LIPSTICK IMPERIALISM AND THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
           WOMEN AND MEDIA AT THE CLOSE OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY


                            Margaret Gallagher


                            Paper prepared for
                   Division for the Advancement of Women
      Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development
                              United Nations





December 1995


*/ The views expressed in this paper, which has been reproduced as received,
are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the United
Nations.

                                    (i)


Communication Trends, Globalization and Women                       1

The Aspirational Culture and Images of Women                        2

Gender and the Political Economy of Communication                   4

Media Commercialisation and the Women's Market                      6

Resisting the Mentality of  Resignation:  Women's Media Alliances   9

Gender Portrayal in the Media:  The Basic Facts                    10

Interpreting Patterns of Portrayal                                 11

Diversity and Change in Gender Portrayal                           13

The Media and Violence Against Women                               15

Pornography and Freedom of Speech                                  18

Women as Users of Media and New Technologies                       21

Changing the Picture:  Five Strategies for the Future              25

In Conclusion                                                      29         



References                                                         30


Communication Trends, Globalization and Women 


An essential prerequisite to sustainable development, for all members of the
human family, is the creation of a Global Information Infrastructure.  This
GII will circle the globe with information superhighways on which all people
can travel.  The GII will not only be a metaphor for a functioning democracy,
it will in fact promote the functioning of democracy by greatly enhancing the
participation of citizens in decision-making.  I see a new Athenian Age of
democracy forged in the fora the GII will create.
(Al Gore Vice President of the USA, 21 March 1991;  quoted in Hamelink 1995,
p. 15)


We are often said to be in the process of an information revolution - a
revolution that is turning the world into a 'global village'.  The global
village metaphor is attractive;  it is simple;  and it is profoundly
misleading.  It may well be tempting to imagine the world as a village, when a
network like CNN can make television audiences in five continents eye
witnesses to US marine landings in Somalia, Boris Yeltsin climbing on to a
tank in Moscow, or indeed the events at the UN Fourth World Conference on
Women in Beijing.  From a certain perspective, this is indeed  impressive.

But the global information and communication system is far from involving the
majority of people around the world - even as consumers, and certainly not as
participants or producers.  It is a system that perpetuates many inequalities.
The sales revenue of the top twenty media companies - all concentrated in the
USA, Japan and Western Europe - amounted to $102 billion in 1992.  In the same
year the combined GNP of the 45 least developed countries was just $80 billion
(see Hamelink 1994, p. 87;  UNDP 1995, p. 195).  In August 1995 the Walt
Disney Corporation agreed to pay $19 billion for the US media giant Capital
Cities/ABC.  Disney's chairperson Michael Eisner explained that the deal would
help his corporation to exploit the world's growing appetite for 'non-
political entertainment and sports' (quoted in Squires 1995, p. 139).  But the
world has other appetites too.  That 19 billion dollar sales tag is equivalent
to UNICEF's estimate of the extra cost of meeting worldwide need for basic
health and nutrition, and primary education (UNICEF 1995).

When Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are regarded as a better financial
investment than fundamental human needs, we are surely a world at risk.  In
1985 Neil Postman published a cogent indictment of entertainment culture.  The
trivialisation of public life and discourse was already so insidious, he
warned, that we were in danger of Amusing Ourselves to Death.  A decade later,
with the Disney corporation poised to become 'the greatest entertainment
company in the next century' (Michael Eisner again), Postman's prediction
seems chillingly close to fulfullment.  Writer Benjamin Barber has correctly
observed that 'Disney's amusements are much more than amusing.  Amusement is
itself an ideology.  It offers a vision of life that ... is curiously
attractive and bland' (Barber 1995).  And as Alan Bryman's study of Disney's
'business of fantasy' points out, the vision of life offered by the entire
panoply of Disney products is permeated by a highly traditional form of gender
stereotyping (Bryman 1995, p. 130-132). 


The Aspirational Culture and Images of Women

Whether or not the world actually has a growing appetite for 'non-political
entertainment and sports'is largely irrelevant.  In a global information and
communication system whose corporate managers characterise their output as
'product' (rather than content) and view people as 'demographics' (rather than
audiences), appetites and aspirations can if necessary be created.  Women are
often a central target in this process of opening up markets.  'Polish women
have been crying out for a magazine like this' insisted advertising manager
Jack Kobylenski at the 1994 Polish launch of the glossy fashion and beauty
magazine Elle, owned by French publisher Hachette.  Of course no woman in
Poland ever took to the streets to 'cry out' for Elle, but the Polish version
of the magazine is now the third biggest edition, second only to France and
the USA (Meller 1994).  In Russia, the American Hearst Corporation's
Cosmopolitan entered the market cautiously in April 1994 with a monthly press
run of 60,000;  by 1995 this had risen to well over 500,000 and the Russian
Cosmo was commonly described as a 'publishing miracle'.  Says its Moscow-based
publisher:  'I knew Cosmopolitan could work here. You looked at Russian women,
and you saw ... how they wanted to improve themselves.  I knew if there was
one magazine that shows you how your life can be, a shop window you can look
in ... it was Cosmo' (Hockstader 1995).

If women's magazines are fantasy-like shop windows that 'show you how your
life can be', the products they display are of course also meant to be
purchased - in real shops.  But since actual buying power is often extremely
limited, this step in the global marketing process requires a more long-term
strategy. 'I take a decade's view', said company president Leonard Lauder at
the opening of the first Este'e Lauder store in Prague in September 1994.  'I
am a lipstick imperialist.  You can't underestimate the long-term value
companies like Este'e Lauder bring to Eastern Europe ... One person, one
family, can change the whole aspirational culture' (Menkes 1994).  Helping
along the process of change is Lauder's Central European Development
Corporation which has a 75% stake in Nova TV, the Czech Republic's first - and
hugely successful - commercial television station.  The most popular items in
its foreign-dominated programme schedule include Dynasty, M*A*S*H and Disney
animations (Gray 1995), all of whose representations of women have been the
subject of much criticism.

Interestingly enough, in his lengthy study of Dynasty Jostein Gripstrud makes
a direct comparison between its female 'anti-heroine' Alexis Carrington Colby
(played by Joan Collins) and the Disney creation Cruella de Ville in One
Hundred and One Dalmations, who wanted to skin little puppies to make herself
a fur coat (Gripstrud, 1995, p. 193).  These are the 'bad' women of male
fantasy, the villainesses whose function is to confirm the proper
characteristics of 'good' women - passivity and powerlessness, which are the
essential attributes of any woman who is to achieve happiness in popular media
fiction.  The female audience is encouraged to emulate submissive, long-
suffering heroines not simply by a media narrative which suggests that this is
how they will 'get their man'.  Women are also encouraged to literally 'buy
in' to the (fantasy) world of such heroines by purchasing products marketed by
the shows' producers.  Disney was one of the first to recognise the power of
'merchandising'.  From Alice's Wonderland in 1924 to Pocahontas in 1995,
Disney products  - films, television, publications, character dolls, theme
parks - have become mutually reinforcing links in a powerful narrative of
consumption.  During the 1980s the multi-million Dynasty merchandising
operation included not just clothes (fans of the programme used to 'dress up'
to watch the show), but also luggage, linens, jewellery, home furnishings and
even optical wear.  One of the most successful items was the perfume 'Forever
Krystle', named after the 'good', sympathetic female character Krystle
Carrington (played by Linda Evans).  

In the first series of Dynasty Krystle, then a subservient secretary, married
her brutal boss Blake Carrington and the marriage went through numerous
tribulations.  In the ads for 'Forever Krystle' several years later, Blake is
portrayed as an adoring husband who presents his wife with a fragrance
specially created for her.  Krystle will be happy 'forever' after - and by
implication so will the women who buy the perfume.


Gender and the Political Economy of Communication

Any consideration of gender portrayal in the media must take account of these
wider issues of political economy if existing patterns of representation are
to be properly understood and challenged.  For as Kamla Bhasin has rightly
pointed out:  'We are not just concerned with how women are portrayed in the
media or how many women work in the media.  We are also concerned about what
kinds of lives they lead, what status they have, and what kind of society we
have.  The answers to these questions will determine our future strategies for
communication and networking.  Communication alternatives therefore need to
emerge from our critique of the present world order and our vision of the
future' (Bhasin 1994, p. 4).

Certain trends in the information and communication system of the present
world order are set to have a considerable impact on the future of people
throughout the world.  The media mergers of the past decade have not only
consolidated huge power in a decreasing number of corporations with global
reach.  They have also begun to erode old distinctions between information and
entertainment, software and hardware, production and distribution.  It is this
fusion of communication forms, which constitutes a radical break with the
past, that presents such a challenge for the future.  For although the
influence of a single medium such as television is clearly limited in many
ways, it is the 'panoply of cultural means together' (Schiller 1989, p. 151)
that is central to the ability of large media conglomerates to present a
world-view that bolsters and reinforces their position in the modern economic
system and that system itself.

In this context the significance of 'lipstick imperialism' becomes clear.  The
term puts an intriguing new spin on a concept that dominated much of the
debate on international communication during the 1960s and 1970s.   'Cultural
imperialism' - the rallying cry of communication scholars and activists who
sought to defend indigenous cultural identity and economic independence - now
has a rather anachronistic ring.  Yet the free-market economic policies
adopted by many countries around the world in recent years have opened the
doors to new forms of consumerism, driven by increasingly commercial,
increasingly transnational communication media.  Reflecting on the current
situation in Latin America, Gabriel Escobar and Anne Swardson take the example
of MTV Latino, whose 'message is powerful and still growing, an influential
cultural tool in a market already saturated with images and products from the
north.  But what is most striking about this loud invasion is the silence that
has greeted it.  Three decades after the Latin American left led a call againt
cultural imperialism ... the continent has unabashedly embraced -cultura lite'
- a universal, homogenised popular culture in which touches of Latin American
rhythm or -Spanglish' accent a dominant North American diet of songs, words
and images' (Escobar and Swardson, 1995).  To explain the lack of opposition
to this contemporary cultural invasion, Uruguayan writer and journalist
Eduardo Galeano echoes Schiller's 'panoply' thesis.  By stimulating
consumption, he argues, the neo-liberal policies which the countries of the
North passionately promote simultaneously stifle resistance and creativity. 
They have helped to develop in Latin Americans a trend towards imitation and
what he describes as a 'mentality of resignation' (see Hamelink 1994, p. 132).

Such an analysis is equally applicable outside Latin America.   MTV Asia -
with 28 million viewers in the region - is said to have triggered a change not
just in musical tastes, but 'in social style.  In fashions, behaviour,
language and morals, more and more youngsters are falling to the thrall of MTV
and are drawn into aping the West'  (Menon 1993a, p. 29).  Again, this
cultural invasion is dictated by economics - as  MTV's director of
international programme sales explains:  'The youth audience is the most
sought-after and most lucrative demographic internationally' (Jenkinson 1994,
p. 104).  Again, the representation of women plays a particular role in the
channel's iconography.  Sut Jhally, in his educational documentary
Dreamworlds, argues that MTV works systematically to deny women subjectivity. 
Jhally demonstrates how the channel constructs an image of women through a 
patriarchal discourse of 'nymphomia' - as ever-available objects in an
endlessly repetitive male adolescent fantasy world.  Other studies agree that,
despite the presence of strong female images in some music videos, it is hard
to fault the essential truth of this argument (see Goodwin 1993, p. 176).


Media Commercialisation and the Women's Market

If music television targets the 'youth demographic' by using highly sexualised
male fantasy images of women, the 'female demographic' is itself an
increasingly important market in today's commercial media environment. 
According to Tor Hansson, managing director for Universal Media in Norway,
'the most sought-after demographic group in Norway is women between the ages
of 25 and 45 - and especially professional and middle management women'
(Edmunds 1994, p. 4).  With advertisers in Norway and Sweden complaining that
this lucrative market was not being delivered to them, the powerful Kinnevik
media group launched TV6 - Scandinavia's first channel targeted solely to
women - in April 1994.  Three weeks before its launch, all advertising spots
for TV6 had been sold out.

Most of the new channels aimed at women adopt the style and mode of address of
women's magazines - the vehicle through which advertisers have traditionally
reached the female consumer.  Not surprisingly, publishing giants such as
Hearst (USA), Hachette (France), D.C. Thompson (United Kingdom) and
Bertelsmann (Germany) were among the first to grasp the additional routes into
the female market opened by a proliferation of new cable channels.  In 1993
three channels aimed at women were launched in the UK alone.  The most
successful has been UK Living, providing 'practical and entertainment'
programmes for women.  The output is 'comforting, non-threatening and promises
not to over-tax your senses, sensitivities or brain-cells.  It smacks of
tabloid television - the agony aunts, the special offers, ... the game shows,
the cult of the minor celebrity as social pundit.  There are no documentaries
or news'  (O'Brien 1993, p. 20).  Apolitical and uncontroversial, these
channels fit perfectly within the framework of consumerism.  To paraphrase the
(male) director of Germany's first women's television channel TM3, launched in
August 1995, they pursue an ideal viewer who is 'feminine rather than
feminist'.

Gems, the first transnational television channel aimed at women, was launched
in  April 1993 for distribution in the USA and Latin America.  The (male)
president of International Television which produces the channel's shows, all
made in Spanish, describes it as 'programming that's relevant to women,
showing musicals, movies and mini-series featuring women's unique roles' 
(Burnett 1993, p. 25).  Particularly revealing of the Gems ideology is an
advertisement for the channel, run in the trade magazine 'TV World' in April
1994:  'She's a romantic and a realist.  A caretaker and an emerging power. 
She's the gatekeeper of more than $260 billion in the U.S. alone.  And she has
just one international Spanish-language cable television service talking
directly to her.  GEMS Television. ... GEMS is her TV.  Because we empower her
in a way cable programming never has before.  And because we know she is a
treasure.  GEMS is her TV.  That's its brilliance'.  Telenovelas feature
prominently in the schedule, ensuring  - according to marketing director Grace
Santana - success against any competition:  'We've programming that's proven -
novelas have been around for 40 years' (see Lindsay and Millichip 1994, p. 4).

That such a channel will 'empower' women seems improbable.  What does seem
likely, however, is that Gems will indeed open up a new gateway to capital  -
potentially '$260 billion in the U.S. alone'.  With an audience of 600,000
subscribers shortly after its launch, by early 1995 the Miami-based channel
was reaching a potential audience of almost five million viewers throughout
the Americas (Weinstock 1995, p. 39).

While male-owned commercial women's channels like these are flourishing, the
Canadian Women's Television Network (WTN) - launched in January 1995 as 'a
dynamic alternative to mainstream viewing:  a channel run by women, for women'
- is attempting to succeed in the same market, but on quite different terms. 
In May 1995 Barbara Barde, WTN's first Vice President of Programming outlined
some of the channel's distinctive features:  'WTN has no victims, no violence.
... We have women as chief protagonists, women who drive the stories, are in
control of their lives. ... For us, it is very important that women form part
of the creative team of producers, directors and writers ... We also have a
foundation to which we pledge three-quarters of 1% of our revenues.  Its job
is two-fold.  The first part is research rojects, looking at issues relating
to women in broadcasting.  The second is concerned with mentoring,
apprenticeships, etc. ... not only mentoring women within our own
organisation, but also encouraging conventional broadcasters to do the same.
... I think we can be a role model' (Barde 1995, pp. 18-19).

The philosophy has little in common with that of the male-controlled channels
described earlier and - almost inevitably - WTN has met with hostility from
male media establishment.  When industry ratings, released in July 1995,
showed that WTN was the least-watched of Canada's new cable channels, male
critics rushed to the attack.  An article by John Haslett Cuff in the Toronto
'Globe and Mail' declared that 'WTN was born with a large chip on its padded
shoulders';  in his view, no-one would be surprised by the ratings.  On the
other hand, Cuff was surprised and disappointed that Bravo, an arts channel,
had tied for second-last place in the ratings since it was 'easily the most
stimulating and original of all the new specialty services'.  It is
instructive to contrast this review with another in 'TV World', by Claire
Atkinson.  She noted that both WTN and Bravo were 'still finding their
audience, although both have won recognition for their programming
philosophies. ... For WTN .. the problem is that TV viewing is a family affair
during primetime, and it isn't until after 22.00 that women will watch
channels on their own'.

The gendered nature of these two reviews is illuminating.  Cuff's comments
display a deep and subjective antagonism to the channel;   Atkinson reveals a
knowledge of the context in which female viewing takes place, and uses this
knowledge to interpret the ratings.  For WTN itself the ratings would have
come as little surprise.  As Barbara Barde remarked two months before they
appeared, 'We always expected that our audience would grow slowly, and that we
would have to change habits in a large number of households, because guess who
controls the remote controls?  Not women' (ibid.).  Whether the finances of
WTN will allow the channel sufficient time to build up its audience remains to
be seen.  Rosalind Coward has argued that during the 1980s, series after
series of women's television programmes in the United Kingdom were simply
'allowed to fail', while other genres were protected and preserved until they
had established themselves (Coward 1987, p. 100).  In the 1990s it is clear
that any venture of this kind faces an even more formidable array of
obstacles, most of which will never be experienced by channels which treasure
women as the gatekeepers of dollar bills.   


Resisting the Mentality of Resignation:  Women's Media Alliances

The immensity, facelessness and apparent impregnability of today's media
conglomerates undoubtedly help to foster a 'mentality of resignation', as
Galeano puts it.  The mentality of resignation is a sign that people are
being, or have been, disempowered.  But if certain forms of communication and
culture can disempower, others can empower.  Over the past twenty years women
have not been content merely to denounce biases and inequities in the
established media.  Women have created and used countless alternative and
participatory communication channels to support their struggles, defend their
rights, promote reflection, diffuse their own forms of representation.  Pilar
Rian~o argues that this process has made women the primary subjects of
struggle and change in communication systems, by developing oppositional and
proactive alternatives that influence language, representations and
communication technologies (Rian~o, 1994, p. 11).

Standing outside the mainstream, 'women's movement media' have certainly
played a crucial role in women's struggle around the world.  Part of a global
networking, consciousness-raising and knowledge creation project, they have
enabled women to communicate through their own words and images.  If print and
publishing have been the most widely used formats, in the past two decades
other media such as music, radio, video, film and - increasingly the new
communication technologies - have also been important.   Over the same period,
in most regions there has been a steady growth of women's media associations
and networks, and an increase in the number of women working in mainstream
media (see Gallagher and Quindoza-Santiago 1994, for recent regional summaries
of these developments).  Yet as Donna Allen points out 'there is still a wide
gap between the women who have formed networks outside of the 'mainstream'
media and those women who are employed in mass media who hold the key to
reaching the larger public'. The closing of this gap, she argues, 'is a
crucial step toward the advancement of all women' (Allen 1994, pp. 161, 181). 

The building of such alliances, and the merging of women's diverse experiences
of working with and in the media, is surely one of the most urgent tasks for
women struggling for a more diverse and democratic world information and
communication system.  


Gender Portrayal in the Media:  The Basic Facts
  
Clearly the debates around gender representation in the media have moved on
since the content analyses of 'sex-roles and stereotypes' which typified
studies of the 1970s in North America and in countries such as Japan, Korea,
the Philippines where quantitative social science methods were favoured. 
These studies certainly documented women's exclusion from or silencing in many
media forms, and helped to show how media images reinforce notions of
'difference' - in behaviour, aspirations, psychological traits and so on -
between women and men.  Studies of this kind are of course still carried out,
and they remain important in recording some of the basic elements in a very
complex situation.  In an ambitious global monitoring exercise, women from 71
countries studied their news media for one day in January 1995.  More than
15,500 stories were analysed, and the results were dramatic.  Only 17% of
people interviewed in the news were women.  Just 11% of news stories dealt
with issues of special concern to women, or foregrounded any gender
perspective on the events reported (MediaWatch, 1995).

National monitoring studies, over longer time periods, show similar patterns. 
The particular power of these studies lies in their potential to document
change.  In fact, regular media monitoring in Canada and the USA shows
surprisingly slow progress towards equal representation of women and men in
the media.  Studies since 1974 indicate that 'peaks' may be followed by
'troughs', with no sustained pattern of improvement (see CRTC, 1990;  Stephens
1994;  Women, Men and Media 1995).  Indeed, according to one of the longest
running studies of trends in gender portrayal on US television (carried out
since 1969 by the Cultural Indicators research team at the Annenberg School of
Communication, University of Pennsylvania), 'the demography of the world of
television is impressive in its repetitiveness and stability: ... women
comprise one-third or less of the characters in all samples except
day-time serials where they are 45.5%, and in game shows where they are 55.3%.

The smallest percentage of women is in news (27.8%) and in children's
programmes (23.4%).  As major characters, women's role's shrink in children's
programmes to 18% ... A child growing up with children's major network
television will see about 123 characters each Saturday morning but rarely, if
ever, a role model of a mature female as leader' (Gerbner 1994,  pp. 39, 44). 
The world depicted by the media 'seems to be frozen in a time-warp of obsolete
and damaging representations' (op. cit., p. 43).


Interpreting Patterns of Portrayal
 
Obvious numerical imbalances in media portrayals of women and men tell only a
small part of the story - and not necessarily the most important part.  Of
course most studies go further, investigating gender differentiation in social
and occupational roles, psychological and personality traits, physical
attributes and so on.  The results have been extensively documented for most
world regions (see Gallagher and Quindoza-Santiago, 1994) and will not be
detailed here.  Perhaps the more interesting questions concern the implicit
messages which are woven into these media portrayals of women and men.  Why is
the pattern as it is, and why does it so stubbornly persist despite two
decades of research and action aimed at changing it?  There are many ways of
approaching such questions.  For example, I have already argued that
discrimination or imbalance in gender portrayal is not an isolated phenomenon
which can be studied - or changed - in a compartmentalised way.  Media
representations of women and men take shape within particular, and changing,
socio-economic formations which must themselves be analysed and understood. 
But there are other issues to consider too.

One is the question of political ideology.  In most parts of the world, at
different times in history, representations and images of women been used as
symbols of political aspirations and social change.  An obvious example was
the widespread use of particular asexual, 'emancipated' female images in
Soviet culture:  the confident, sturdy woman on her tractor, on the farm, or
in the factory.  As various recent commentators have pointed out, images of
this kind never reflected existing reality.  In the words of Olga Lipovskaya,
'the social realist tradition was intended to create an ideal reality and
utilised this model to portray the exemplary woman of the radiant Communist
future' (Lipovskaya 1994, p. 124;  see also Voronina 1994;  Azhgikina 1995). 
In such a situation female imagery becomes a metaphor for a particular
political ideology, rather than a representation of women's lives.   In her
analysis of the powerful media definitions of womanhood in revolutionary
China, Elizabeth Croll maintains that 'imaging' actually became a substitute
for living or experience:  'With the gradual exclusion of semantic or visual
variations of image and text, the rhetoric of equality and celebration soon
became the only language officially tolerated ... There were no images of, or
words for representing, the inequality of experience' (Croll 1995, p. 80).

In one of the few extensive analyses of female imagery in the Arab States,
Sarah Graham-Brown points out that images of women may be used in conflicting
ways - as symbols of progress on the one hand, and as symbols of continuity
with the cultural past on the other - frequently in reaction to
representations of women imposed from outside the society, for instance by the
Western media.  Major ideological changes obviously affect the use of female
imagery to promote national goals.  A clear example, cited by Graham-Brown, is
the contrast between the way women were portrayed in the media in Iran during
the Pahlavi rule and since the revolution.  'In both instances, these images
form an important element in the way the regimes promote and legitimize
themselves.  At the same time, neither kind of image necessarily reflects with
accuracy the changes or continuities in the everyday life of women in
different classes'.  The disjuncture between image and reality becomes
profound in situations where governments are attempting to mobilize people for
certain kinds of social change.  Graham-Brown gives examples from post-
independence Algeria and Nasser's Egypt, where 'modernist' and westernised
images of women were used as emblems of progress and enlightenment.  Yet 'on
the whole, these images of emancipation, while they might promote the idea of
the progressive nation, did not challenge basic gender relations in society,
particularly male domination of the family structure' (Graham-Brown 1988, p.
245).  In contemporary Egypt, according to Lila Abu-Lughod (1993), there is a
similar gap between the ideological message of certain 'national interest'
television serials and experience of life in particular communities.  The
interpretation of such images is thus fraught with 
complications.  This does not mean that no indication of changing status, or
changing attitudes to women can be gleaned from them.  But they cannot be
'read' according to any simple formula whereby changes in imagery are assumed
to equate with changes of the same magnitude in women's lives.  


Diversity and Change in Gender Portrayal

These examples illustrate the limitations of a framework which sets out to
critique 'negative' images and to demand 'positive' media representations of
women.  Such a juxtasposition assumes that there is a norm against which
images can be judged.   In reality, things are much more complicated.  The
same kind of image can embody a variety of different meanings, depending on
the context.  A more promising route seems to be offered by the search for
greater 'diversity' in gender portrayal.  But here again, the situation is not
completely straightforward.  Media representations of women and men in the
1990s may indeed be more diverse than they were twenty years ago.  Lawyers,
doctors and police officers are no longer inevitably male;  and we may even
see the occasional male character in the kitchen, weeping into the washing-up
bowl.  But how important is this change, and what is its significance?

It is true that drama - including popular fiction, soap operas and telenovelas
- has to some extent begun to respond to new currents and complexities in
gender relations, with occasional portrayals of the 'new man' (gentle,
supportive, emotional) and the 'modern woman' (independent, assertive,
resourceful).  But detailed analyses suggest that such innovations are often
simply a modish fac'ade, behind which lurk old-fashioned formulaic
assumptions.  Longitudinal studies of Italian television drama show that,
despite a scattering of 'anti-heroes', output remains overwhelmingly male-
centred and success-oriented (see Buonanno 1991, 1992).  In Germany and the
United Kingdom, studies have called into question claims that 'progressive'
soap operas have actually introduced radically different points of view (for
example, Externbrink 1992;  Geraghty 1995).  In Latin America most of the
independent new heroines of recent telenovelas, on closer examination seem to
have been introduced as a means of changing the 'outer wrappings' of the genre
rather than its core messages (see amado 1993;  Arias et al. 1993).  In the
USA several studies of the successful prime-time series thirtysomething have
concluded that despite claims that it articulates a 'new view of manhood', the
show's construction of reality is substantially conservative (see Hanke 1992;
Heide 1995).  Even the trail- blazing 1980s female detective series Cagney and
Lacey does not escape criticism.  Julie D'Acci's detailed study reveals that
although the writers struggled to maintain the show's original feminist
orientation, in the face of pressures imposed by commercial network
television, the series gradually became more conventional, 'feminine' and
exploitative - in the sense of promoting stories that literally 'cashed in' on
issues of great complexity for women, such as rape, abortion, marital violence
and so on (D'Acci 1994).

Sightings of the 'new man' in media portrayals have been recorded in countries
as different as India, Italy and the USA (Shelat 1994;  Buonanno 1994; 
Douglas 1995).  Again, this phenomenon can not automatically be taken at face
value.  Milly Buonanno sounds a note of caution, pointing out that the 'new
man' in Italian drama is winning the central position in the family and
domestic domain at the expense of women, whose overall share of central roles
has fallen over the past four years:  'Even the domestic sphere, the
traditional stronghold of the female character in drama, now seems to be
increasingly inhabited by males who show themselves more in command of
emotional life than the women do' (p. 82).  A similar concern is expressed by
Susan Douglas.  Both she and Manisha Shelat question the extent to which these
images actually reflect reality in their societies, though for Shelat they are
a 'welcome change' from the role stereotyping that predominates in the
majority of Indian media.  But Douglas is less sanguine, seeing the
development as a 'bizarre twist on the real world, where many women have
changed, but too many men have not' (p.81).

This review raises important questions about the extent to which the
mainstream media are capable of reflecting diversity and complexity in a way
which would properly respond to the current criticisms of women media
activists.   For this reason, some women remain sceptical of any engagement
with the mainstream.  But others - like film-maker Michelle Citron - regard it
as an essential step forward, providing a possibility of 'subverting' and
changing mainstream media content, despite the compromises involved:  'These
are risks we need now to take.  We will lose a certain amount of control,
despite our best intentions and preparedness ... But we need new -data' in
order to refine our understanding of (the media) and our relationship to it' 
(Citron  1988, p. 62).


The Media and Violence Against Women

In a detailed analysis of how the press covered four prominent sex crimes in
the USA over the period 1978 to 1990, Helen Benedict concludes:  'During the
1980s and 1990s, the quality of sex-crime coverage has been steadily declining
... Rape as a societal problem has lost interest for the public and the press,
and the press is reverting to its pre-1970s focus on sex crimes as individual,
bizarre, or sensationalist case histories' (Benedict 1992, p. 251).  Benedict
offers a useful set of suggestions to improve the reporting of sex crimes -
covering language, balance, context, focus on attacker rather than victim, and
so on.  On the specific question of language Ann Jones, author of Next Time,
She'll Be Dead:  Battering and How to Stop It, gives numerous examples of
crime reporting in which women are victims but their attackers' violence is
masked in the language of love.  Says Jones, 'this slipshod reporting has real
consequences in the real lives of real men and women.  It affirms a batterer's
most common excuse for assault:  "I did it because I love you so much"
(quoted in Media Report to Women 1994).  It does seem justifiable to suppose
that what we see and hear in the media has real consequences in our lives. 
However the issue of 'media effects' raises many complicated questions which I
will not attempt to take up in this short paper.  Instead I will approach the
question of violence primarily from the perspective of the female consumer. 
How do women react to the portrayal of violence?  It seems fair to conclude
that if women are made uncomfortable, anxious or frightened by depictions of
violence, then their views deserve to be heard.

In fact, the presentation of violence in the media is an issue which provokes
quite divergent reactions between women and men.  Women are less likely than
men to watch violent programmes and films.  And even if they do watch, women
may not actually enjoy what they see.  In the words of one woman interviewed
in a recent British study, 'women don't enjoy watching violence in the way
that men do, judging by the popularity of violent films.  I don't
know any women who get a kick out of watching the after-effects of violence'
(Hargrave 1994, p. 20).  Research in the USA shows that women (47%) are much
more likely than men (24%) to object to the level of violence on television
(see 'Marketing to Women' 1993, p. 6).  A survey of women viewers in Canada
found that violence was what concerned women most about television:  34%
selected this from a list of seven items of concern, and 36% said they avoid
violent programmes on television (MediaWatch 1994).  In India women were found
to have a 'strong dislike for (television) films which show violence, and
admit to just waiting for the violent scenes to be over so that they could
enjoy the next violent-free scene' (Media Advocacy Group, 1994).  Women are
also more concerned than men about the possible impact of violent messages. 
Research in the United Kingdom has shown that 59% of women - compared with 45%
of men - would be prepared to give up their freedom to watch violent
programmes if it was widely believed that these caused some people to be
violent (Docherty, 1990).  Of the Canadian women questioned in MediaWatch's
1994 survey, 82% said they believed that violence in the media contributes to
violence in society.  More informal reports have found that women in many
countries around the world express high levels of anxiety about media
violence, and groups such as the Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA)
and Women's Media Watch in Jamaica have launched campaigns and activities to
address the problem (see Davies 1994).

For women who have actually experienced violence, subsequent exposure to
scenes of media violence against women - particularly when portrayed as
'entertainment' may be especially painful:  'There are things that bring it
back ... I can't watch extremely violent things, I just want to turn off
because the thoughts start and I just don't want to know' (see Kelly 1988, p.
193).  But even if they have not been victims themselves, seeing violence on
television is an extremely disturbing experience for many women. Recent
audience research in Germany found that more than half of all female viewers
are frightened and feel threatened by the kind of violence presented on
television (Ro"ser and Kroll, 1995).  Similar findings emerged clearly from an
in-depth study in the United Kingdom (Schlesinger et al., 1992) in which women
were shown various kinds of violent material, including an episode from
Crimewatch UK (a series which reconstructs crimes: the reconstruction used was
of a young woman's rape and murder), and the Hollywood film The Accused (which
includes a graphic portrayal of gang rape).  One of the most striking findings
was 'the fear of male violence, particularly of rape.  This was generally
found across all of the viewers, despite class or ethnicity, as was the
concern about the possible impact upon children of viewing violence against
women on television.  In relation to the rape/murder in Crimewatch and the
gang rape in The Accused, group discussions revealed a profound anxiety about
personal safety' (op. cit., 166).  In the case of The Accused, 'there was
considerable concern about the appropriateness of a Hollywood film -
essentially premised on entertainment values - as the most suitable vehicle
for dealing with this troubling subject ... and worries (which) centred upon
what -men' were likely to make of this film' (op. cit., 163).

The Center for Media and Public Affairs in the United States analysed the
incidence of violence on television over a twenty-four hour day in April 1994.

The number of violent scenes ranged from a low of 71 in the hour between 2
p.m. and 3 p.m., to a high of 295 scenes of violence in the hour from 6 a.m.
to 7 a.m. (Kolbert 1994).  An eight-country study of television violence in
Asia conducted by the Asian Mass Communication Research and Information Centre
classified 59% of all the programmes studied as 'violent', with particularly
high levels of violence in India, Thailand and the Philippines (Menon 1993b). 

George Gerbner, who has studied television violence for the past twenty years,
maintains that 'Constant displays of violent power and victimization cultivate
an exaggerated sense of danger and insecurity among heavy viewers of
television' (see Hamelink 1994, p. 131).  Clearly, many of the women in the
studies mentioned earlier experience this sense of danger and insecurity. 
Strong sentiments were also expressed by these women about the extent to which
it is acceptable to show representations of violence against women to the
general public without adding special safeguards.

Such ideas deserve to be taken seriously, and to enter the public domain so
that they become part of the debate on regulation and self-regulation. 
Satellite communication, by weakening the control of national governments over
a growing proportion of media messages and images beamed into their
territories from elsewhere, has given this debate a new urgency.  But
proposals for a global code of practice have been met with general scepticism
by the media community (see Shaw 1993).  At the national level only a few
countries - for example, Australia, Canada and New Zealand - have so far taken
a new, tougher stand on television portrayal of violence against women (see
Racine 1995;  Mills 1995).

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women -
which defines the term 'violence against women' as 'any act of gender-based
violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or
psychological harm or suffering to women' - certainly provides scope for
actions aimed at reducing or eliminating media violence in general, and scenes
of violence against women in particular.  Here it is important to bear in mind
that media depictions of dramatic aggression against women are at one end of a
continuum of media images of women which build up from an apparently benign
starting point.  For instance the educational video Dreamworlds, mentioned
earlier, demonstrates how an accumulation of images in which women are
presented as submissive objects of male fantasy in music television may
contribute to a perception of the ultimate act of sexual violence - rape - as
justifiable and 'natural'.   At the very least, the development of further
materials of this sort should be undertaken with a view to documenting how
patterns of media violence against women are constructed, and what their
implications may be for the lives of women everywhere.


 Pornography and Freedom of Expression 

Pornography has for many years been a multi-billion dollar international
industry.  In the United Kingdom alone, 52 million was earned from the sale
of pornographic magazines in 1993 (Davies 1994).  Recent developments in the
information and communication system have made pornography more widely
available than ever before.  For instance television deregulation, combined
with transborder satellite channels, has resulted in a tenfold increase in
televised pornography over the past decade in Europe, and the demand is
escalating (Papathanassopoulos 1994).  New information technologies have
introduced various forms of 'on-line' pornography.  Interactive computer porn
is a particularly menacing development.  This is quite different from earlier
forms, in that the user becomes a participant - a 'doer' of pornography rather
than merely an observer.  Male fantasy myths about women's sexual availability
feature strongly in these products (for examples see Spender 1995, pp. 219-
221).
                      
In cyberspace and elsewhere, pornographers routinely use 'freedom of speech'
arguments to defend their right to distribute material which is nothing other
than a violation of women's human right to safety and dignity.  In 1986
British Member of Parliament Clare Short tried to introduce a Bill to make
illegal the display of naked or partially naked women in sexually provocative
poses in newspapers (known in the UK as 'Page 3 girls').  'Killjoy Clare', as
she was dubbed by the Sun newspaper, was accused of  'authoritarianism', of
wishing to deprive people of one of their few 'pleasures', of wanting British
newspapers to resemble Pravda.  Compared with the displays used in hard-core
pornography, Page 3 may seem relatively innocuous. But Clare Short received
5000 letters of support for her proposal, the overwhelming majority from
women.  Twelve women who had been raped wrote that their attackers said they
reminded them of a woman on Page 3, or said they ought to be on Page 3  (see
Short 1991, p.xxi).  Since 1986 one major British tabloid newspaper has
abandoned its 'Page 3 girls', but others maintain the practice.

Pornography is a central issue for the women's movement, especially in
relation to violence against women.  It is regarded by many as the key site of
women's oppression.  Yet disputes over the regulation of pornography have
split women's groups, raising the spectre of censorship - a weapon which could
be used against minority groups and against women themselves.   In this
respect, recent developments in Canada are of note.  In February 1992, in a
milestone decision, the Canadian Supreme Court upheld a conviction against a
pornography dealer and, in so doing, recognised a new definition of obscenity.

The Court 'recognised the harms to women, children and society arising from
pornography as justifying constraint on the free speech rights of
pornographers.  The expression found in obscene material, the Court concluded,
lies far from the core of the guarantee of free expression' (Easton 1994, p.
178).  The Butler decision, as it became known, has had important and not
entirely predictable consequences.  Women saw it as a huge step forward,
opening up the possibility of convictions in other areas of media content
which could also be proven to degrade or dehumanise women.  But the unforeseen
consequence was a crackdown on works by prominent homosexual and lesbian
authors and, for a time, Andrea Dworkin - one of America's fiercest opponents
of pornography, whose book Pornography:  Men Possessing Women was temporarily
seized by the Canadian customs (see Dworkin 1994, p. 15).

The regulation of pornography is also a contentious issue for women partly
because the term 'pornography' has been confused - even in legal instruments -
with the concept of 'obscenity'.  The definition of obscenity - filthy,
disgusting, indecent - implies a moral judgement with which women may feel
uncomfortable.  The definition of pornography in most feminist literature
follows that of Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin:  'the graphic sexually
explicit subordination of women through pictures or words' (MacKinnon 1987, p.
176).  This perspective shifts the arguments against pornography away from the
terrain of morality, towards an interpretation of pornography as a violation
of women's rights.  Yet even here there are problems.  One criticism of the
civil rights Ordinances of Minneapolis and Indianapolis, drafted by MacKinnon
and Dworkin in the 1980s as a means of regulating pornography, was that terms
such as 'sexual objectification', 'degradation', 'subordination'  - on which
appeal to the Ordinances depended - left too much scope for judicial
interpretation and could be used against women.  As Carol Smart (1989) argues,
traditional judicial attitudes reflect a legal framework which is essentially
incompatible with the definitions of feminism, and which cannot accommodate
the complexity of feminist arguments.  However, Susan Easton (1994) takes the
view that - rather like the mainstream media - this is an area of challenge
for feminists, who must work to infuse new ideas into established legal
frameworks.  As one of a number of strategies to deal with pornography, she
advocates the enactment of a  law to prohibit 'incitement to sexual hatred'.

Of course the polarisation of the pornography debate in terms of 'free speech'
versus 'censorship' fails to take account of the fact that freedom of
expression is limited in all sorts of ways for most people, most of the time. 
As A.J. Liebling remarked many years ago, 'Freedom of the press belongs to
those who own one'.  In today's media context, the aphorism rings particularly
true.  Eastman points out that the feminist argument against pornography 'is
not an isolated assault on free speech rights, but could be seen as a
recognition of the difficulty and undesirability of an absolutist position on
free speech in a pluralist society' (1994, p. 174).  Since they have
relatively restricted access to the channels of communication, it is hardly
surprising that women's attitudes towards 'free speech' differ from those of
men.  For example, a study of attitudes among journalism students in the USA
found that the women see the free speech issue from a dual perspective.  While
they value the operation of a 'free press', they also believe that absolute
freedom of expression can be harmful to them and to others.  The authors
conclude optimistically that if the female students carry their attitudes
towards free expression with them into the journalistic work force, 'society
may see a somewhat different set of professional values in the future'
(McAdams and Beasley 1994, p. 23).


Women as Users of Media and New Technologies

Gender differences in media access are linked with patterns of discrimination
in society at large, and with patterns of power relations within the home.  In
many parts of the world, high female illiteracy rates mean that women have
little access to the print media.  As for television and radio, women may not
always be able to watch or listen to their preferred programmes.  Research in
countries as different as Mozambique, Zambia, India, the USA and the United
Kingdom shows that, in family viewing and listening situations, the decisions
of the adult male in the household tend to prevail (see Mytton 1993;  Lull
1988).  Nevertheless, these and other studies show that women are enthusiastic
media users.  In Egypt certain groups of women are particularly avid
television viewers:  one study found that 21% of women - compared with 11% of
men - spent on average more than four hours a day in front of the small screen
(El-Fawal 1991).  In a study of relatively low-income, poorly educated women
in Nigeria, 96% had access to radio within the household or compound and
television was available to 89%.  More than two-thirds of the women listened
to the radio every day, and just under one-third watched television daily
(Imam 1992).  In Ecuador, Rodriguez (1990) found that 94% of the working-class
women she surveyed had radio in their homes, and over half listened at least
three hours a day.  In Brazil almost every woman in three low-income areas
studied by Tufte (1992) had television in her house, and the women watched an
average of three to four telenovelas a day, six days a week.

These Brazilian women's heavy viewing of telenovelas reflects a universal,
gendered pattern of media preferences.  All over the world men prefer sports,
action-oriented programmes and information (especially news); women prefer
popular drama, music/dance and other entertainment programmes (see Cooper-Chen
1994;  Lull 1988;  Sepstrup and Goonasekera 1994).  These programme choices
are most easily explained in terms of the extent to which women and men are
able to identify with various types of media content.  One of the most obvious
reasons for women's preference for serialised drama, soap opera and
telenovelas is the exceptionally high proportion of female characters in such
programmes.  Nor is it surprising that men favour genres such as action drama
which feature powerful, dynamic male characters, or sports and news which
revolve almost exclusively around male figures.  It is reasonable to wonder
what impact these repetitive patterns of gender representation have on the
female - and the male - audience.  During the 1980s there was a vogue for
research into 'women's genres' - soap opera, melodrama, magazines - leading to
the conclusion that these could 'empower' women.  Recent studies have
criticised such claims as being wildly exaggerated, and have focused on the
fundamentally conservative and patriarchal frameworks within which these
genres operate (see Gripstrud 1995;  Livingstone and Liebes 1995).

The problem is that in most other types of media content women simply do not
see or hear any reflection of themselves, or of their experience of life. 
Television sports coverage in Europe provides a good example of the ways in
which women's media choices are limited.  Audience data for six countries in
1992 showed that, in all six, the sporting events most watched by men were
football matches (Akyuz 1993).  But women watched other sports.  In France,
the event which got the top female audience - over 8 million viewers, which
was higher than the male audience for any sporting event - was women's figure
skating at the Winter Olympics.  According to the same data, the event which
attracted the largest female audience in the United Kingdom was the women's
10,000 meters final in the Summer Olympics, though this reached only 8th place
among male audiences.  So it is not that women don't like watching sport, but
that they like watching different sport.  In particular, they like 'women's
sport'.  Unfortunately for women, the television sports schedules are built
around male and not female preferences.

Similarly, news and current affairs programmes reflect a hierarchy of values
in which the issues that concern women are given low priority, if covered at
all.  Recent research with British viewers shows that although women feel
ambivalent about the concept of 'women's issues' - believing that once an
issue becomes labelled as being of exclusive concern to women, it is in danger
of being marginalised - there is also a shared understanding among women about
issues that do concern them, and a feeling that these are not given priority
in the news media.  As one woman put it:  'Women's issues don't always get
enough airtime on the so-called serious programmes.  They don't have the same
weight as world politics -  which they should do, because they are about
changing society in fundamental ways' (Sreberny-Mohammadi 1994, p. 69).

When asked directly, many women are clear that their preferences are not
catered for by the media. In common with women recently surveyed in Canada and
Germany (MediaWatch 1994;  Ro"ser and Krull 1995), most of those interviewed
in Annabelle Sreberny-Mohammadi's research said that women should have more
visibility on television, that there should be stronger female characters in
drama and entertainment, and that there should be more women of authority in
news and current affairs output.  The participants felt that more women
journalists and more female experts voicing opinions across a variety of
issues would act as significant role models for other women, stimulate female
interest in public issues, and - perhaps - sometimes speak in the interests of
and for women (op. cit., p. 75).

The potential of the new information and communication technologies for the
advancement of women is considerable.  Networking, research, training, sharing
of ideas and information  - all these could be made infinitely easier through
relatively affordable computer-mediated communications such as E-mail,
Internet, hypertext and hypermedia (Steffen 1995).  However, the obstacles are
formidable.  Unequal access to computers at school and in the home;  highly
male-dominated computer languages and operating systems;  a hostile
environment in which sexual harassment, sexual abuse and pornography flourish;

these are just some of the factors which deter women from entering cyberspace
(see Spender 1995, pp. 161-222).  Gender-differentiated data on access to the
new technologies are scarce, but those available do indicate that women are
more reluctant users than men.  In the United Kingdom in 1992 27% of women
(compared to 37% of men) owned a home computer (Mackay 1995).  Almost
identical figures were reported in 1994 for the USA, where just 9% of women
(and 15% of men) also had a computer modem - essential for use of E-mail and
Internet.  However 46% of women in this survey were dissatisfied with their
level of technical know- how, suggesting that women may be frustrated users
rather than completely uninterested in the new technologies  (see Marketing to
Women 1994).

Women comprise only about 10% of the Internet population in the USA.  On the
other hand Women's Wire - a commercial on-line service - has 90% to 95% female
subscribers.  Aliza Sherman recommends this kind of service - 'providing
women-specific information on topics such as women's health, politics, news,
technology, business, finance, and family' - as a good starting point for
women wary of cyberspace (Sherman 1995, p 26).  Dale Spender claims that there
are literally thousands of women's groups now on-line, though it seems that
most of them are located in - and relatively limited to - North America.  An
exception is Virtual Sisterhood, described as a 'network for women around the
world to share information, advice and experiences' which claims to have links
with women's networks in a wide range of countries in Asia and Latin America
(op. cit., p. 238).  At the international level, the Association for
Progressive Communications (APC) is among the most actively involved in
supporting women through electronic communication.  Women in Latin America as
well as Canada and the USA have been using the APC networks for information
exchange, and the APC Women's Networking Support Program has provided training
workshops for women in Africa and Asia.  The presence of a 40-strong all-women
APC team at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995
introduced countless women to the possibilities of electronic communication,
creating connections - technological and human - which will doubtless flourish
in the years ahead.

But despite the hyperbole, it is important to remember that these new
technologies are inherently no 'better' than the old ones - print, radio,
television etc.  For example, to claim  - as British scholar Sadie Plant does
- that the Internet is an inherently equalizing, non-hierarchical, even
liberating communication system (see Spender, op. cit., p. 229) seems somewhat
overstretched.  Already, as Herman Steffen points out, 'large corporations are
trying to turn cyberspace into a televised shopping mall where communications
is one-way (entertainment) unless the consumer wishes to buy something;  if
so, he is welcome to communicate by punching in his credit-card number' (op.
cit., p. 16). In that sense, cyberspace merely provides women with a new
terrain on which to wage old struggles.

Changing the Picture: Five Strategies for the Future

As we reach the close of the twentieth century, there is little evidence that
the world's communication media have a great deal of commitment to advancing
the cause of women in their communities.  Although the presence of women
working within the media has increased in all world regions over the past two
decades, real power is still very much a male monopoly (see Gallagher 1995). 
And while it is relatively easy to make proposals for the implementation of
equality in the area of employment - and to measure progress - the issue of
media content is much more problematic.  Who is to decide what is acceptable
in this domain?  What criteria should be used to evaluate progress?

Research (and experience) has shown that purely quantitative measures are
completely inadequate to describe gender portrayal in the media, much less to
interpret its meaning or significance.  There may be fairly widespread
agreement that certain types of media content  - for example, violent
pornography or child pornography - are completely unacceptable and degrading
to women, and should be strictly regulated.  But what about the routine
trivialisation and objectification of women in advertisements, the popular
press, and the entertainment media?  What about the prime-time television
shows, watched by millions, in which women are regularly paraded as the mute
and partly-clothed background scenery against which speaking and fully-clothed
men take centre-stage?  And how many women feel uneasy, or downright fearful,
if they are alone at night in a taxi which stops at traffic lights beside an
advertising poster adorned with a semi-naked, pouting female image?  There are
important rights and responsibilities involved here, and the conflicts are
obvious.  We have hardly begun to address them, much less find ways of
reconciling them.

In terms of strategies for change, there are perhaps five broad areas in which
simultaneous and coordinated activity could bring results.  Within each of
these, I will merely indicate the types of action which seem particularly
important, rather than explore the many approaches and initiatives which have
already been tried.

1.   First, there needs to be pressure from within the media themselves. 
More women must be employed - at all levels and in all types of work - in the
media, so that we do finally achieve the critical mass of female creative and
decision-making executives who could change media output.  Numbers are
important, if long-established media practices and routines are to be
challenged.  To quote the veteran American journalist, Kay Mills: 'A story
conference changes when half the participants are female ... There is indeed
security in numbers.  Women become more willing to speak up in page-one
meetings about a story they know concerns many readers' (Mills 1990, p. 349). 
There is evidence that, when they do constitute a reasonable numerical force,
women can and do make a difference.  For instance, in the United States a 1992
survey of managing editors of the largest 100 daily newspapers found that 84%
of responding editors agreed that women have made a difference, both in
defining the news, and in expanding the range of topics considered newsworthy
- women's health, family and child care, sexual harassment and discrimination,
rape and battering, homeless mothers, quality of life and other social issues
were all cited as having moved up the hierarchy of news values because of
pressure from women journalists (Marzolf 1993).  In their study of press
coverage in India during the 1980s, Ammu Joseph and Kalpana Sharma (1994)
conclude that female journalists played an important role in focusing
attention on issues of crucial importance to women:
dowry-related deaths, rape, the right to maintenance after divorce, the mis-
use of sex determination tests, and the re-emergence of sati.  But it is not
just a question of introducing 'new' topics (though they are age-old concerns
for women) on to the news agenda.  As we know from the example of war
reporting in the former Yugoslavia, women have also succeeded in changing the
way in which 'established' issues are covered.  Similarly, in the Asian
context, Joseph and Sharma note a qualitative difference in reporting of the
conflict in Sri Lanka by Indian women journalists who 'focussed on the human
tragedy unfolding in that country while also dealing with the obvious
geopolitical aspects of the ethnic strife.  By contrast, the latter was the
sole preoccupation of most of the male journalists covering the conflict' (op.
cit., p. 296).

2.   The second need is for pressure from outside the media, in the form of
consumer action and lobbying.  One of the many paradoxes of the move towards
the market-led media systems that are developing all around the world is that
in some respects it places more power in the hands of the consumer.  Not
surprisingly, this was recognised long ago in North America, where strong
media lobby groups already exist.  In Canada for instance, MediaWatch -
established in the early 1980s - has secured the removal of numerous sexist
advertisements, has worked with national broadcasters and advertising
associations to develop guidelines on gender portrayal, and has effectively
lobbied to secure a strongly worded equality clause in Canada's 1991
Broadcasting Act.  Elsewhere the Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA),
Women's Media Watch in Jamaica, and the Media Advocacy Group in India have all
made an impact with both the media and the public.  In Europe initiatives of
this sort have barely started.  In Spain the Observatorio de la Publicidad
(created in early 1994 by the Instituto de la Mujer), and in Italy the
Sportello Immagine Donna (established in 1991 by the Commissione Nazionale per
la Parita`) have begun to provide mechanisms through which complaints can be
organised and channelled.  However, these are rare examples.  Strong women's
media associations do exist in a many countries, but often their primary
purpose is to defend women's professional interests as media workers.  There
is a real need to develop monitoring and lobby groups which could organise
effective campaigns and protests on a national and - when necessary - a
regional and even a global level.

3.   The third area is media education.  It is astonishing how little the
public in general, and even media professionals themselves, understand the
subtle mechanisms which lead to patterns of gender stereotyping in media
content.  This emerged clearly from recent research by the Broadcasting
Standards Council in the United Kingdom.  For instance, they found that women
viewers had even 'no concept of the scriptwriter developing characters in a
particular way and accepted with little question the presentation of women
that they were offered' (Hargrave 1994, p. 21)  There is a great deal of talk
- particularly in academic and political circles - about the portrayal of
women in the media.  But abstract discussions about 'sexist stereotyping' and
'negative images of women' are unlikely to promote true understanding of what
is involved, much less lead to real change.  What is needed are effective,
practical workshops built around specific media examples.  In this sense, the
NOS Portrayal Department in the Netherlands is exemplary.  It was launched as
a five-year project in 1991, and has built up a unique collection of audio-
visual examples - as well as specially produced material - which are used in
training sessions and workshops with programme-makers.  Media education is a
key strategy.  The development of national and regional banks of examples and
materials, which illustrate the many ways in which gender stereotyping occurs,
would be a tremendous contribution to its success.

4.   The fourth need is for pressure from above so that, for example, media
organisations are encouraged to adopt guidelines and codes of conduct on the
fair portrayal of women.  The media in most countries already have guidelines
that govern particular aspects of their output  such as the portrayal of
violence, or the regulation of advertising.  In some countries  - for instance
Canada, the United Kingdom - certain media organisations also have guidelines
covering the ways in which women are portrayed (see Mariani 1994, for a review
of relevant European regulations).  These guidelines have been made to work,
and they could work in other organisations too.  Given the development of
transborder and global communication systems, there is also an urgent need for
regional and international codes of practice.  This is a delicate matter,
which would undoubtedly provoke immediate and vociferous objections from the
media communities.  For example, in 1995 the European Union adopted a
Resolution on the image of women and men portrayed in advertising and media. 
As a result of fierce lobbying by the media industry, the final text is very
much weaker than the initial draft.  However, it is still a useful document. 
Despite the inevitable opposition, it is important to work towards the
development of regulatory texts and codes of conduct in all countries and
regions.

5.   The final need is for international debate aimed at a reinterpretation
of 'freedom of expression' within the framework of a women's human rights
perspective, and the subsequent development of a global code of ethics based
on this new interpretation.  Such an undertaking would certainly provoke
controversy.  Cees Hamelink points out that the pursuit of democracy in world
communication has been all but abandoned because 'the gospel of privatisation
... declares that the world's resources are basically private property, that
public affairs should be regulated by private parties on free markets'
(Hamelink 1995, p. 33).  Moreover the belief that a free market guarantees the
optimal delivery of ideas and information means that - in a bizarre way - the
terms 'free market' and 'free speech' have become almost interchangeable. 
With more and more communication channels in the control of fewer and fewer
hands, it is surely time for a fundamental reinterpretation of the doctrine of
freedom of speech, and the search for a new definition of this 'freedom' which
takes full account of the contemporary global economic, information and
communication system and of women's place within it.  The 1995 report of the
World Commission on Culture and Development provides a lead here.  The
Commission points out that the airwaves and space are part of a 'global
commons' - a collective asset that belongs to all humankind, but which is at
present used free of charge by those who possess resources and technology.  It
goes on to suggest that 'the time may have come for commercial regional or
international satellite radio and television interests which now use the
global commons free of charge to contribute to the financing of a more plural
media system' (World Commission on Culture and Development 1995, p. 278).


In Conclusion

The World Commission on Culture and Development makes a number of very
concrete proposals aimed at 'enhancing access, diversity and competition' in
the international media system (op. cit., pp. 278-281, emphasis added).  But
its view of  'competition' is a radical one, whose starting point is human and
cultural diversity, rather than financial markets.  Radical as it is, this
approach offers women more hope than the information superhighways of the
Global Information Infrastructure extolled by Vice President Al Gore.  The
Vice President, it will be remembered, envisions 'a new Athenian Age of
democracy forged in the fora the GII will create'.  But the Vice President
seems to have forgotten that Athenian democracy did not extend its membership
to women.  



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