Under Watchful Eyes: Who, What, When, and How?
Glory E. Dharmaraj, Ph.D*
The Global Media Monitoring Project is a collective story and shared commitment of hundreds of people across the world, coming together on an ordinary day, every five years, in order to monitor, document, and analyze the role and image of women across the spectrum of news media. The results are made available for advocacy efforts including: impacting news media for fair and accurate representation of the role and image of women; making visible the agency of women as news subjects, and; mainstreaming women’s perspectives in news coverage.
I had the privilege of representing the United Methodist Women, along with a couple of Board of Directors, in the Women Empowering Communication conference in Bangkok, Thailand in 1994. Sponsored by the World Association of Christian Communication, this conference gathered about four hundred women from eighty countries. I vividly remember Michele Mattelart, a plenary speaker, a French researcher and writer on media and communications, referring to Christian Ockrent, the then highest paid anchor-woman in France, far above her male colleagues. Mattelart asked whether becoming the highest paid female and donning unisex uniform for combat were real gains of egalitarianism.
From Theory to World Platform
Should women strive to be exactly like men? Existing within the theoretical array of worldwide feminisms, and an underlying timeless choice between feminism of sameness and feminism of difference, one of the workshops led by Sylvia Spring on behalf of Media Watch, Canada, found a practical way of addressing the representation of women globally. The concept of worldwide monitoring of media, birthed in that workshop, was groundbreaking: to monitor media globally on a single day.
In 1995, seventy one countries took part in the first Global Media Monitoring Project examining the role and representation of women on media. Erin Research Institute of Canada tabulated the results. The findings were strategically released in the NGO Forum of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995.
In the Platform for Action and the Beijing Declaration, “Women and Media,” one among 12 key critical areas of concerns, called for action, since “most countries do not provide a balanced picture of women’s diverse lives and contributions to society in a changing world,” the governments and organizations should come up with research and strategies “promoting a balanced portrayal of women and girls and their multiple roles.”
Through the Eyes of the GMMP
Just one key finding, among many, in the last four global media monitoring events, shows a slow but steady growth in the percentage of women as news subjects, rising from 17% in 1995 to 24% in 2010.
A deeper query is “What is the problem?” Lindiwe Sola, a WACC volunteer, says that the problem is not just a lack of representation of women’s point of view or perspectives but the worldwide gender inequality exists because “these women have frequently not attained decision-making-level positions, nor do they serve on the boards, and bodies that govern media policies.”
GMMP 2015 will be another milestone in the ongoing journey of documenting “who, what, and when,” and, also, asking and answering “how” to remedy imbalances in representations, on this historic moment of gender assessment called Beijing +20.
Support the media monitoring teams in over 130 countries by contributing to the fundraising campaign here.
*Glory E. Dharmaraj, Ph.D. is consultant for United Methodist Women, and is coordinator for U.S. media monitoring.