10 فروردین 1394

Media can narrow or widen gender gap

30 March 2015

Translated by:Mehrdad Safa

Khabarnegaran.info – Sogand Serafat: Iranian media are powerful enough to promote women’s education and close the gender gap and in a country ranked 139th out of 149 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index. Conversely, they can use their power to perpetuate reactionary views towards women and limit their role to mothering and managing the household. This was a sketch of the Women and Media Symposium, held on March 8, 2015, on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

The Institute of Humanities hosted the symposium jointly organized by Andisheh-ye Zan Institute, Iranian Association of Cultural Studies and Communications, and Media School of University of Applied Science and Technology.

Potential lies in special dailies and editions on women

Badrossadat Mofidi, General Secretary of Iranian Journalists Association, spoke at the symposium: “Zan daily newspaper was received with a warm welcome when launched by Faezeh Hashemi [daughter of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani]. This underlines the fact that a great potential lies in special newspapers and editions on women.”

“One might question why women should be given a special attention? It is the oppression against women and gender inequalities throughout the history that necessitates launching of women newspapers and media, or even radio and television channels,” she explained.

The generation gap, Mofidi believes, will ultimately close if all four agents – government, civil societies and political organizations, media, and women themselves – fulfil their duties properly.

“Much of our focus should be given to media so gender inequalities are minimized,” she stressed.

Mofidi then expressed her ideas about the role of media: “Media must be able to edify women about life skills and empower them to take part in social life. Media can portray successful women managers,”

Weak presence of women in history of Iranian media

University professor Hadi Khaniki presented a historical view on women’s presence in the media. “Speaking of women’s presence in the media, a dark bitter image comes to the mind, which is entrenched, like many other societies, in a male-dominated society,” he said.

“The question is whether it is a very bitter image or a very bitter presence? If the image is bitter, it is all about media. We have only had male narratives of history. But if the presence is bitter, we should identify the factors behind the weak role of women’s presence.”

“It took 76 years for a women’s magazine – Danesh – to be born after the publication of the first newspaper in Iran,” Khaniki noted, “Women’s presence in Iranian publications is missing for many years.”

“During all these 76 years, women had been seen as housewives. Yet, Danesh magazine reemphasizes teachings of housekeeping and child rearing. The women’s presence in Danesh is not sociopolitical, rather they are portrayed as ones who bring peace into houses.”

Family magazines offer nothing to women

University professor Sedigheh Babran revealed parts of her findings on Persian family magazines. “Family magazines have the highest circulation in Iran because of their popular nature. But how women are portrayed in these magazines?”

The missing chain of journalism, Babran believes, is ethics. “If the ethics of journalism had been observed, Iranian women would have been portrayed differently in the media.”

“Family magazines lack economic or political information, but such information matters much to lives of Iranian women. Most of their readership is housekeeper girls and women. The educated class don’t like to read such magazines.”

Popular magazines tend to over-represent superstars, presenting women with false icons. Most of their articles are about housekeeping and cooking. Rarely do they publish information on laws, politics, culture and religion.

Babran also warned about the rise of faddishness and consumerism: “20-40 percent of the ads published in family magazines are commercial. Media can prevent from consumerism and faddishness, and spread Iranian lifestyle.

Media should portray a real image of talented, astute and entrepreneur women. Media should show the responsibilities and duties of men and women to each other.

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