Gender and the Media

Gender and the Media

Let me preface this by saying that I wholeheartedly agree with the need for greater representation of women and women’s issues in the media. The growing media awareness of anti-female behaviour in countries such as India is nothing short of phenomenal and a great boon for gender equality worldwide. So when I say that I take issue with studies of ‘gender in the media’ that focus entirely on women, know that I do so without condemning the much-needed awareness of women’s issues and gender inequality that are being raised.

Western media and academia is quick to criticise gender inequality toward women (and rightfully so), though has failed to apply those same standards of criticism when presented with cases of gender inequality toward men.

A TV Show that presents certain female characters as incompetent in ‘male’ tasks is lambasted mercilessly by critics in news articles. Yet portrayals of male incompetence in ‘female’ tasks are the stuff of comedy gold. Advertisements that sexualise or objectify women are rightfully attacked by feminist media sources, and yet the same standard is rarely applied when the gender roles are reversed (O’Brien, 2013).

When workplace inequality toward women is uncovered, the media (both independent and commercial) immediately demands explanations and solutions. Obama’s push to eliminate the pay gap (Fram, 2014) between men and women has received staunch support from countless media sources, particularly the independent media in the US. Yet we dismiss as a fact of life, that 9/10 workplace deaths are male, or that the average male works up to 6 hours more per week than his female counterparts.


The media has blossomed in its willingness to discuss violence, discrimination and sexual abuse toward women. Yet media coverage of violence or sexual abuse towards males is significantly more lax. Worse still, there are cases in which media outlets have portrayed such stories as little more than idle curiosities or humorous, often under the category of “Weird News”.

Even in our entertainment, we’ve come a long way from laughing at the Pepe le Pew’s unwanted sexual advances, yet we still find it hilarious when our male characters are sexually assaulted or sexually blackmailed.

Yes, women have been, and continue to be, discriminated against in many facets of life. Yes, social issues affecting women do exist. Yes, it is fantastic that the media and academia study these issues and bring them to light. Yet when presented by the long list of male-specific issues in society today, men are told by the media and society to ‘be a man’ or ‘man up’ or that they deserve a bit of discrimination as payback for the years of discrimination women faced. And very rarely do we stop to ask “why?”

When studying ‘gender in the media’, we need to take a more holistic approach. Gender issues are not a binary Male/Female tug of war. When looking at gender issues, we should never take an “Us verse Them” attitude. We must recognise that different gender issues exist for both men and women, and not dismiss them entirely because of a “they did it first” attitude, as some journalists are want to do.

As students studying media and culture, we must recognise when the media takes action to address gender issues and also when it fails to act, for both men and women.


Fram, A. 2014. “Obama Signs Actions Taking Aim At Gender Pay Gap”, Huffington Post, 08 April, Available at:

O’Brien, S. 2013. “Diet Coke: Sexist against men”, The Herald Sun¸ 09 February, Available at:




3 thoughts on “Gender and the Media

  1. Hi there,

    I like your post, it gives a clear outline about where a perspective stands and that is endlessly useful in determining why there is such a double standards towards gender rights.
    I like that you acknowledge that there is abuse felt by both women and men in the work place and that that has negative effects for each to function properly in the work place.
    However, and this is a big however, women are not treated the same world over as I’m sure you will say, neither are men. I say this because there is a flow on effect, where how we view women in work place roles may seem to be too hasty in placing the blame on men who don’t seem to have it any easier, this effect is actually trying to prime women world-wide to stand up for injustices against their sex.
    There is a whole myriad of abuse and in-humane actions thrown against women all over the world for no other reason other than that they are women; can you say the same for men? I hear you say, ‘but I’m not talking about women in Afghanistan, I’m talking about Australian middle-class women, complaining about something that isn’t just their problem’. And I can see your point, BUT, (another big but), you have to consider the big picture, yes it may seem like they are only focusing on the women’s side of the issue, the reason for this though is that it is such a HUGE ISSUE, can you image that it has been agreed upon by people world-wide to treat women as less than human. You see there is human rights, but a lot of those don’t include women’s rights, meaning that when a culture has genital mutilation in its practices, this is considered okay in human rights because it is in their culture to do so, but none of these cultures seem to ever consider or could possibly imagine doing the same to a men. Alright, alight I know off topic, but the point is there is a trickledown effect, what women have to put up with in any phase of life no matter what culture they are from, it is always viewed upon second to men, and I mean EVERY culture has women on the outer. Now men should never be subjected to the conditions some women are, but it’s crazy once you put it in perspective how big the problem is for women, in that they aren’t even included in human rights! to conclude that their issues of sexism need to be addressed with the same urgency.
    Yes abuse is bad for all but by placing a ‘me too!’ crisis next to it, you are furthering the argument that women issues are bad but no so bad that you can’t bring in another problem that pales in comparison and justify it as needing as much attention. You are just providing a reason as to why the problem has gone on so long.
    I’m sorry for the onslaught, but you have to see that this problem is not as trivial as ‘abuse is felt by all’. It is the magnitude that it is felt by one sex from another for SO LONG! Going on centuries now, in such that maybe when the media ‘ fails to address gender issues’ it’s because another issue is being placed next to it distracting from the one that was trying to be addressed in the first place. The stories shouldn’t be taken as just a grasp for attention for one sex to have domination over the other on the subject of abuse, that defeats the purpose of bring attention to the issue in the first place.
    Instead try to think with understanding of the other side, like what you were trying to do with this argument but look at the history of abuse and where the view of empathy is more needed, then we can really see what has been the effect of such complacent abuse to a person’s agency over their own life, and why we are so ready to say ‘yeah a man can decide what he wants to do for himself, and yeah he can decide for the women too, because she is not to be trusted with such basic ‘human’ rights’.

    • mswierczynski says:

      You raise a lot of really valid points there, but I feel like you may have missed my point slightly. I do not discount the intense hardship and discrimination that women (particularly those in third world countries) face on a daily basis. For that reason, I am fully in support of the media devoting a greater portion of its attention to women’s issues, and to focus on issues where they exist. However, I don’t believe that any group of people can claim a monopoly on discrimination.

      My issue lies in the fact that gender issues rarely portray male issues or issues of masculinity. Where is the discussion about male suicide rates or homelessness? Where is the discussion about discrimination against fathers in the family court or in parental proceedings? Where is the discussion about male workplace deaths? You bring up the issue of genital mutilation of young girls, but where is the discussion about the ethics of circumcising young boys?

      We take it as a given that men today will die earlier, will lose the kids in a divorce, will be more likely to be homeless and that sexually assaulting them is funny. How can we talk about gender in the media, and yet ignore an entire gender’s issues? Even claiming that males might have their own issues is enough to spark debate. As students of the media, we should at least wonder “why?”

      • I am in agreement with you totally it needs a space in media to voice concerns, after I read your blog I actually thought about male abuse more and where it comes from. Also the reasons why gender is such a major issue should be the prime concern. I guess what I really wanted to do was make sure demonstrating the problem of unequal rights wasn’t being diminished and so leading to less chance of it gaining acknowledgement. I think we were maybe trying to cover something so varied as gender and missed each others points, but I am now thinking about the male perspective with wider lens, and for that I thank you.

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