Open Access
UNESCO and AU's Media and Information Literacy Course


Open Access
UNESCO and AU's Media and Information Literacy Course

Unit 6 - Representations of Gender in the Media, Books, on the Internet and in History


A 1950s poster with a woman voting and a man sleeping under a tree "The woman who votes has outdone the man who didn't"Despite the efforts of many people around the world in the years since the introduction of the United Nations’ “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” in 1948, half the human race -- girls and women -- struggle every day for freedom of movement, thought, and speech; access to quality education; personal security; and their right to participate fully in social and political life.  

Since the beginning of the 1900s there have been three waves of thinking about women’s empowerment. The first wave was the demand for the right to vote, which women began to gain in the early twentieth century. The second wave grew in the 1960s; it was concerned with broader issues that restricted women’s freedoms. These included concerns over the images of women in advertising and media, equal pay for equal work, and limited career opportunities. The third wave looked more deeply into the question of gender roles for all people and how these roles perpetuate inequality and limit individual choice and expression.The media are important transmitters for the values, attitudes and beliefs in society. They reflect and reinforce ideas and opinions for most people around the world. Unfortunately most of the media workforce is male, including the people who make the decisions. This inequity means that women’s issues and perspectives are not included to the extent they should be in the media; and when women’s issues are included, they often suffer from a male bias.

The Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), the largest international source of information about women and media, tells us that, in traditional media in 2010, only 24% of news subjects were women, only 37% of reporters were female, and only 13% of all news stories focused on women. On the Internet, 23% of news subjects were female, although 36% of stories were written by women. Gender stereotypes were reinforced in 42% of the stories. Male reporters addressed the full range of subjects, while female reporters tended to address subjects about women. Women being interviewed by the media were seldom chosen as professionals, but were interviewed, as members of the general public. Men tended to be interviewed as experts.[1]

One of the best ways to rectify this situation is to give more women the education they need in order to work in the media. If media are to fulfill their historical function in democratic societies, they must reflect the diversity of the population they serve, which includes language, religion, race, ethnicity, and gender. Journalists have a crucial role to play in stimulating public discussion on issues of gender equality and gender-based stereotypes. And citizens have a responsibility to make sure that the media do this ethically and with sensitivity.

Check out the Course Glossary.

Who Makes the News? The Global Media Monitoring Project. 2010.


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