The Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies in collaboration with the European Parliament office in Cyprus organized an interactive workshop on the role of media in promoting gender equality, on Monday 14.9.15. Journalists, media professionals, as well as representatives of the Ombudsman’s office joined the workshop.
The European Parliament Takis Hadjigeorgiou, Cypriot MEP of the European United Left, in his video message spoke of the “dark side of gender equality”. He criticized the way the media report violence against women and other forms of human rights violations. He said that the media’s role is to present a broader and more critical analysis of such social issues.. Mr. Hadjigeorgiou highlighted the efforts made by the European Parliament in general on gender equality issues while citing his own previous experience of the profession of journalism, suggesting ways and methods to overcome barriers to gender balanced reporting. Importantly, Mr. Hadjigeorgiou stressed the need for the adoption of positive action measures, including quotas, to overcome inequality between women and men.
In her introductory speech, Alexandra Attalides, Press Attaché of the European Parliament Office in Cyprus said that, “the workshop serves the overall aim of strengthening the capacity of journalists to promote a more balanced and non-stereotypical portrayal of women and men in the media”. She referred extensively to EP decisions on equality between women and men, and presented data and best practice examples from other EU Member States.
The Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP)
Maria Angeli, Project Coordinator at MIGS presented the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), an international research project that takes place every five years that systematically maps the representation and portrayal of women and men in the news media worldwide. She said that according to the latest GMMP results, women are seriously underrepresented in the news media globally.
According to the GMMP 2010, there are four types of gender stereotypes portrayed in the media. "The “clear stereotype” refers to the portrayal of women in the news as victims or sex objects and men as strong leaders." As an example of the clear stereotype in the media she mentioned the focus on female physical beauty in the world of sports, pointing out that "the media in many countries cover women’s sport only to focus on their physical characteristics rather than their accomplishments. However, focusing only on physical beauty portrays a completely passive female sexuality and often has clear references to pornography.”
The second category of stereotypes is “subtle stereotypes which are not as obvious but that "undermine the status of a woman in an indirect and hidden way". She cited as an example the practice of referring to women in politics with their first name while using last names for male politicians which has the indirect effect of trivializing women’s role in politics.
A third category of stereotype is that of the “missed opportunity" which refers to news coverage that lacks a critical analysis from a gender perspective. She cited the example of reporting of incidents of violence against women that are limited to descriptive narration of events without highlighting the broader social phenomenon of violence against women.
Finally, Maria Angeli praised the role of journalists and the media "that challenge gendered stereotypes, promoting a gender balance in the news, focusing on gender inequality and promote alternative representations of gender."
During the discussion that followed, journalist Marios Demetriou suggested that "In order to maximise the impact of the work of women’s rights NGOs it is important to develop good relationships with the chief editors and owners of media houses”. He pointed out that many journalists in Cyprus that cover human rights issues and NGO activities are often viewed with suspicion and face resistance from chief editors. “I would suggest to the representatives of MIGS, and any other non-governmental organization, who wants to act, as a pillar of change, to arrange meetings with the board members of media houses. Get to know personally those who decide and determine policies in the media and explain your goals, aims and ideas….this would be the first step to make the media more open to gender equality and human rights issues. "
In his intervention journalist George Pavlides also mentioned as a good practice the need to have more women experts on issues where they are traditionally underrepresented such as the “Cyprus problem” and the economic crisis. He also stressed the need to raise awareness on gender equality issues among chief editors. Finally, he said that journalists have a responsibility when reporting not to perpetuate stereotypes by diversifying their news sources. However, he also stressed that “The media can challenge stereotypes only to a certain extent… only the diversification of economic conditions will bring real change.”
The workshop was covered extensively by the journalists and media professionals that participated. See articles hereunder Gender and Media category.