• This report blew my mind. Yes, we live in a massively male-oriented and -driven media society.

    I have been researching an awful lot with regard to feminism and gender theory. My partner’s daughter is studying Gender Studies and we often get into arguments about stuff. Actually, not about feminism per se, but more to do with critical thinking and how she defends her views. Quite often, she will have really good sounding points, strong views and emotive arguments; however, more often than not, they are castles in the air because she has not done enough philosophy or learning how to argue, so what could be very good points end up being relatively empty. Veneer with little foundation. But, of course, there really is very good foundation (it is just that she has not yet got the access to it or knowledge of it – that will come, no doubt). In helping her put together her essays, formulating her ideas and discuss her arguments, I have been learning more and more about feminism and gender studies, which can only be a good thing. A two-way street.

    I don’t know why feminism has become such a touchy subject. The basis of it is blindingly obvious. Shit me, women couldn’t vote until 100 years ago, and you could still rape a woman if you were married to her until 1993 (in the UK) which is ridiculous. It is obvious by just looking at the holy books of the world that we live in an overtly patriarchal world. That patriarchal history is still echoing strongly throughout modern society.

    As with much in life, such as morality (see the work of Jonathan Haidt, for example), we end up being intuitive creatures and then spend a lot of time and energy post hoc rationalising those emotive intuitions. This means we intuitively feel or believe something and then psychologically scrabble about rationalising those intuitive claims. Feminism and men is no different. Men, I think, broadly feel threatened (though they would never like to admit it) by the empowerment and growing equality of women, and the voice they now much more enjoy. This has a moral dimension, too. By feminists claiming that the way the world operates is wrong, and it should operate in such and such a way, comes across to men, I suspect, as “you operate incorrectly, and this is how you should be” because being a criticism of the world on account of men can be interpreted as a criticism of men. And nobody likes criticism, and people get defensive. Very defensive. Just think of all the atheist/theist debates you have been involved in or seen me involved in here or elsewhere.  So we men, I wager, react emotively to what should be straightforward rational arguments. That said, I am sure some feminists use (understandably) emotive points and rhetoric to put their point across. And why wouldn’t they? Being victim to patriarchal system since the beginning of civilised history must be pretty annoying!

    But what I really wanted to talk about was one particular source that I came across whilst trawling the internet and Google Scholar for sources, data and papers. Who Makes The News? is the website which houses the awesome Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP). It is run by the World Association for Christian Communication. DON’T be put off by this, since the GMMP is an incredible piece of data collection.

    The World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) is an international organization that promotes communication as a basic human right, essential to people’s dignity and community. WACC works with all those denied the right to communicate because of status, identity, or gender. It advocates full access to information and communication, and promotes open and diverse media. WACC strengthens networks of communicators to advance peace, understanding and justice.

    The study, the GMMP, is described as:

    … the largest and longest longitudinal study on the gender in the world’s media.  It is also the largest advocacy initiative in the world on changing the representation of women in the media.  It is unique in involving participants ranging from grassroots community organizations to university students and researchers to media practitioners, all of whom participate on a voluntary basis.

    Every five years since 1995, GMMP research has taken the pulse of selected indicators of gender in the news media, studying women’s presence in relation to men, gender bias and stereotyping in news media content. The fourth research in the series was conducted in 2009/2010 by hundreds of volunteers in 108 countries around the world.

    What is fascinating about the results of this study is the breadth of ways in which a male dominated society implicitly preserves such a gender gap. I really had to sit up and take notice of how such nuanced and subtle biases can have such grave effect. Here are some bullet points of summary findings. There are different results for print vs online media.

    ❚ Only 24% of the people heard or read about in print, radio and television news are female . In contrast, 76% – more than 3 out of 4 – of the people in the news are male

    [This is interesting since 50% of the world are male / female. Could this be that it is reflective of males having all the newsworthy positions of power? Or that male-driven reporting more likely reports male-oriented stories? Either way, it does not look good for equality.]

    ❚ 18% of female news subjects are portrayed as victims in comparison to 8% of male subjects . In contrast, women are now twice as likely to be portrayed as survivors than men

    ❚ Journalists are almost twice as likely to mention the ages of their female news subjects as they are not mention the ages of their male news subjects

    ❚ Female news subjects are identified by their family status 4 times more than male news subjects

    ❚ 26% of female subjects in newspapers appear in photographs, in contrast to only 17% of males

    [These last three are fascinating since it show how women are viewed and portrayed in completely different way to men: that age is important to garnering a sense of who they are and what they say; and that their marital (sexual) status and how they look is in some way definitive in the same way. They are seen in their relationship to men rather than in their own right.]

    ❚ As persons interviewed or heard in the news, women remain lodged in the ‘ordinary’ people categories, in contrast to men who continue to redominate in the ‘expert’ categories

    ❚ For stories reported on television, radio and newspapers, the percentage of those by female reporters is exactly similar to that registered in 2005, that is 37%… stories by male reporters continue to exceed those by female reporters in all topics

    ❚ Stories by female reporters contain more female news subjects than stories by male reporters

    ❚ 13% of all stories focus specifically on women

    ❚ Only 6% of stories highlight issues of gender equality or inequality

    ❚ 46% of stories reinforce gender stereotypes, almost eight times higher than stories that challenge such stereotypes (6%)

    [Our view (men and women) of the world consists of rather sloppily constructed stereotypes. generalisations are very useful, don’r get me wrong. One cannot make rough socially scientific conclusions without generalising to some degree. But stereotyping gender with regard to characteristics and role is a dangerous pastime and can lead to all sorts of misconceptions, which in turn can lead to ideas which help formulate a rape culture.]

    ❚ Stories by female reporters are visibly more likely to challenge stereotypes than those filed by male reporters and are also less likely to reinforce stereotypes than those reported by men

    ❚ High proportions of stories on peace (64%), development (59%), war (56%), and gender-based violence (56%) reinforce gender stereotypes

    ❚ Only 10% of stories quote or refer to relevant local, national, regional or international legal instruments on gender equality and/or human rights


    As part of the foreword to the report states:

    ‘If, through an unequal distribution of narrative resources, the materials from which some people must build their account of themselves are not theirs to adapt or control, then this represents a deep denial of voice, a deep form of oppression’ [1]

    The reasons behind this exclusion of women’s voices are many and complex. When challenged, journalists frequently offer simple explanations: there as no time to find a woman, no woman could be persuaded to speak, no suitable female expert could be found, a story highlighting the gender dimensions of a particular news topic was deemed unnewsworthy by the editor, and so on. Responses like these cannot be dismissed as mere rationalisations. They are part of the reality of day-to-day news production. However, as often as not they are simply a surface expression of much more tangled gender-based evaluations and priorities.

    By implicitly defining ‘people’ or ‘the public’ as male, these fail to acknowledge the distinct economic and social positions of women and men, the gender relations that both determine and result from such positions, and the gender-specific priorities that arise from these positions and relations. In the news, the tendency to ignore women or – at best – to talk about, rather than to or through women, is thus deeply embedded in normative cultural practices, and therefore in newsgathering and general production routines. These practices and routines are extremely difficult, but not impossible, to change. The purpose of the GMMP, since its inception, has been to contribute to that change.

    There is much about this world which operates beyond our ken, or realisation. What we are fed through our television, whether it be news or otherwise, and what we read in the newspapers are delivered to us by organisations, corporations and people. If these groups are predominantly men, or focused in appealing to men, then whether we like it or not, our conception of the world is and will be skewed.



    [1] Nick Couldry (2010). Why Voice Matters: Culture and Politics After Neoliberalism. London: Sage Publications, p. 9.


    Category: GenderMorality


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce