as the
WSIS Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action and the Beijing
Platform for Action need to be aligned to understand women’s rights and
gender equality as a cross cutting principle. Particularly in light of
the development of digital information and communication technologies
in media that have the capacity to transcend national boundaries and
enable proliferation of discourses at unprecedented breadth and speed,
gender dimensions crucially need be to be surfaced and addressed.
Otherwise, the move towards building Information Societies for
economic, social and political development will be one that is
substantively impoverished for want of principles in equality and
non-discrimination.





Media has immense power in this process. It is one of the primary
institutions which help shape the world, and how we as individuals,
make sense of it. Taking accountability in this role and interrogating
its own practices, perceptions, expectations and visions is crucial to
imagine a society that is abundant in diversity, critical of inequality
and resistant to marginalisation. Unblinding to gender is at the heart
of this process.

Responses to this post

well said bro, it shows a really bad example toward little children. they watch t.v and learn and then they try...WHICH IS WRONG , VERY WRONG
Posted on 07/23/2009 - 21:18 | Reply
plz help me i need a bigger dick
Posted on 07/20/2009 - 02:45 | Reply
we all know that media immense power in gender communication, but what my concern is why is it they are using women as instrument in advertising/endorsing their program so that the viewer will support their programs made....the were just paying women to show as semi-naked in the media..but we also consider that not all viewers were adult, we must also consider the young one's who love watch at the media.....children will try to imitate what they see and observed around them....
Posted on 02/06/2008 - 12:51 | Reply
we all know that media immense power in gender communication, but what my concern is why is it they are using women as instrument in advertising/endorsing their program so that the viewer will support their programs made....the were just paying women to show as semi-naked in the media..but we also consider that not all viewers were adult, we must also consider the young one's who love watch at the media.....children will try to imitate what they see and observed around them....
Posted on 02/06/2008 - 12:48 | Reply
we all know that media immense power in gender communication, but what my concern is why is it they are using women as instrument in advertising/endorsing their program so that the viewer will support their programs made....the were just paying women to show as semi-naked in the media..but we also consider that not all viewers were adult, we must also consider the young one's who love watch at the media.....children will try to imitate what they see and observed around them....
Posted on 02/06/2008 - 12:44 | Reply
we all know that media immense power in gender communication, but what my concern is why is it they are using women as instrument in advertising/endorsing their program so that the viewer will support their programs made....the were just paying women to show as semi-naked in the media..but we also consider that not all viewers were adult, we must also consider the young one's who love watch at the media.....children will try to imitate what they see and observed around them....
Posted on 02/06/2008 - 12:42 | Reply
we all know that media immense power in gender communication, but what my concern is why is it they are using women as instrument in advertising/endorsing their program so that the viewer will support their programs made....the were just paying women to show as semi-naked in the media..but we also consider that not all viewers were adult, we must also consider the young one's who love watch at the media.....children will try to imitate what they see and observed around them....
Posted on 02/06/2008 - 12:41 | Reply
the men are the one's who created these stereotypes that women are weak and use less. and they are the ones who should put a stop to it. its starts from within the families, thats where the change should come from
Posted on 10/23/2007 - 12:08 | Reply

Añadir nuevo comentario