Gender Issues In The Media Today Essay

During the first US presidential debate, observers noted that Donald Trump interrupted Hilary Clinton 51 times, while Clinton talked over her opponent 17 times.

For many commentators, the gender dynamics within these televised debates have been impossible to ignore. They have magnified the gendered nature of political debate globally. In countries around the world, “masculine” qualities of strength and aggression are valued. And women are interrupted.

Women are the focus of only 10% of news stories and comprise just 20% of experts or spokespeople interviewed

News media and political programming everywhere all too often feature men talking to men about men. According to the Global Media Monitoring Project 2015 [pdf], women are the focus of only 10% of news stories, comprise just 20% of experts or spokespeople interviewed, and a mere 4% of news stories are deemed to challenge gender stereotypes.

What we see on-screen matters for what happens off-screen. There’s no shortage of evidence [pdf] demonstrating that who we see in power influences how we see ourselves. When politics is portrayed in the media as a man’s game, it’s no coincidence that progress towards women’s equal participation in politics is excruciatingly slow.

For development practitioners working on women’s empowerment, no matter where it is in the world media is ignored at our peril.

Five myths about global women's economic empowerment

But making programmes that buck the trend is not easy. The practice of telling stories and producing debates, which reflect a male-dominated political sphere, is both deeply ingrained and incredibly subtle. Getting women in front of the camera is only half the battle; we also need fundamentally to change the way we interact and the language we use.

Having grappled with these issues over the past few years, a new report for BBC Media Action explores how the media can help redress – instead of exacerbate – gender imbalances in politics. Here are three key things it can do:

Provide role models

It can be a revelation to see women as leaders – or questioning those in power – especially given that media and political environments habitually sideline and attack women. Moreover, we have growing evidence that political debate and discussion shows inspire audiences to participate in their own communities.

When the ladies ask questions of the officials, I become encouraged and proud of them

Woman in Afghanistan responds to seeing a woman question the president

Our recent research reports that those who regularly tune in to BBC Media Action’s governance programmes are more likely to participate in politics than those who don’t, even once other influencing factors such as demographics and interest in politics are taken into account.

This is how a woman in rural Afghanistan reacted when she saw a woman from her area ask the then President Hamid Karzai a question on our political debate programme Open Jirga: “I like her courage for asking. When the ladies ask questions of the officials, I become encouraged and proud of them.”

Put gender on everyone’s agenda

The media can take gender issues out of the private realm and put them on the political agenda. The Tanzanian political discussion programme Haba Na Haba (Little by Little) does this by treating women’s health topics, such as fistula, as political issues.

But we need to go beyond this. “Applying a gender lens” is common parlance in women’s rights circles – but how often does the news use this lens? Rarely. Development practitioners can help the media cover all stories in a way that’s representative of both men and women’s lives and experiences. As the senior producer of political debate programme Sema Kenya says: “We always made gender part of the programme. If it was on cross-border trade, we’d think about if it affected women in a different way. We didn’t crowbar it in. And gender issues weren’t directed at women, they were just subtly raised.”

Promote inclusion by disrupting norms

Political debate in the media often sends a strong message to women: this is not for you. So it is unsurprising that women are far less likely to watch the news than men. We have been contending with how to make programmes that imagine a new, more inclusive space, rather than recreate an elitist political one.

I decided to be a Ugandan woman for a week – it was the wig that broke me

Nepal’s Sajha Sawal (Common Questions) debate show is experimenting with new formats. Instead of bringing people into a potentially intimidating studio environment, they take politicians out to communities to visit communal taps, tea shops and fields – places where women feel much more confident to ask questions.

The media is powerful. It can reach millions of people, challenge rigid gender roles and empower both men and women. However, making programmes that transform how we see men and women is complex; there’s no simple, universal recipe to follow. Presidential debates in the US show that having a woman in the race may represent enormous progress, but does not transform the debate.

Whether or not women feel genuinely heard, fully valued and spoken to as equals is certainly no box-ticking exercise. And as the pundits deliver their verdicts on Clinton and Trump’s performances, making programmes in which we not only see women, but actually hear them, will still be a work-in-progress.

Josephine Casserly is a governance and rights adviser at BBC Media Action.

Join our community of development professionals and humanitarians. Follow@GuardianGDPon Twitter.Join the conversation with the hashtag#SheMatters.

Gender And The Media Essay

Where does society learn to dress, how to act, and what to like? The media influences society on all of these things and more. The media does not portray men and women as equals and it reinforces stereotypes such as male dominant female submissive.

The television, radio, music, and magazines persuade society on how to function, through these four types of media we are influenced to conform to their standards, and believe what the media tells us too.

Music videos contain frequent references to woman portrayed as sexual objects. This portrayal of women as toys to man, prizes to be won, may lead to the disempowerment of women in sexual relationships. Especially rap/hip hop music videos are particularly explicit about sexuality. A video by Lil' Wayne or Puff Daddy shows the audience, the world, what a role of a man and what a role of a woman should be in society. Obviously the media creates these male dominant/female submissive roles. An individual in today's society observes this, and vicariously his/her sub-conscience that individual may start to feel that what they saw is the correct way to function in society. Music videos are now available on at least 4-5 major cable networks; these may be influential sources of sexual information for adolescents. Music videos often contain sexually explicit images, and basically the reason it's viewed is because it's what the viewers want to see. Sex sells! The media is all about business, what would be most entertaining for the public. This is a description of an average male dominant/female submissive music video. Women running around in skimpy bikinis or very revealing clothing, they are thin with cleavage shown. If these women are not running around they are lying around or dancing provocatively. The male singers are surrounded around these women and make several references about them, and/or certain actions these woman do in the bedroom. This is the message that's being sent to the world, that women are brainless Barbie dolls, that have nothing to do all day but a coverage of 10% clothing on them, and dance around some idiotic male that have nothing to do but sing about these half nude women. They are also saying that only beautiful skinny girls can live the high life, as opposed to the fat, ugly girls living the low life. Reading this now, one may agree that this is stereotypical but when watching the music video ones mind doesn't see all the stereotypes just a bunch of people having a fun time. Then sooner or later, this is how they perceive the world should be like, and that is why teenage girls have eating disorders because of stereotypes like this, and the need to conform to society.

Magazines are an important source of relationship and sexual information, especially for woman and adolescent girls. Women's magazines until recently have focused on two broad topics: what a woman should do with a man (Cosmopolitan) and what a woman should do once she has her man and children...

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