Nigerian Media and Gender Representation
Elizabeth Bukar (Maiduguri)
What is Media?
According to Asemah (2011), media are channels or technological devices through which messages are conveyed to a large and heterogeneous audience. They are the vehicles that are used for conveying messages from a source to a large destination. The author clarifies further that, mass media are the devices for moving messages across distance or time to accomplish mass communication. Also, it is important to note that these channels (mass media) are broadly categorised into two groups. These include the print media, which consist of newspapers, magazines, books, journals and other documented means of information dissemination. The electronic media, which are also divided into two groups, such as the broadcast and the new or social media are made up of the second category of the mass media. Radio and television are the two channels that made up the broadcast media. The print and broadcast media are the categories of mass media often called the “traditional,” “conventional” or “mainstream”media.
Roles of media
Brief History of Nigerian Media
The history of Nigerian Media can be traced to the time when Reverend Henry Townsend established the first newspaper in Nigeria in 1859. The paper was published in Yoruba and was called “Iwe irohin Fun Awon Ara Egba Ati Yoruba”. Meaning the newspaper in Yoruba for the Egba and Yoruba people.
It was printed in Ibadan with the objective of inculcating reading habit among people.
Subsequently, the Eastern Nigeria established the Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Service (ENBS) in 1960 at Enugu. While the Northern Nigeria established the Radio-Television Kaduna, in 1962.
Likewise, the Three(3) broadcast stations later metamorphosed into the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) in 1977, with stations covering the Six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.
What is Gender?
According to Sharon (1995), gender means the socially or culturally constructed perceptions, expectations, and evaluations based on the differences between male and female.
Similarly, according to Okoro (2005), the term gender is used to describe those characteristics of men and women, which are socially determined in contrast to those which are biologically determined. These differences are reflected in roles, responsibilities, access to resources, constraints, opportunities, needs, perceptions and views held by both men and women.
However, Gentry (2001), states that gender is a system of roles and relationship between women and men that are determined not biologically but in the social, political and economic context.
What then is Media and Gender Representation?
Media and Gender Representation refers to the relationship between media and gender, and how representations of different genders created for and by mass media.
Female Stereotypes and Models
According to Martins (2000), stereotypes are those widely held beliefs about a specific group of people. Stereotypes are usually based on prejudice which can be detrimental, especially if they are negative.
A critical look at the models assigned to women in advertisements reveals that female roles are largely to domesticity. The advertisements on OMO detergent, Dettol Soap, JIK bleaching agent and a host of other products portray women as major actors who do the cleaning, washing etc.
Furthermore, the pattern of activities in Newspapers has continued to reveal the imbalance in male and female representation in mass media advert programmes. Many of them reveal a predominance of male images over that of the female, except for products such as house cleaning agents, sanitary products, washing powders and some luxury goods targetted at men which need an element of sex appeal added to them.
However, the underrepresention of women is so visible in many radio stations, disc jockeys are still dominated by the males.
A critical assessment of beats assigned to journalists reveals that female reporters are mostly asked to cover stories such as fashion and beauty.
Female Representations in the Media
Female representation in the Media has been a recurrent issue of mass communication studies in the recent past. From advertisements to films, television to radio programmes, newspaper to magazine coverage, women have really not been given the proper and adequate representation they deserve.
In Nigeria, women are marginalised in terms of how much, how often and in what ways they are represented in media stories and programmes. Stories about women and their contributions to development hardly make headlines.
According to Oyebanji (2004), when women are featured in media stories and programmes, they are wives of government officials or political appointees.
Media Representations of Men
Early gender-oriented studies in the Media conducted through a feminist tens in order to examine women’s relative position to men, found what they termed “a message environment of male domination”.
According to Neuedorf (2002), there is a clear case of reports about men out numbering that of women with male heavily represented in sheer numbers and routinely given more important roles and sex stereotyping.
A pioneer study of media representation of men by Askew and Ross (2016), reported that most of the male heroes in comics and on television, whether goodies or baddies, are violent.
Men on Movies
A host of Nigerian movies have been observed to carry story lines where men are portrayed as irresponsible and mean. Example of such movies include: SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, made in 2006, is a film about a man who marries a rich young woman. The major male character besides having an affair with another woman conspires with the same mistress to murder his wife.
The movie depicts the meanness of the major male actor, yet his wife was having an affair with his friend.
Gender Digital Divide
This refers to the differences between men and women in terms of access to computers and to internet.
According to Wilson (2009), men far outnumber women in most actual applications in technology and leisure activities ( Software, music, movies, games, sports) while women outnumber men in information searches about health, education and activities for family and care.
Another gender gap exists with regards to computer and internet skills. Using data from Community Survey of ICT use in households by individuals (2017). It shows that the difference between men and women are small when it comes to more simple and frequent tasks (Copying folders, cutting, and pasting in a document using search engines, sending emails with files).
ICTs for gender equality should be enacted
Launching specific programmes in cooperation with educational institutions to bring more girls and young women to ICTs.
According to Morley (2007), gender mainstreaming is a strategy that claims to make women’s and men’s experiences an integral dimension in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes.
Gender mainstreaming in journalism education
To mainstream gender in journalism, it seems logical that gender should be mainstreamed in journalism education first.
To sum it up, there is a clear imbalance in the representation of both gender groups in Nigerian media. This is obviously expected since men occupy most of the important public positions, while there is an underrepresentation of women as they involved more in the private and domesticated spheres of life.
There is also great deal of underrepresentation in photographs compared to those women. While photographs of men appear more in front and inside pages where important stories occupy, while that of women will be on pages where fashion, culture, or other entertainment issues are published which are obviously not the front pages.
It is the duties of Nigerian journalists to encourage women to tell their stories and make them know that stories about them are of relevance.
There is the need to ensure gender-sensitive journalism, gender sensitivity in terms of sources, context, and language used in writing the stories.
More space and airtime should be allocated to women-related issues.
Elizabeth Bukar, a-300 level student writes from the Department of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri, Borno State.