Women portrayal in Media and Society.

Do you ever find yourself excited to watch the latest film or movie? Do you get anxious waiting for serie and Soapie or reality show premieres. This is because Entertainment media is by far the best part of media production and consumption for every human being out there. Therefore, we can safely say that excitement is a normal reaction to media messages especially when we are looking for satisfaction, gratification, relaxation and entertainment in these media messages.

However, in our pursuit for pleasure, we tend to forget the power of the media to influence our way of life to the point where Stereotypical messages and values are slowly enshrined into our societal cultures, normalizing them as norms.

It is true that the media is influenced by happenings of the world, however, it’s powerful influence helps to spread and escalate these happenings in one way or another. This is to say that the media helps to normalize  values of a particular group of people by sowing them in almost all societies of the world as a mass or popular way of life.

Women portrayal in media is highly linked to the the oppressive patriarchal structures of the world.  According to Stuart Hall’s communication theory of Cultural Studies, mass media maintains the dominance of those already in positions of power and influence- this could be anyone from politicians, trendsetters, business moguls, and men in general. 

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As a result, Hall concludes that mass media exploits the poor and powerless through it’s spread of certain ideologies into the world, going on to define ideologies as the mental frameworks- languages, concepts, imagery of thought and the representation which different classes and social groups of the world deploy in order to make sense of, define, figure out and render intelligible the way society works; of which most of us are unaware of our ideologies and the impact they can have on our lives.

This theory is complemented by another communication theory, The Agenda Setting Theory which holds that the media is bias to dissemination of news and information because it chooses what news and information to publicize and what not to publicize through omission of certain information on a story or any media message through selection, editing and filtering of information.

Consequently, both old and recent research has shown that women among other minorities are victims of the Agenda Setting Theory. 

During one of my academic quarters, my class was given an assignment to watch an American Drama, Nobody’s fool and assess the stereotypes in it as a requirement for the courses, Media and Gender Issues; and Communication Theory. To my surprise, I realized that the theories I mentioned above were not far from truth considering how I could spot a prodigious number of Stereotypical messages in the movie which are evidently seen as normal ways of thinking and conducting ourselves in society.  The popular culture of belittling, berating and sexualizing women in media has stemmed into all societies of the world that we can not live without hearing news about abuse, sexual harassment, rape, defilement, violence and many other oppressive issues that women continue to go through. For example, scenes in most movies, ads and music videos require women  to show skin or be half naked while men are fully dressed or shirtless. 

Surprisely, these issues are in line with the findings of Scholarly research that was done on the subject of media portrayal of women and the society which led to the conclusion that media messages play a vital role in reinforcing oppressive behavior against women due to how women characters are portrayed in the media fraternity. 

Some important findings of such research indicated the following:

  • Media content reproduces sexist stereotypes that associate male identify with power, Independence, dominance and aggression while women are merely portrayed as the sensitive, emotional, vulnerable and dependent gender, looking up to the men for decisions. 
  • Media gender representation was also found to be highly characterised by inequality whereas the men had the highest percentage of representation with important positions in business, sports and politics while women were the least represented as box populi- people lacking status and power. 
  • Furthermore, news reports on gender violence were found to be characterised with messages that portray women as victims of which they were blamed to be the causers of such violence upon them while the aggressors were excluded form the report. Evidently, when a woman is raped or battered in society, the blame is laid on the woman while the man is left with no offence.
  • Popular music- pop, rap, country, rock and reggaeton were discovered to be the highest drivers of the reproduction of gender violence. 

These findings led to the conclusion that instead of helping resolve issues, both traditional and new media enhance and normalize oppression against women throu representation of harmful societal valued through movies, music, news and so forth. 

Meanwhile, in view of alleviating these challenges, the Beijing Platform for  Action (BPfA) in 1995 called on all media and advertising companies to:

  • Establish professional guidelines and codes of conduct that are consistent with freedom of expression and would address violent, degrading or pornographic material concerning women in media and advertising industries.
  • Diseminate information aimed at eradicating spousal and child abuse including all forms of violence against women.

However, despite effort to curb negative portrayal of women in media, till date women are still unfairly and vulnerably portrayed in the media industry and these media messages about women keep on making yheirt way into society and thus, escalating the reign of negative gender inequalities, violence and oppression against women. 

References

  • Media and Gender: A scholarly Agenda for Global Alliance on Media and Gender- Aimee Vega Montiel; UNESCO, 2014.
  • Pop Culture Freaks; Identity, Mass Media and Society- Dustin Kidd; Westview Press, 2014.
  • A First Look at Communication Theory- Em Griffin; McGraw-Hill, 2012

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