Media: A Tool For Inculcating Equality, Lacks it itself?
An infographic released by the UN’s Beijing 20 website share telling global statistics about women’s standing in media. Recently at FICCI Frames 2015, a “Women in Media” session was convened to dissect the gender gap in Indian media and the discussions were surprising. Although women make for nearly half if not more of the media industry in India, there is concern that perks, pay and other benefits are far from equal.
“Media is considered to be a very progressive industry, it is even considered a tool for inculcating gender sensitivity, but unfortunately, the reports say otherwise- Media is as insensitive as any other sector, India as well as internationally,” Jaggi Mangat Panda, chairperson of ORTEL group, had said at FICCI Frames, on being asked what the insiders information is about the media sphere.
And the paradox is startling. Globally, only 1 in 4 subjects of news stories are women. Only 25 percent of the people we read and hear about on that scale, across print, television, digital and radio are women. This trend may be traced back to the fact that only 6 percent of the media reportage focuses on highlighting gender and women’s issues, and inculcating gender equality.
What’s more – these stories don’t even make it to the most prominent sections of news portals, or to the primetime slots of TV and Radio News channels. Rather than forming a part of the mainstream news section, and finding place in the debates and discussions that the content evokes, women’s news is still a separate beat, and is far removed from the busiest divisions. As a result, it fails to be seen as the human rights issue it was proclaimed as. It is perceived as niche instead of universally relevant.
And like Jaggi Mangat Panda pointed out, rather than being a tool to sensitize, reports have exposed that 46 percent of stories and content being pushed out by the media is in fact, reinforcing outdated and medieval gender stereotypes.
If you were to take a stroll through the internet and assess the quality of content that is being shared across social media, two things would strike you instantly – How most content is by organizations who you have not heard of, only proving the fact that we are witnessing an information explosion, and it is impossible to maintain quality standards and to ensure the circulation of meaningful and accurate content; and how most of these articles give in to the temptation of using tastelessly fashioned ideas to entertain- like gender stereotypes- to pander to the whims of larger audiences. Very few organizations act responsibly, and most are just out there to dispense content with mass appeal, not realizing that they are reinforcing negative and narrow minded ideas in the process.
Behind the scenes, the picture isn’t any prettier. Top level management jobs for running the four medias haven’t seen equality yet, either. Far from it, in fact – as only 27 percent of the higher rungs are populated by women. Barkha Dutt connected the dots for Indian Media. “Sure, you see women like me and Shobhana Bhartia at the helm of news organizations. But the fact that I can count these women leaders proves that we are not the norm, but the exceptions. And this needs to change,” she asserted at FICCI Frames.
Roughly half the users and consumers of the Internet, and social media are women. But blatant misogyny, even at such a public platform, is perpetrated frequently. Taking US into consideration – around 26percent of the girls between the ages of 18 and 24, have been stalked online. And 25 percent have been sexually harassed. The frequency of its occurrence, contributes to its apparent normalcy, and most women just silently suffer through it writing it off as occupational hazards of being active on the internet.
But the clouds are parting to reveal some sunshine. Social media has also given a voice and vent to fervent supporters of the cause of equality, to make their opinions have a reach larger than ever seen before. Hashtags which are pro equality have gone viral in the past, and stirred many into making women’s issues a part of their dinnertime conversations. As the media becomes more and more accessible through the digital revolution, we all, in essence, have control over this orb. Whether we use this power for good or bad is a decision we must make urgently.
Here is the Beijing 20’s infographic, on the representation of women in global media:
Picture Credit: Precise