Social Science / Media Essay

Arab Women in Media

The Media does indeed have a strong effect on humans who are subconsciously embracing and internalizing textually or graphically portrayed views, values and beliefs. People do not know how much attractive or explicit messages conveyed through a plethora of media exploit them. Television, shows, magazines, publications, and radio commercials all try to sell specific products to people, so citizens are also buying into — maybe without fully realizing it — attitudes and beliefs which control their behavior, and also their thought. Newspapers, radio, and television deliver a multitude of articles and viewpoints on issues affecting women and their representation.

Broader freedom of speech and expression and the advancement of human rights affect all public life domains in the Arab world.

Traditionally, women's empowerment deficiency was not just a retribution and equity issue, but a leading cause of the underdevelopment of the Arab world. “The use of the capacity of Arab women through economic and political participation remains the smallest globally in analytical terms as demonstrated by the low percentage of women in cabinets, the workforce, and parliaments and by the trend towards feminizing unemployment.”

These days, Arab women turn to the media as the means of empowerment, as a means of education that conquers distance and time barriers, and also as an instrument to accelerate their development and progress in their societies.

The current information innovations have made it possible for women in the Arab world to be considered equal to men in their capacity to investigate, discuss, present and report different issues. They aided women's connections and channels for effective interaction and faster sharing of information and resources. While, in the world, women groups are gradually utilizing electronic media to campaign and create unity.

There is no denying that increasing technological development has strengthened women's role in the Arab media but, the question posed is not if the growing role of women in Arab media has resulted in lower accessibility and presentation of women's information publicly. Rather, the issue is if this has led to a substantive shift in the region's social and political status of women.

Positive Models and Movements

Across the Arab world, patriarchal representations of women as soft, docile and submissive persist. Such misrepresentations have continued to be confirmed in different ways by the Arab press and have, therefore, served to sustain and promote them. Such misleading perceptions are more troubling given today's objective evidence of women's roles and standing in the world. The statistics indicate that women makeup one-third of the world's workforce and serve two-thirds of total hours worked. The figures further indicate that women receive just 10% of the wealth and own only 1% of the property of the country.

Women's work and involvement in development and production are not properly recognized; besides, they are not sufficiently rewarded for their financial independence. The ongoing gender gap results from several cultural and other causes including the confusion and misinterpretation of Islam, if not because of it. Nowadays, most people play a role in maintaining this false image by blindly upholding traditions and customs that undermine females compared to their male equivalent.

Aisha, the wife of the Prophet's history is evidence that women can have more experience than men and be the instructor of experts and scholars. Aisha also showed that men and women can be motivated by a woman thereby offering motivation and leadership. Her experience is also evidence that women can be their husband's source of wisdom as well as pleasure happiness and warmth. Aisha's remarks are discussed in literature departments; her constitutional proclamations are examined in law schools, and teachers and students in Islamic culture study and research her collected works.

But you don't have to travel back to the Islamic era and Aisha's situation for proof of what women can do. Today's Arab world is full of signs of women's revolution and development. The prevalence of groups that facilitate women's involvement and enhance their political, economic, and social roles can be seen as clear proof of this.

For example, the U.S. State Department started carrying out a $10 million federal program in Iraq where several non-profit organizations help thousands of Iraqi women perform different functions in democratic life by coaching them in entrepreneurship, advocacy, political leadership, and organization.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in Lebanon seeks to eliminate rules, customs and traditions meant to or otherwise result in discrimination based on gender.

We should look to Saudi Arabia for the last instance, where the Nahda Charitable Society for Women advocates for women's empowerment under Islamic law.

The commonness of Offensive Stereotyping

The documentation on portraying women in Arab media is very minimal, as per the Arab Women Development Survey. Yet the 23 experiments carried out to assess the image of women presented in the Arab press have produced remarkable results. Most studies, particularly those carried out on the TV and radio sector, focused solely on evaluating the quality of the broadcasts, such as films and TV series, or focused on the perception of women in commercials and video clips, ignoring other essential programs such as political talk shows, newscasts, documentaries, and social programs.

Research showed that 78.68% of women's photographs were derogatory. Studies on the representation of women by the Arab press have mainly focused on the psychological dimensions of their depiction. The use of female bodies as physical objects or as a means for sexual excitement is the main negative representation used in the Arab press, accompanied by a photo of females who are somehow unethical. Other negative images include portraying women as illiterate, incompetent, materialistic, opportunistic, powerless, or dependent.

Historically, women have had a great deal of media success in the struggle against imperialism, especially in Morocco, Algeria, and Egypt. The media were also a great tool for women to raise awareness of their political rights and boost their standing in the country if properly managed.

Generally, Arab media has shed women in a negative light. By concentrating on women's primary role in cosmetics, cooking, and gossip, the Arab media probably inadvertently described them as excessively sentimental and, thereforeArab Women in Media, unable to think and make judgments rationally. The time for the media to consider how to be part of the answer instead of contributing to the issue of misrepresenting women and perpetuating their unmerited 2nd-class status is long overdue.

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