Gender equality in the media tends to provoke conflicting responses around the world. A individual who watches television listens to the radio, surfs internet information outlets, turns the pages of a magazine, or uses social media may testify to the existence of stereotypes that suggest gender inequality. Women, for example, are typically slim and sexualized. In comparison to adults, they are more likely to have fewer views and to speak less. Similarly, they are less likely to hold positions of leadership in the film industry or to be people who can make a profit off it. A study by the United Nations shows that 46% of news stories, including TV, radio, and prints have gender stereotypes (UN). The survey covered more than 100 countries, and it presented worrisome results on women participation in the media industry. This paper will examine the representation of women versus men in contemporary media and social media. Similarly, it will look at gender stereotypes that exist in the media.
The media is male dominate a condition that has remained so since time immemorial. News outlets, for example, portray sexist tendencies where their portrayal of women is unbalanced. It is common for example to hear or see high achieving women like Serena Williams, Nancy Pelosi, Theresa May or Amal Clooney being treated as exceptions. Some of the media portrays high achievers or achievements by such women as secondary to their age, appearance or even relationship with the men in their lives (Storm). British media, for example, portrayed Theresa May, more of a fashion lover than an accomplished politician in Europe. Social media was Awash with images of Pelosi in a pink dress when she ascended to the dais when she was elected. The New York Times even tweeted and used her image. The media house later deleted the tweet and termed it as poorly framed.
Contemporary and social media are obsessed with the publication of images or words that reflect gender stereotyping. The Associated Press, for example, tweeted insinuating that Clooney was accused of supporting extremist by Egyptian authorities. The media house posted the tweet in August 2015, and it attracted widespread criticism (Fenton). AP later termed her as a human right lawyer, but such actions indicate the extent of gender stereotyping. Serena Williams was on record accusing tennis officials of being harsh on her. Despite having won 23 grand slams, the situation changed following her loss in September, and some of the media coverage referred to her as the angry black woman. The Herald-Sun newspaper drew a cartoon of her outburst (Storm). Such a move attracted public criticism of the Melbourne newspapers that was accused of being offensive and racist.
The newspaper responded by saying that the cartoon was satirical and those who criticized it were politically correct. William responded by terming the response as double standards. Indeed, women are frequently regarded as hysterical, whereas men who do the same are referred to as outspoken (Storm). Continued use of such terms implies that the media is reinforcing gender stereotyping and that women are not to pursue higher positions. Thus they must overcome significant barriers to realize their full potential in a male-dominated world.
The media industry is also gender imbalanced. A report on gender in the news indicates that women representation has seen insignificant or minimal changes in the last two decades. Most positions of power are occupied by men and female journalists prefer or likely to cover a topic that is less serious which is not the case with their male counterparts (Storm). Female experts are also fewer in every field compared to men and news stories covering women are outnumbered by those where men are the subject.
A report by the global media monitoring project prepared in 2015 shows that women are still underrepresented in the media. The report documents change in representation for the past five years, and according to historical data, little has changed. For the past twenty years since its inception, the project monitors how gender equality in the media has been achieved. It also identifies the challenges of achieving the desired vision. The report is based on data from 114 member countries (GMMP, 1). The 2015 report monitored mainstream media and social media. The findings were shocking since progress from 2010-2015 towards gender parity was stagnant.
The report shows that women constitute only 24% of the people read about, heard or seen on TV, in newspapers or radio news. The number is the same as that reported five years earlier. However, gender gaps are the least in science and health topics with women taking 35%. However, such news is of the lowest importance occupying 8% of the total news space. Women constitute 16% in the news covering politics (GMMP, 2). The most significant gap is on news items covering government and politics, where women make up 16% of those in the stories. According to the report, such figures are now 3% lower compared to 2010.
Latin America has reported impressive results in the narrowing of the gender gap among persons in the news from 16% to 29% in the past two decades. News that indicates women participation in economic activities was also biased. According to the report, 40% of women are in paid employment, whereas the most significant percentage works in the informal sector. It is disheartening to know that only 20% of the total formal workforces are women whereas 67% of the parents who stay at home and the unemployed are women (GMMP, 2).
Journalism is not left behind since source selection is also gendered biased. It is also skewed on issues like the selection of experts, opinion leaders or even ordinary people for interviews. Majority of the experts, spokespeople and subjects in the news in both genders are likely to be politicians and senior government officials. According to the report, men maintain the same pattern with 12% offering their opinions from personal experience, 16% being eyewitnesses, and 10% are politicians. The situation is different for women since 13% are likely to be portrayed as homemakers or parents, 22% as villagers or residents and 17% being students. Domestic violence category was the only one that portrayed women as survivors at 27% from 1995-2015 (GMMP, 2).
Statistics on Presenters and Reporters
According to the report on gender inequality in the news, women reported 37% of all the stories on TV and radio newscast as well as newspapers. Such statistics have remained the same for ten years 2005-2015. Regional fluctuations on the same for example, Africa reported a 7% increase while Asia had a 5% decline did not contribute to any improvements (GMMP, 2). Since 2000, the gap reduced the most in Latin America where there was a 14% increase followed by Africa with 11%. The other regions reported a single-digit increase, whereas Asia retained the status quo.
There are more female TV presenters compared to men, but the general condition on radio and TV changes since women (49%) are outnumbered by their male counterparts. Women present 57% of TV and 41% radio newscasts. Such global figures indicate a return to the 2000 numbers, which is 2% lower than the situation in 1995. On the regional front, female presenters are slightly more than males in Asia at 58%, followed by the Middle East at 57% and then by the Pacific at 52%. However, the numbers are just below or at parity in the other regions. For 15 years 2000-2015, the numbers have been steady in most areas. However, there were slight fluctuations, as highlighted earlier. Latin America, for example, reported the highest development from 29% to 44% female presenters indicating a 15% reduction in the gender gap (GMMP, 2-3).
Television presents insightful information on the dynamics of the media industry. Even though female presenters dominate the scene, their presence is also related to their age. According to the report, young presenters are mostly females, but the situation changes at 50 years, where men dominate the scene. 2010 represented evenness in gender presenters, but young females replace their 50-64 years old counterparts. The report shows that women disappear entirely from the stage at 65 years. Women aged 19-34 years are almost at par with men, but that number declines to 28% at 35-49 years, and the trend continues until 65 years when there are no women reporters (GMMP, 2-3).
Radio has more women presenters than print news. According to the report, the share of women presenters on radio and TV has declined from 2005-2015 by 4%. Female reporters on news stories are lower compared to their male counterparts on all accounts. However, both genders are at par on science and health stories. Women, on the other hand, report 30% and 31% of economic and political news. However, they have the lowest reporting on crime and political news in the majority of regions apart from Lain America and Asia. Statistics show that they report 30% political news in Africa and Europe, 27% in the Middle East and 28% in North America. Such data indicates that there is a significant thematic reporting gap in the four regions. Men outnumbered female (28%) reporters on the topic of crime in the Caribbean. The same applies to the Pacific areas with women reporting 36% of such news (GMMP, 2-3).
Gender source selection is also rampant in all regions. Women reported more stories that focused on their gender at 14% compared to men at 9%. Such differences have remained unchanged since 2000. However, the proportion of the news that focuses on women has been steady at 10% in the same period. Such results can be attributed to the fact that political and economic news focus more on men. However, stories on gender equity and equality have been on the rise since 2005, although their overall composition is still less than 10%. Africa had the highest news 1-2 in 10, focusing on equality, whereas, in the Caribbean, four every ten legal and social news underscored the importance of balance. In North America, 3 in every ten news focused on the issue (GMMP, 2-3).
Science and health, economics and crimes or violence stories have been on the forefront in integrating gender equality. However, there are concerns about the ability of news reporters to raise gender equality issues. In the Middle East and America, for example, news stories by female reporters are 2 or 2.5 times likely to elicit gender equality issues compared to those presented by men. Since 2005, the number of accounts that can challenge gender stereotyping has only increased by 1% to 4%. Similarly, no change in political news challenged gender stereotyping (GMMP, 3).
Gender differences in traditional news are still rampant on digital news. Women are also invisible in the platforms, with only 26% actively participating. It implies that the combined number of women engage on the internet news, media news and stories is less than a third that of men. Breakdown of the role played by men and women on the news published on the internet shows that there are similarities and differences in the traditional broadcast and print news. Women are also likely to be subjects or interviewed based on their experiences, just like in conventional media. However, their appearance as spokespeople or experts is slightly lower by 2%. The report also shows that women report more news that is published on the internet compared to traditional media. The figures stand at 37% versus 42%. There are also differences in source selection, as reported. Women selection as subjects is 10% higher than men, and they constitute 33% of online news sources. Similar results were reported on the digital news that challenge gender stereotype (GMMP, 3).
Gender is a set of behaviour patterns associated with a select group. When an individual is asked about gender, they are likely to state their biologically determined sex. Culture, for example, defines masculinity and femininity, and the two are matters of choice that implies patterns of behaviour. Similarly, they represent the qualities of such practice that are associated with males and females (Popa, and Gavriliu, 1200). Gender, therefore, is social and cultural codes and conventions that are associated with either sex. It is critical to distinguish the two concepts to clarify any issues that might arise throughout the paper. For purposes of this paper, the focus is on male and female gender and their roles in the media.
The incidences mentioned above and statistics show the differences in media roles between men and women. Current developments and the push for equality have not resulted in the desired outcome. Despite the near parity of the overall population in some regions, women role in the media not only as presenters but also content generators still lags. The situation has remained the same for the past twenty years despite the concerted efforts to enhance women participation not only in the media but also in other industries.
The media plays a significant role in informing and educating. It also shapes the political and social conditions of a country. Its purpose cannot be underrated, and its inability to address gender inequality raises questions as to whether the ideal will be achieved any time soon. The media can influence almost anything and its ability to live by example can play a significant role in addressing gender inequality. The media, for example, can significantly affect the way people view men and women (Kanai, and Dobson. 3; Popa, and Gavriliu, 1200). It can insinuate the right message into the consciousness of an individual that’s to the way it is woven to the daily life of an individual.
Different media communicate gender issues with some perpetuating gender stereotyping, including limiting perception. Under representing, women in the media can send the wrong message of male dominance and women are less critical or invisible. Similarly, the media portrays the two genders in a stereotypical manner that indicates the presence of socially endorse gender perspectives. It also reinforces the traditional relationships between men and women that emphasize on gender roles and sanctions violence against women (Kanai, and Dobson. 3; Popa, and Gavriliu, 1200).
The media underrepresents women not only as presenters of prime time news but also as content generators and subjects of the news and the stories that are covered. Similarly, successful women are not accorded their due respect but regarded as exceptions, thus presenting women as a weaker gender. The media further misrepresents the correct versions of a culture (Kanai, and Dobson. 3; Popa, and Gavriliu, 1200). Women, for example, are portrayed as homemakers, beautiful, thin, concerned with relationships and mostly passive. The few women who fail the cultural criteria are portrayed as bad and are likely hardened, less caring and undesirable. Males, on the other hand, are highly regarded and represented in a masculine way.
Representation and Stereotyping
The media represents women in different ways. There were instances when hipsters were used to portraying women, but the situation has changed, and new forms of distinctions are emerging. However, some of the developments are met with criticism and all sorts of objection. The media can easily stereotype a group or demographic using different approaches, including commodities or even status (Athill, 6). The Author, for example, uses the term hipster to show how the media has stereotyped different age groups, including men. Athill states that the stereotyping of the male hipster is dependent on anonymous members or mythical characters (6).
Media stereotypes distort the characterization of social groups, including women. Such actions generalize them and in doing so, affect their ability to perform just like their male counterparts. According to Athill, media representation is grounded on social power that prevents the generation of individual views (6). It is common, for example, to uses features like facial hair and skinny jeans about hipster markers. A hipster, in this case, turns to be an abstraction superimposed on anyone who conforms to the description. Such descriptions allow the media to represent women in a way that fits a known exemplar.
The media space continues to expand with technological developments. Digital media and social media users continue to report widespread usage across the board. Such expansion has contributed to issues like social interactions, commerce, sexualised harassment, hate speech and human trafficking. The media can empower the public and new developments further create an opportunity for online debate and demand for action (Popa, and Gavriliu, 1204). It is common, for example, for citizens to engage governments through social media like twitter, thus get the required attention. Such capabilities can also support gender stereotyping.
Social media has significant potentials to address gender stereotyping. Kanai and Dobson for example, states that digital media can present an avenue for girls and women to express their opinions (2). They can do so in a way that resists gendered identities or established feminine norms. The author appreciates past studies and their fear that the internet exposes girls and young women to online threats. Similarly, there are fears in some spheres concerning the changing role of women and their ability to occupy spaces that were previously seen as belonging to men. Digital media offers an opportunity for girls to learn and share their experiences. Similarly, they can freely express themselves, unlike in conventional media.
Current developments have changed the use of social media. Previously, it was believed that digital media would act as an avenue for gender exploration as well as freedom. However, the platform has recorded significant changes, and issues like identity are highly policed and regulated. Currently, sexual identity and gender issues are addressed through digital media (Kanai, and Dobson, 2-3). Social media, for example, attracts significant attention and surveillance from different stakeholders who are determined to enhance its capability while at the same time checking its misuse.
From the above discussion, it is evident that media plays a significant role in society and in addressing gender inequality. However, according to the statistics, the media itself does not reflect gender equality. From the top management to news presenters in print, TV and radio, women lag behind their male counterparts in almost everything, including being subjects and generating content. The same applies to digital media, where statistics show similar trends across the board. The paper further presents instances of stereotyping and the way media portrays women in society. This paper presents an insight into gender role in the media and the representation of women.
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