04 September 2012 Written by  Medhanit Adamu and Sofanit Mekonnen

Gender in the Media and Information Technology

Gender and Media: Media is one of the most important socializing agents. As millions of lives are being conditioned and shaped by what is heard on the radio, what is viewed on television, video and cinema films; what is read in print and what is seen on the stage. Media transmit values and attitudes that highly affect the attitude and behavior of individuals. The issue of women and media can be looked at from three perspectives: women’s portrayal, the content, and women as media consumers. The relationship between consumers and their decision making capacity, impacts on portrayal. It is a universal phenomenon that women and men are portrayed in stereotypical ways, more intensified in many developing countries. As Andersen (1988) indicated, not only are women and men cast in traditional roles, but also are omitted from roles that portray them in a variety of social context. Women tend to be portrayed in roles in which they are trivialized, condemned, or narrowly defined, resulting in the "symbolic annihilation" of women by the media. Men on the other hand, are usually depicted in high-status jobs in which they dominate women. Women are usually portrayed doing domestic chores, or appearing as sex objects and sometimes, they are presented to be selfish and cruel.

 

Many women do not receive information from the media.  Information is at the heart of education; information is the basis of health; information defines every aspect of production, distribution and exchange; and information defines social relationship at all levels. These days there is a fast rate of information transmission and exchange; and this is made possible because of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs). ICTs are growing at a faster rate than any other technology and affecting every aspect of people’s lives. There is no doubt that such advances present tremendous opportunities for human development. ICTs have the potential to reduce poverty, empower people and facilitate the democratization process. However, it can also widen the gaps between the haves and the have-nots and between women and men. The voices and concerns of women with low or no incomes, and with limited access to education, to public institutions, and to positions of decision-making risk being further marginalized.

There are a number of constraints women encounter in accessing information, especially accessing information using ICTs. According to (Dominguez, 2001), Ethiopian women share similar constraints in accessing ICTs with women in other African countries. These include low literacy, limited access to resources and decision-making, limited or no access to computers, limited telecommunication infrastructure, unreliable telephone line, high cost of telephone calls, and lack of time. Women who have access usually use ICTs for work purposes, and not for personal growth. Even in their work women's utilization of ICTs is often limited to using e-mails. However, considering the important role ICTs play in the provision of information and reducing poverty some efforts need to be made to create access. The World space satellite radio network does not at this stage seem to assist rural Ethiopian women, because there is a missing technological link between the satellite and the rural village. Further, the initial cost of the receiver and the low rural electricity coverage and high bill is beyond the reach of the majority of Ethiopians. Ethiopian women are excluded even from conventional information sources. A good example here is the case of agricultural extension programs, where information is almost wholly transmitted to men, although women contribute substantially to agricultural production. The formation of the Ethiopian Media Women Association (EMWA), with the objectives of training and exchanging experience for capacity building is an attempt to address problems of gender and the media. Ethiopia is also a member of the East African Media women Association (EAMWA).

More in this category: « Gender socialization