(The extract below is taken from an article first published on Media, a bilingual monthly journal of the Kerala Press Academy)
It is, of course, important to recognise at the outset that gender, whether in the media or otherwise, is not exclusively a women’s issue. The construction of femininity and masculinity – in society and in the media – are closely linked. Some ways in which men are portrayed in the media place expectations and limitations on them that adversely affect their lives and those of the women and children in their lives, as well as other people and society in general. Stereotypical portrayals of men are as incompatible with gender equality as stereotypical representations of women.
However, the focus here will be on the first aspect mentioned above, relating to media content in general and content of news media in particular, and on women.
The Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), the world’s longest-running and most extensive research on gender in news media, has been yielding an increasing amount of data at the international level since 1995. Although India has participated in all four GMMPs (conducted every five years from 1995 onwards) no national report was produced here until 2010. Then, for the first time, the Indian data generated by the study was separately analysed and presented in a report highlighting findings within the country.
Among the key findings of the GMMP 2010 are the following:
• Globally less than a quarter (24%) of the people heard or read about in the news is female; three quarters (76%) is male. In India women constitute only 22% of the news subjects across all topic categories. Across Asia (represented by 13 countries, including four South Asian nations) the corresponding figure is 20%.
• Globally only 13% of news stories focus centrally on women (i.e., focus specifically on one or more women). In India only 12% of the news stories have women as the central focus.
• In India women account for only 18% of the subjects in political stories and an abysmally low 10% in stories relating to the economy. Across Asia, the corresponding figures for women in stories on politics/government is 16% and on the economy 15%. Interestingly, men dominated even in many stories where women were supposed to be the focus. So, for example, 60% of news subjects in stories on women in political power and women electoral candidates were men!
• Women seem better represented as news subjects in stories on the environment, nature and pollution (33%); poverty, housing and social welfare (34%); education (38%), violent crime (43%); and medicine, health and hygiene (51%). Stories on gender-based violence, including domestic violence and rape, as well as on trafficking have an equal number of male and female subjects.
• News in all Indian media is dominated by male subjects. But radio emerged particularly weak, with women constituting only 13% of subjects on radio news. On television women constituted 20% (1/5th) of news subjects. In newspapers women comprised 24% (nearly 1/4th) of news subjects.
• Many news reports continue to use language and images that reinforce gender stereotypes. Globally only 6% of all news stories challenged gender stereotypes. India was apparently better off, with 9% of stories challenging gender stereotypes. But nearly two thirds (63%) of the news stories from the Indian media that were analysed reinforced gender stereotypes.
You can read the entire article on Media, a bilingual monthly journal of the Kerala Press Academy. This article was written by Ammu Joseph. You can read more of her writing in “Missing Half the Story: Journalism as if Gender Matters,” edited by Kalpana Sharma and first published on Media.