Tuesday, 14 June 2011

women in the media

part of doing the taku manawa human rights facilitation course is actually going out & facilitating human rights in the community. or at least facilitating discussions about human rights, creating awareness & encouraging action.

so i had one of those sessions tonight with a women's group in hamilton, co-facilitated by another taku manawa graduate. it was focused on women in the media, and we asked participants to discuss 3 questions:
  • how are women portrayed in the media?
  • how do these portrayals make you feel?
  • what can we do about such portrayal?
i'm not going to tell you their answers, because that would be breaching confidentiality. but even though we didn't have much time, it did generate a lot of discussion & it's an issue that these women did feel strongly about.

one of the problems in dealing with negative & damaging stereotypes in the media is that the complaints process is neither easy nor is it always fair. for a start there are four different organisations, depending on what type of media you're dealing with. they each have a different set of standards/principles. two of them are not independent statutory bodies, but are industry organisations.

the complainant has to put their name out in public, and is often then subject to significant harassment by commentators in the media or by the media outlet that is the subject of complaint. the complainant is written of as "too PC", "prudish", "unable to take a joke", out of touch, and so on. the complaint is a great opportunity for the media outlet or the advertising agency to gain heaps of free publicity, thereby defeating the whole purpose of the complaint.

of course the best option is to vote with your eyes (& your money), and ignore/avoid media that have negative portrayals of women. that requires collective action & oraganisation to have any meaning at all. let's see if this particular group will be able to organise around the issues they have raised. it would be great if they did.

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