Why gender should be an issue for the media

  on January 21, 2014

Media professionals' beliefs about gender to some extent undergird decisions on content, story choices, the angle to adopt and the choice of spokespeople.

Gender inequalities, biases and prejudices manifest themselves in the numerous ways in the media.

In the newsroom

Opportunities in the workplace. Women often comprise the rank and file of journalists and presenters in the print and broadcast media but few are in the top leadership positions.

Equal professional opportunity. Women reporters are often assigned to health, education, and social issues, while men are given the political and economic assignments which are seen as part of the career path to senior editorial and media management positions.

In the content

News sources. The majority of those who are quoted in stories on events of the day are men, although women and men live in the societies reported on and both have views on the events and issues. Women are made 'invisible' by the media's omission of their voices and images.

Gender stereotypes. When women do appear in the media, they most often are portrayed as sex objects, as homemakers and as victims (of violence, poverty, natural disasters, war and conflict). Women become front-page and headline news when they engage in activities which are not in line with society's prescription of what women 'should' and 'should not' do.

News focus. News on the violations of women's human rights and discrimination against women are few and far between. When the media does cover gender issues, these articles are often confined to special pages and segments in the media and tagged as 'women's issues', rather than being placed on the news pages as issues of concern to everyone.

Invisible women. Certain categories of women receive even less attention in the media, such as elderly women, women from minority ethnicities and religious groups, the working class, and women with different sexual orientations.

The fight to free the media of gender biases and inequalities has come largely from gender activists who have identified the media as a key institution in the struggle for gender equality. Gender and feminist activists see the media as:

News and communications channels that can put women's rights and gender equality on the agenda of public policy makers. One way the media can do this is by holding governments accountable to international and regional women's rights conventions and instruments they have signed in the same way they hold governments accountable to conventions on other human rights.

Institutions that practice sexbased discrimination, and therefore also sites where the struggle for gender equality must be confronted.

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January 21, 2014
Categories:  Blog

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Beijing +20: In my opinion...

The most important contribution that the Beijing Platform for Action has made to advancing gender equality in and through the media is:

Setting global standards to which governments and the media can be held accountable
Bringing coherence to and greater understanding of civil society initiatives on gender, women and media
Raising the profile of work on 'women and media' as important for addressing gender inequalities in women's lived experiences.

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