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Gender and Media
Despite all the talks of gender equality and the advancement of women, the situation remains pretty much the same. And this hypocrisy is clearly evident in the way in which women are portrayed in the media.
SEXIST ATTITUDES and stereotypes remain one of the major impediments in achieving gender equality. Studies show that the overwhelming majority of the news sources are men. Women invariably feature in the media either as sex objects or as victims of violence but not as role models or decision makers. Sometimes journalists forget that men are not the only consumers of the media, but very little attention is paid to what women would be interested in knowing. Gender issues are not considered as news and therefore they are not featured in our mainstream media except in particular customised magazines or publications.
Women are generally portrayed in a limited number of roles. Sexualised images of women are rife, and women tend to be defined in terms of their physical appearance, not abilities. When they are not being portrayed as sex objects, women are most often shown as victims of violence and homemakers. Although the stereotypes of women as a caregiver have some positive connotations, they are nevertheless stereotypes, which certainly do not reflect women’s complex experiences and aspirations.
Minority women
In addition to appearing in a limited number of roles, women are often simply missing in the media. They are much less likely to be featured in news stories and to be interviewed or asked for an opinion. It is even worse for certain categories of women, who receive even less attention in the media such as women from minority ethnicities and religious groups, rural women and poor women.
The media is focused on beauty queens and celebrities while television only portrays young and slender women as if big women have ceased to exist.
Women are seldom portrayed as politicians, newsmakers, experts, newsreaders and a host of other roles in which men regularly feature - even where women have broken into non - traditional jobs and social roles. While more and more publications aimed at women are becoming available, these often seem be aimed solely at selling products to women and not to provide information that they need.
Mass media plays a key role in shaping public attitudes. Powered by awesome and fast changing technology with its vast reach, the media is, quite simply, one of the most powerful forces in shaping the way people think.
The power of the media can be used constructively or destructively. The media could be a binding force for bridging the gap between equality of opportunities by helping to shift the societal mindsets that have become deeply ingrained structural barriers to the advancement of women. Unfortunately, the media is doing the opposite. It is an issue to be debated on whether the media should merely reflect the status quo, or whether it has a responsibility to suggest more equitable alternatives.
The media is assigned a special watchdog role in a democracy. This means that the independence of the media’s freedom of speech- is sacrosanct. We have seen what happens when the independence of the media is tampered with, during colonial and dictatorship rules. Gender equality is entirely consistent with the freedom of expression. Nothing could be more central to this ideal than giving voice to all the segments of the population. Also the way in which women are objectified and their physical attributes highlighted in the media has become accepted in ways that do not apply to men.
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