Controversial ties: Women and media

 02 Dec 2013 - 7:14

By Dr Mohamed Kirat
The issue of women and the media has for long been a subject of heated debate and huge controversy. Women over the years have suffered many stereotypes, distortions, manipulation, utilisation and marginalisation by the media industry.  Although women make up over fifty percent of the population and play an important role in society, their representation in the media has been over the years biased, partial and distorted. Much of what the media presents as objective, impartial and unbiased depiction and coverage of women is in fact a mixture of myth, misinformation, manipulation and fabrication. Although women through the years have had so many accomplishments especially in emerging and newly-independent nations, their image in the media as well as their role in news organisations has changed very little.
The issue of women and mass media is very controversial due to the importance of the media in society and in the lives of people on one hand, and the place and role of women in society on the other. For the Arab world, the issue has important stakes and challenges because of the process of change and development that the Arab nations are undertaking since their independence and the need of women, who represent over fifty percent of the population, to contribute to and participate in the process of sustainable development and continuous change. Unfortunately, the media in the Arab World has failed through the years, and to a large extent to tackle the real problems of women in society, and to highlight their successes and achievements.
The status of the news organisation in society is determined to a large extent by the socio-economic and political system of the country. Ideological, political and economic forces play a determinant role in setting the agenda for the media. On the other hand, the relationship between the media and the government in the Arab world is dominated by the latter that controls and sets the guidelines for the news organisations according to its agenda, and along the lines of its ideology and policy. In the Arab World, the media does not shape society, instead it is formed by the societal forces, thus when it comes to the media and women, the relationship is determined by the status of women in society, as well as the impact of dependency and alienation of the Arab news organisations on western  media and western news values. The representation of women in society is determined to a large extent by how the society looks at women and what is the level of women’s emancipation in society and their role in economic and political life. The depiction of women by the media plays a significant role in confirming and making apparently natural the division between the genders. 
Addressing the issue of news organisations, women and society is raising the issue of the emancipation and empowerment of  women in society and the feminist movements as well as the political participation of females. In the Arab World, the image varies from country to country, but in general women are lagging in terms of participating in various sectors of life in the country. Feminist movements are scarce and ineffective, women associations if they do exist do not tackle the real problems and concerns of women in society, and political participation is almost inexistent if compared with the number of women in society. Although, we can find in several Arab countries women in parliament, as high-ranking executives, and in leadership positions still women are systematically marginalised and left out. This being said, the lack of women’s emancipation in society, their low participation in political life and decision making affect negatively their representation in the media. After all, the news organisations reflect political, economic and cultural scene in the society.  As a consequence, news organisations and women in their relations and interactions have represented the cultivated elite which represent a very tiny portion of the women in society.  The objectification of women in real life, male domination in all aspects of life, as well as the simplification and the marginalisation of females were reflected by news organisations. Women in the Arab World have been exploited in advertising and used as consumption machines. They were represented as concerned by their look, beauty and fitness, and all what they care about is how to make themselves pretty for their husbands, and for men in general.
The prevalence of the “macho” ideology in the Arab World has led to a score of negative perceptions, images and stereotypes about women. This mechanism has excluded any kind of positive thinking about the capability of women of being independent, strong, influential, leaders, managers and decision makers.  Thus, the whole society has been victim of an ideology that segregates against women, puts them down, and think of them as dependent on men. In the social consciousness, everybody has in his mind a division of labour, roles and responsibilities. The media being a reflection and a mirror of society has not been able to break the taboos and to challenge the ideology and status quo. The Arab media has not been successful in exposing false consciousness to society and to discuss it freely, courageously and responsibly. The negative heritage about the culture of women as well as the “mythology” about them has been fabricated along the years and over centuries  has never been exposed, tackled and debated frankly, freely and responsibly by neither society nor the media. On the contrary, news organisations have been enforcing the ideology, the mythology and the establishment. The media has been adapting women and the culture of women and the way we look at women according to the impact and consequences of globalisation, international advertising and world culture. Women in the twenty-first global and consumer society should abide by the rules of consumerism, materialism, individualism and the capitalistic way of life. This is exactly what has been reflected by the media machines in their representation of women in various cultures and societies over the years.
The Peninsula
Dr Mohamed Kirat is a professor of Public Relations and Mass Communication at the Department of Mass Communication, Qatar University.By Dr Mohamed Kirat
The issue of women and the media has for long been a subject of heated debate and huge controversy. Women over the years have suffered many stereotypes, distortions, manipulation, utilisation and marginalisation by the media industry.  Although women make up over fifty percent of the population and play an important role in society, their representation in the media has been over the years biased, partial and distorted. Much of what the media presents as objective, impartial and unbiased depiction and coverage of women is in fact a mixture of myth, misinformation, manipulation and fabrication. Although women through the years have had so many accomplishments especially in emerging and newly-independent nations, their image in the media as well as their role in news organisations has changed very little.
The issue of women and mass media is very controversial due to the importance of the media in society and in the lives of people on one hand, and the place and role of women in society on the other. For the Arab world, the issue has important stakes and challenges because of the process of change and development that the Arab nations are undertaking since their independence and the need of women, who represent over fifty percent of the population, to contribute to and participate in the process of sustainable development and continuous change. Unfortunately, the media in the Arab World has failed through the years, and to a large extent to tackle the real problems of women in society, and to highlight their successes and achievements.
The status of the news organisation in society is determined to a large extent by the socio-economic and political system of the country. Ideological, political and economic forces play a determinant role in setting the agenda for the media. On the other hand, the relationship between the media and the government in the Arab world is dominated by the latter that controls and sets the guidelines for the news organisations according to its agenda, and along the lines of its ideology and policy. In the Arab World, the media does not shape society, instead it is formed by the societal forces, thus when it comes to the media and women, the relationship is determined by the status of women in society, as well as the impact of dependency and alienation of the Arab news organisations on western  media and western news values. The representation of women in society is determined to a large extent by how the society looks at women and what is the level of women’s emancipation in society and their role in economic and political life. The depiction of women by the media plays a significant role in confirming and making apparently natural the division between the genders. 
Addressing the issue of news organisations, women and society is raising the issue of the emancipation and empowerment of  women in society and the feminist movements as well as the political participation of females. In the Arab World, the image varies from country to country, but in general women are lagging in terms of participating in various sectors of life in the country. Feminist movements are scarce and ineffective, women associations if they do exist do not tackle the real problems and concerns of women in society, and political participation is almost inexistent if compared with the number of women in society. Although, we can find in several Arab countries women in parliament, as high-ranking executives, and in leadership positions still women are systematically marginalised and left out. This being said, the lack of women’s emancipation in society, their low participation in political life and decision making affect negatively their representation in the media. After all, the news organisations reflect political, economic and cultural scene in the society.  As a consequence, news organisations and women in their relations and interactions have represented the cultivated elite which represent a very tiny portion of the women in society.  The objectification of women in real life, male domination in all aspects of life, as well as the simplification and the marginalisation of females were reflected by news organisations. Women in the Arab World have been exploited in advertising and used as consumption machines. They were represented as concerned by their look, beauty and fitness, and all what they care about is how to make themselves pretty for their husbands, and for men in general.
The prevalence of the “macho” ideology in the Arab World has led to a score of negative perceptions, images and stereotypes about women. This mechanism has excluded any kind of positive thinking about the capability of women of being independent, strong, influential, leaders, managers and decision makers.  Thus, the whole society has been victim of an ideology that segregates against women, puts them down, and think of them as dependent on men. In the social consciousness, everybody has in his mind a division of labour, roles and responsibilities. The media being a reflection and a mirror of society has not been able to break the taboos and to challenge the ideology and status quo. The Arab media has not been successful in exposing false consciousness to society and to discuss it freely, courageously and responsibly. The negative heritage about the culture of women as well as the “mythology” about them has been fabricated along the years and over centuries  has never been exposed, tackled and debated frankly, freely and responsibly by neither society nor the media. On the contrary, news organisations have been enforcing the ideology, the mythology and the establishment. The media has been adapting women and the culture of women and the way we look at women according to the impact and consequences of globalisation, international advertising and world culture. Women in the twenty-first global and consumer society should abide by the rules of consumerism, materialism, individualism and the capitalistic way of life. This is exactly what has been reflected by the media machines in their representation of women in various cultures and societies over the years.
The Peninsula
Dr Mohamed Kirat is a professor of Public Relations and Mass Communication at the Department of Mass Communication, Qatar University.