Media bias in the global south

Gender and media misrepresentation in the global south

FRIDAY FILE: In the struggle for gender equality, the media should a powerful ally. Unfortunately it strongly reinforces the status quo, particularly in the Global South.

By Kathambi Kinoti

Fifteen years after the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) was adopted, women’s voices are still largely absent from the mainstream media. Recognising the powerful role of the media in shaping perspectives, the BPfA makes comprehensive recommendations to improve the visibility and voice of women and promote balanced and non-stereotypical portrayals of women. Some of the recommendations are:

  • To change the continued projection of negative and degrading images of women in programming.
  • To enhance women’s skills, knowledge and access to information technology in order to improve their ability to combat negative portrayals of women.
  • To mainstream gender in media programming and policy.

Slow progress

A media monitoring study carried out in twelve southern African countries found that stereotypes abound and are actively promoted by the media. The report’s authors write: “Potentially having a huge role to play in this ‘liberation of the mind,’ the media has more often than not been part of the problem rather than of the solution.” Women are typically portrayed by the press as sex objects, temptresses, mothers or wives. When newspapers, radio or television stations need an expert on a subject, they are less likely to call upon a woman. The study found that women politicians, who on average formed 18 percent of the region’s parliaments, were rarely news sources, being quoted only 8 percent of the time.

And –

The majority of workers in the media at all levels are still men whether they be reporters or decision makers. The only area in which women achieve a level of parity is as television presenters – but they have an expiry date; they are usually aged 34 or below. Women over the age of 35 become invisible in the media according to the southern Africa study and the GMMP findings. This reinforces stereotypes about young women’s desirability and older women’s lack of it, something that does not affect male presenters on the same levels.

The voice and visibility of female journalists has improved somewhat since the BPfA. However they are more likely to be assigned “soft” news reporting: the arts, entertainment and lifestyle, while “hard” news – politics, the economy, government – remains a largely male domain. The figures reported by the GMMP make a solid case for increasing the numbers and influence of women in the media. Female journalists are more likely to feature female subjects and to rely on female experts than are male journalists. They are also more likely to consider a gender dimension to stories that would otherwise be gender-blind.

Recommendations –

The GMMP report makes a number of recommendations that urge a greater leading role for civil society in promoting positive representations of women in the media. Some of these are:

  • Compile regional directories of women experts on diverse thematic issues. Women are typically portrayed as being experts only on gender equality, beauty, fashion and home-making, but in reality, they are present in all other fields of human endeavour and should be recognised as such.
  • Create gender and media curricula in journalism schools. Gender and women’s rights awareness should be infused into all aspects of journalists’ work, so that women’s empowerment is not only covered in special interest stories but is an issue that is understood thoroughly and is actively promoted.
  • Media decision-makers should receive gender-awareness training that challenges the deeply ingrained – and often unconscious – biases against women.
  • Adopt and apply policies on gender parity in the media. There needs to be an equal presence of men and women at all levels from reporters to management.
  • Support women in the media by offering them training and visibility.
  • Establish gender-sensitive media codes of practice that hold media houses accountable for their reporting. It is unethical for them to continue to peddle skewed representations of women.
  • Encourage media monitoring by civil society organisations.

Lifestyles of the rich and famous…pedophiles

Roman Polanski, as writer Conchita Sarnoff declares, is not the only rich pedophile walking away with a slap on the wrist.

Billionaire pedophile goes free

Film director Roman Polanski is not the only convicted pedophile to walk free this month and return to a life of privilege. On Wednesday, hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein completes his one-year house arrest in Palm Beach, which has been even less arduous than Polanski’s time at a Swiss ski chalet.

Here’s what he did:

In March 2005, Reiter’s department, acting on a complaint from the Florida parents of a 14-year-old girl, launched an investigation that would eventually uncover a pattern of predatory behavior stretching back years and spanning several continents, knowingly enabled by Epstein’s associates and employees. Two or three times a day, whenever Epstein was in Palm Beach, a teenage girl would be brought to the mansion on El Brillo Way. (“The younger the better,” he instructed Haley Robson, a local teenager who was paid to bring other girls to the house, and who declared, on a police tape, that she was “like a Heidi Fleiss,” the infamous California madam.) Advised that she would be giving a “massage,” the girl was then pressured to remove her clothes, submit to fondling and a large vibrator, and sometimes lured into more invasive sexual contact. Each girl was paid $200 or more, depending on how far things went, by house manager Alfredo Rodriguez, who was instructed always to have $2,000 cash on hand.

The Palm Beach Police Department identified 17 local girls who had contact with Epstein before the age of consent; the youngest was 14, and many were younger than 16. And that was just at one of Epstein’s many homes around the world—he also owns property in New York, Santa Fe, Paris, London, and the Caribbean. Subsequent investigation by the FBI, reaching as far back as 2001, indentified roughly 40 victims, not counting Nadia Marcinkova, whom Epstein referred to  as his “Yugoslavian sex slave” because he had imported her from the Balkans at age 14. Now 24, Marcinkova became a member of the household and is alleged to have participated in the sexual contact with underage girls.

What’s chance got to do with it?

Chance encounter led to artist’s slaying in Montgomery, MD, authorities say

One of the most frustrating issues to those of  us interested in gender-based violence is to read media accounts that gloss over, or worse, ignore the issue of gender and, in particular, violence directed at women and girls. Today’s article in the Washington Post (following up on this week’s missed opportunity in the HIV gel article) declares a “chance encounter” led to a women being beat and stabbed (with scissors) by a man she knew. In fairness, it says the authorities claimed this (was it their choice of words? is it the media’s responsibility to realize it was gender and not chance – just as it was skin color and not injustice that claimed the lives of African Americans?).

While it states Williams, (I hate to say this but) the “alleged” killer, didn’t know she was coming (how did they know this? did he say it? was it the truth?), he did, in fact, know her and was present in the studio. Had a man walked in would he have done the same thing? This is the key question. If this was a racially-motivated or even a homophobic-motivated crime, society would be asking the SAME QUESTION. Once we start asking ourselves if gender was an issue, we’ll be able to detect gender-based violence. Targeting women solely because of their gender is a hate crime, discrimination, and mysogynist. Only when we become aware of gender-based violence will we be able to work towards preventing it. The next question is, how many murders do we have to witness before we gain this awareness?

Here was another story this week –

Suspect in Maryland could be serial killer

Twice this guy is suspected of killing a mother and daughter. Does anyone question why he’s targeting mothers and daughters and not fathers and sons or fathers and daughters?

Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton said the same suspect may be responsible for the slaying of another Maryland mother and daughter, and also is being investigated for homicides in other states.

The unnamed man, currently held on weapons and sex charges, holds two master’s degrees.

Hylton said he is well read and very familiar with law enforcement.

He predicted the man will be remembered as “one of America’s most infamous killers.”

He will be remembered. But his victims will not. Nor will many be able to understand that their gender was their risk factor, and that, ignored, it will allow more women and girls to be killed by men in senseless, tortuous deaths.

And then there was this one…

Family finds body of missing mother Jenna Lord

“Them cops didn’t find nothing — not a damn thing,” Lord’s grandfather, Vincent Caruso, told The Philadelphia Daily News.

From the beginning, the family had complained that police in Camden, Collingdale, Pa., and Collingswood, N.J., had been reluctant to search for Lord because of her rough past.

The police didn’t even want to look for her – she wasn’t quite “worth” looking for, was she? Jack the Ripper was able to terrorize London because he was, after all, killing the “dregs” of society – prostitutes – and getting away with it. To this day, serial killers often target prostitutes because they know society might even appreciate ridding it of such “evil” women (murder, in fact, is the number one cause of death for prostitutes). Having said this, society has pimps, drug dealers, gang members – and I’ve yet to see serial killers try to wipe out these guys. So again, we see the gender component at work.

Try this exercise. Fill in the blank, replacing Jenna Lord as the victim. In which scenario would society have more outrage?

Two (white men) followed  ___________, killed ____________, and set __________ on fire.

Answer choices:

 (a) the black couple          (b) the gay man          (c)  an Amish person

Any of these choice would indicate the killers were targeting people for their race, sexuality or lifestyle and the media would highlight this. But targeting random females – for no apparent reason – other than they are women – gets virtually ignored. It’s insane.

1.5 to 3 million women are killed by men each year. Often, the men are known to the women. Other times, they are not – they are just women – and that’s all it takes.

Believe women

It was either last night or the night before that Access Hollywood had the results of a poll (AHNation) they had taken (I have no idea of the size of this poll and I do not in any way consider it to be scientific – just interesting). They had polled viewers to see if they believed Oksana broke her own teeth in order to set up Mel Gibson or if Mel Gibson really did it. A whopping 46% of viewers didn’t believe Oksana’s story.

As much as I write about women’s credibility, I was surprised people actually thought she broke her own teeth. (A dentist confirmed that was impossible to do.) And…maybe even more surprising, Billy Bush thought it was due to anti-Russian sentiment. Are you kidding me?!

False allegations against beheaded wife

I can’t get the link to Buffalo News to work, so I’m copying the entire article. Notice when men make false allegations, the story obscures this, but when women make false allegations it is made very clear. This man stabbed and beheaded his wife and now falsely accuses her of being the abuser in the marriage.  While the woman is dead, the story’s slant is still written differently than it would if the genders were reversed. Notice too how he is using a lot of the Men’s Rights/Father’s Rights rhetoric – about how the police laughed at him, about the advocates “blaming the victim,” etc. We do need to take abuse against males seriously, but abusers will often manipulate people into thinking/believing they are the ones that have been wronged, when, in fact, the opposite is true. And, my final point would be – notice how the system failed her. She did everything she was “supposed” to do – get restraining orders, gather evidence, report her fear, leave him…

Facing murder charge, he blames slain wife

By Sandra Tan
News Staff Reporter

Updated: July 18, 2010, 8:54 am / 41 comments
Published: July 18, 2010, 8:50 am

 

Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan, the Orchard Park man charged in the stabbing and decapitation of his wife in February 2009, said last week that he is an honest man prepared to speak the truth.
And the truth, he said, is that he is the real victim.
Contrary to the pile of evidence and witness corroboration that he mentally tormented and physically beat his wife over a period of years, he said, the truth is that he was the one “emotionally tortured” by his outwardly kind and sweet-natured wife, Aasiya Zubair Hassan.
Few believe him, however.
“It, to me, sounds like a desperate attempt by a person who does not have a credible defense,” said Suzanne Tomkins, the clinical professor at the University at Buffalo Law School who runs a domestic violence law clinic.
In brief conversations with The News at the Erie County Holding Center last week, Hassan said that immediately after his wife was killed, he could have fled the country.
“I could have gone to Toronto, taken a direct flight to Pakistan, and I speak the language fluently,” he said.
Instead, he said he chose to turn himself in and adhere to Gandhi’s principle of “satyagraha” — to seek the truth without selfish interests.
The former banker and head of an Islam-oriented cable network faces a murder trial in September. Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk recently ruled that Hassan’s statement from Feb. 12, 2009, that he just killed his wife, is admissible as evidence.
Hassan has spared no effort in promoting his own version of events and taking control of his own case. He has sent The News a dozen handwritten letters — two under the false authorship of his mother — and fired two of his lawyers since his incarceration.
A News reporter met with Hassan and discussed the possibility of conducting an extensive interview with him in the future, in the presence of his lawyer.
Hassan said he would agree to an extended interview on two main conditions: That he determines when and where the story would run and that he would be the only person interviewed for it.
The Buffalo News refused those terms, quoting instead from last week’s meetings and his letters.
Hassan has never publicly denied killing his wife. Instead, he has suggested he will build his court defense on the grounds that as a long-abused spouse, he finally snapped and killed his wife in a desperate bid to end the psychological abuse inflicted upon him.
He stated last week that in cases where battered women kill their abuser, they “overkill” them — shooting the abuser five times instead of once, for example. And they rarely try to run or hide after the homicide, he said, clearly attempting to draw parallels to his own case.
Police have accused Hassan of repeatly stabbing, then beheading his wife after meeting with her alone in their Orchard Park television studio.
Aasiya had filed for divorce a week before her death and told others she feared for her safety. She had filed multiple police complaints, received orders of protection, produced photos of her injuries, and signed an extensive divorce affidavit attesting to her trauma. Her husband was also investigated by Child Protective Services.
Hassan, however, contends he is the one who suffered immense psychological abuse and humiliation during his seven-year marriage to a wife who publicly nurtured a false image as a kinder and more sympathetic woman.
“All abuse happens behind closed doors, thus NO witnesses,” Hassan stated in his most recent letter. “All abuse is psychological, emotional wounds are not visible, thus NO evidence. … What a perfect crime! Only the poorly trained abusers use physical violence and get caught, for physical abuse leaves behind evidence.”
Domestic violence advocates are unimpressed by Hassan’s defense.
And those who work locally with abusers and victims also say it’s not uncommon for a perpetrator to assume the opposite role.
Greg White, program director for Catholic Charities Domestic Violence for Men, said he’s been involved with the program since 1988 and routinely sees instances where men charged with a domestic violence crime claim to be abused.
“We do see men … that even though they are mandated to us through the criminal justice system and have been found to be guilty to some degree, still claim to be victims themselves,” White said. “Whether that’s true or not, that is often a tactic men use in the program to not take responsibility.”
Speaking in a polite and amiable tone, Hassan said he’s currently housed in a medical ward at the Erie County Holding Center and likes the “dormitory-style” setting and the food.
Despite a letter to The News last month complaining at length about his treatment at the Holding Center, he told a reporter last week, “Compared to the emotional torture I lived with in my seven years of marriage, this place is paradise.”

Says police laughed at him

Many of Hassan’s letters include hand-drawn charts chronicling the “spiral of abuse” and other abuse statistics and theories, or articles about battered men.
He stated that he repeatedly tried to get his wife to face the fact that she needed psychological help, without success, and that his claims of abuse were dismissed by local domestic violence victim advocates because he was a man subjected to “sexist ideology.”
“Anytime I sought outside help, I got falsely accused of sexual misconduct or physical abuse — more than 12+ police reports, each in response to my reaching out for help from counselors, my family or her family,” he stated.
He said he sought help from more than two dozen domestic violence professionals in Erie County but was told he was “blaming the victim,” or “in denial.” He said last week that when he told an Orchard Park police officer at his home in 2006 that his wife was abusing him, the officer laughed in his face.
But those familiar with the Hassan case say Hassan’s profile fits all the markers for an abuser, not a victim.
In his defense, Hassan said he has more than 2,000 e-mails between himself and his wife dating back to 2000 showing Aasiya to be an emotionally unstable, abusive and manipulative woman who came from a troubled family. He offered to share some of the e-mails if The News agreed to his terms.
Aasiya stated in her divorce papers that in December 2007, when a child-neglect proceeding was pending against Hassan, he forced her to tell him her e-mail password, then logged into her account and sent out messages pretending to be her.
Hassan denied the charge, saying that if he was capable of forcing his wife to hand over her e-mail account password, why wasn’t he able to require her to get the psychological counseling that experts “agreed” she needed during their years of marriage?

Recurring theme

He also denied allegations that he not only abused Aasiya, his third wife, but also his second wife by arranged marriage, Sadia Hussain Hassan. They divorced after 13 months with the intervention of the Muslim community in Rochester.
He said he took out an order of protection against his second wife and eventually divorced her because she, too, was abusing him, not the other way around.
“I moved out of home with Sadia Hussain due to her extreme abuse,” he wrote. “She continued her abuse with letters to M&T Bank CEO [Hassan’s former employer]. The bank helped me get a protection order against her. And the court granted me divorce on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment by Sadia.”
Those who assisted with his second wife’s divorce said that while Hassan attempted to force Sadia to say she abused him in divorce proceedings by holding her immigration status over her, she refused.
stan@buffnews.com

Believe women

Here’s an account of a rape in Salon:

Why didn’t I scream when I was raped?

Towards the end of the story, you’ll find this paragraph:

Eventually, more than three decades after the crime took place, a long investigation would lead the police to discover something that denial and disbelief had not allowed them to see back then: This man attacked 44 girls from 1970 and 1973.

Had the community believed these girls (her & her sister were raped) and shown commitment, perhaps these senseless rapes – 44 of them – could have been prevented.

Rape is not in the hands of women (and men) to prevent. It is in the hands of communities – to show commitment to preventing violence, to believe victims, to thoroughly investigate claims, and to both prevent and prosecute criminal acts.