Globalization, gender politics and the media


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Globalization, gender politics and the media

  1. 1. “Globalization, gender politics and the media” - Gender forum Dr. Carolina Matos Lecturer in Sociology Department of Sociology City University London
  2. 2. Key points • Situating research project within previous research and concerns • Women and globalization: gender inequality in a comparative perspective • Female leadership and the “Third World women” • The historical struggle for equality in Latin America and Brazil • Political and social changes in Latin America since the 1990’s • Rise of women in the marketplace and the “feminization” of politics • Gender representations in the Brazilian media in comparative perspective • Conclusions
  3. 3. Parts of Media and politics in Latin America • Public communications and regulation in Latin America • European public service broadcasting revisited • Journalism for the public interest: the crisis of civic communications and journalism in Latin America • Television, entertainment and the public interest • Audience perceptions of quality programming and the public media • Television, popular culture and Latin America and Brazilian identity • Internet for the public interest • Mediated politics in the 2010 Brazilian elections • Media democratisation in Latin America: towards a politics for national development
  4. 4. Gender inequality in the 21st century • UN Women 2014 priority is the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, including access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including women’s full employment. • * According to Womenkind Worldwide, women make up just 17% of parliamentarians (Unicef, the State of the World’s Children, 2007) • * Violence against women and girls is still a serious problem: at least 1 in 3 women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused • * The 2014 PwC’s second Women in Work Index underlined that the UK lags behind most European countries on gender pay equality, occupying the 18th position out of 27 OECD countries for female participation and pay. • I.e. Brazil and Latin America has seen a few improvements.
  5. 5. Structural inequalities and advancements • According to ECLAC, surveys have shown that women’s economic participation increased significantly in the 1990s, reaching nearly 50%, although it is still low among poor women. • Women still have higher unemployment rates than men, • Women’s average labour income is lower than men’s and the gap is especially pronounced in the case of the most highly qualified. • Women are also outperforming men in terms of educational achievements (i.e. political participation). • The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC – UN 2004) underlined that full equity was reached in the 1990’s due to access to primary education. These successes have not necessarily improved women’s position in the labour market or narrowed the wage gap.
  6. 6. Women’s oppression in an age of globalization, and Third World Feminism • Both Europe and Latin America face similar challenges in terms of inclusive growth and of greater well-being for all • Criticisms to universal definitions of citizenship (i.e. Young, 2000) • According to scholars like Philips (2010) and Young (1990) , the problem with looking for a core humanity behind all the differences of class, gender and so forth leads to equating equality with sameness, leaving untouched inequalities in power. • Discrimination against women on a global and national level: • Mohanty (1990) and Weedon (1999) have argued that, rather than portraying “Third World women” as victims of patriarchal practices, such as genital mutilation, attention needs to be given to the specific contexts in which women live (in Weedon, 1999).
  7. 7. The “First” and “Third World” as contested concepts (in Desai et al, 2002) • A term such as “Third World” homogenizes peoples and countries and carries other associations – economic backwardness, the failure to develop economically and politically, as well as connotations of “us” and “them”, “self” and the “Other”. • Racism evolved in parallel with European exploration and conquest, with the theories on “race” helping to justify the differences in position and treatment of people. • Geopolitical changes and rise of the “BRIC countries”: • Various scholars (i.e. Shohat and Stam, 1994, 2014) have argued in favour of moving beyond Eurocentric thinking in order to deal with an increasing multicultural world, both in the “First” and “3rd ” Worlds, where structures of inequality exist everywhere.
  8. 8. Women’s oppression and the rise of female leaders • Women’s oppression in an age of globalization, international migration, increasing exchange of cultural flows between First and Third World countries, economic global recession has acquired a whole new significance which goes beyond a mere oppression of women by men in the West. • Both women and colonies have been seen as having served the very foundations of industrial development of the key Western nations (Acosta-Belem and Bose, 1993). • Rise of female leadership in Latin America: • Panama elected a woman president in 2003, Mireya Moscoso (1999- 2004), and soon afterwards Chile and Argentina followed by electing the former president Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010) and Cristina Kirchner (2007), wife of previous president Nestor Kirchner (2003- 2007) and Dilma Rousseff.
  9. 9. The "Third World women“: myths and stereotypes
  10. 10. Forbes 2014 Power Women list Final rank Category Last name First Name 1st Politics Merkel Angela 4th Politics Rousseff Dilma 6th Entertainment Clinton Hillary 8th Politics Obama Michelle 19th Politics Kirchner Cristina 25th Politics Bachelet Michelle 35th Politics Queen Elizabeth 50th Entertainment Jolie Angelina 52nd Media Huffington Arianna
  11. 11. Intellectual framework and key theorists • Examines the roots of the construction of the notion of “Brazilian femininity” in comparison to other “discourses” of femininity and nationality • It assessed the relationship between gender inequality and patterns of media representation in Brazil/Latin America within a global perspective • Gill (2007) argues that the world in which we live in is one stratified in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, class, age, disability, sexuality and nationality, and one in which privileges are reinforced and exclusions hard to overcome. • Tuchman’s (1978) classic study of the US’ media representation of American women, which argued that both the limited and in overall negative portrayal of women was a process of symbolic annihilation, contributed for a restriction in their horizons and for under- employment.
  12. 12. Triangulation methodology • 1) research into archives, newspapers and other books and policy reports on the situation of women in Brazil in order to provide a historical assessment of women’s struggles in the past, as well as to pinpoint the roots of the stereotypes and myths created around “the Brazilian women” and how this has contributed to their subordination. • 2) Discourse analysis and discussion of contemporary images and texts of “real” women and politicians in the media and popular culture, ranging from TV and the printed press in Latin America within a comparative perspective. This might include a selected sample of images of the Latina in mainstream Hollywood films; • 3) Interviews with a selected small group, including female politicians, journalists and Brazilian feminists. • 5) A selection of Internet websites that deal with feminist issues, and perhaps developing further from the research that I did on feminist blogging in the 2010 presidential elections. • The idea here is to examine if during this two year period there has been a growth of more positive or complex representations and discourses of, on and about women.
  13. 13. Research questions and aims • What advancements have been made in regards to gender equality in the last years? Has the election of female leaders throughout the countries resulted in the reduction of levels of gender inequality? • How is the Latin America/Brazilian woman perceived in the continent and abroad?; • What are some of the images and discussions surrounding the Brazilian and Latin American women in the media, and how can this be contrasted to other (colonial) images of Asian and black femininity, as well as Western? • How do these myths, stereotypes and perceptions function to inhibit change? • What are some of the future challenges or roadblocks to further advancement of gender equality in Brazil and the wider continent? • How do questions of gender, race and nation intersect in determining feminisms in the “Third World”? • Is the media contributing to advance, change, reflect of reinforce stereotypes and dominant patterns?
  14. 14. Struggle for women’s rights in Latin America: a historical overview • Although traditionally Latin American countries have reserved for women a subordinate and minor role in politics and the public sphere, the continent also has a history of vibrant feminist activism. • 19th century - As Korrol (1988, 866) noted, in “countries like Cuba, Puerto Rico and Brazil, movements for the abolition of slavery in the last third of the 19th century paralleled attempts to integrate women into expanding educational structures.” • Mexico – As early as 1807, the Diario de Mexico supported the rights of women to an education as a means of contributing towards the state’s progressive aspirations. • Dictatorships of the 20th century: As Acosta-Belen and Base (1993) have argued, many activists women groups during the 1970s and 1980s were opposing right-wing dictatorships. • Women engaged in resistance movements, challenging their subordination, the enforcement on them of a domestic life and of living up to the stereotypical image of a “sex object”.
  15. 15. Historical evolution of women’s rights in Brazil • Historical oppression: Brazilian women have traditionally been exploited, first by the colonisers who used them as sexual slaves, whilst others were destined to a life of hard low paid labour under horrible conditions, with only the more privileged encountering a form of “escape” through marriage. • As Desposato and Norrander (2008) reminds us, Brazil gave women the right to vote in 1934, although most of Central and South America gave woman suffrage rights only after World War II. • Mainly after the 1960’s, a series of laws which were approved in the country started to improve the situation of women, including alterations in the marriage law (Lei n. 4.121/62) and the implementation of divorce (Lei n. 6.515/77). • But the main change came with the Federal Constitution of 1988.
  16. 16. Achievements on gender equality in Latin America and Brazil • Facts and figures from the World Bank (2011) on the gender gap: • The increase of the professional engagement of women in Latin American society has translated into higher participation in politics, with the share of parliamentary seats held by women in the region at nearly 24%, the highest among all the regions in the world. • Since the 1980s, nearly 70 million women have joined the labour market. It has doubled since the 1960s in the region, tripling in Brazil • Maternal mortality rates have been declining continuously since the 1980s, dropping by 40% in the Caribbean and 70% in the Andean region. Latin American fertility rates are now as low as those of industrialized nations.
  17. 17. Improvements in gender equality • Brazil has seen a reduction in inequality levels between 1996 and 2006, during the governments of Cardoso and Lula • According to the 2012 ranking of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Brazil has gone up in 20 positions on gender equality falling (82nd position to the 62 from a list of 135 countries). • Improvements in primary education and the percentage of women in ministerial roles (7% to 27%). • There has been a decline in inequality levels cutting across groups, for women, blacks and white men in all of the regions of the country (Ipea/UN, 2008). • Social indicators have revealed that women and blacks are the ones who register higher levels of unemployment in the South of the country (11% and 7.1% respectively), against 6.4% given to men and 5.7% to whites (Ipea/UN, 2008, 9).
  18. 18. Women in the workplace and society: rise of female politicians and women journalists
  19. 19. Gender and media representation in a comparative context • Gill (2007) has argued that feminist media studies has attempted over the past four decades to better understand the connections between media representations and images of women with patterns of inequality, domination and oppression. • What are the “discourses” about women that have proliferated in the media?: • Tuchman’s (1978) conducted an important classic study on how women were being represented on TV and the press in the US during the 1950s and 70s. • The ideal women was pretty and submissive, whereas strong and/or intelligent women were seen in a negative light. Media were seen as contributing to limit the horizons of US women.
  20. 20. Gender stereotypes in the media • Following the re-democratization period and the wider presence of women in the job market, media representations began to slightly improve • However, the 1999 CPM-Market Research study conducted for the Brazilian NGO Grupo Tver (composed of TV researchers) interviewed a series of women from different social classes in Sao Paulo who expressed dissatisfactions with how they are portrayed. • Problems with the analysis of media representations: • As Gill (2007, 13-14), how do you identify sexist or progressive images? • “…..calls for realism might best be reformulated as attempts to create greater diversity in representations of women” (Macdonald, 1995 in Gill, 2007, 12).
  21. 21. Brazilian femininity and stereotypes • Brazilian women are seen as sex symbols internationally, and in Brazil, as recent research has shown, a chauvinistic and patriarchal nuclear family culture still permeates the imaginary collective psyche • In many ways we can trace colonialist parallels between the discourses on Brazilian femininity with Asian and Black • Williamson (1986) has stressed how exoticism served an ideological function, having had its roots in European colonialism (fascination with black female sexuality/repulsion of colonial bodies) (in Van Zoonen, 2000). • Van Zoonen (2000) analysed some of the myths of femininity of “Third World” women, underlining the exotic quality attached to visions of African femininity, and the modest and deferential nature of Asian women.
  22. 22. Images of colonialism
  23. 23. The “Brazilian woman” myth • Colonial modes of representation (i.e. Weedon, 1999) • What are the roots of the social construction of Brazilian femininity? • The “Brazilian woman” (or Latin America, the Latina) is a cultural stereotype in Brazil itself • Since the colonial years, Portuguese and other Europeans arrived in Brazil and were astonished and tempted by the nudity of the natives (i.e. the exotic) • Gilberto Freyre in Casa Grande e Senzala (1933) described how the environment which started Brazilian life was highly sexually charged, with the European setting foot in the country and coming across naked indigenous women, or the “niggers” of the earth.
  24. 24. Sexism in the media: advertising and television • Women are constantly represented in Brazilian media, with dominant representations in ads, commercials and television still being of young and attractive women • I.e. In 2011, a Gisele Bundchen underwear ad caused a lot of controversy. The Ministry of Policy for Women in Brazil requested it to be suspended on the grounds that it contributed to reinforce stereotypes of women as sex objects of their husbands. • Hope lingerie TV spot • (
  25. 25. Images of Brazilian woman in the newspapers • As various researchers have underlined (i.e. Moreno, 2013), the mainstream Brazilian media has traditionally reinforced stereotypes of Brazilian women through images of young and pretty bodies, cases of violence against women, victims and mothers of criminals, etc, with women rarely appearing as experts or in positions of power and influence. • Lima (2013) argues that regulation is necessary to guarantee spaces in the media which are capable of better reflecting a diversity in representation.
  26. 26. Ipea study: violence against women and measurement of sexism in Brazilian society • 3.810 people of both sexes were interviewed in cities within the 5 main regions of the country during May-June 2013 • Respondents were asked to comment on 27 sentences as a means of assessing their levels of tolerance towards violence • Controversy: It was initially announced that 65% of Brazilians supported attacks on women who wore revealing clothes. The number was later corrected to 25%. • However, the researchers argued that in spite of the mistake, the results largely confirmed how sexism is still part of Brazilian culture. • Conclusions: Large sectors of the population still endorse a vision of the nuclear patriarchal family, where women are still seen as an object of desire and ownership • Only in 2009 did rape cease to be a crime against costumes, to be one against individual liberty and sexuality.
  27. 27. Ipea study: violence against women and sexism • 54.9% agreed totally or partially with the statement: “some women are for marrying, some are for sleeping with.” • 58% agreed (totally/partially) with the statement: “if women knew how to behave, there would be less rapes”. • 64% agreed (totally/partially) that the man should be the breadwinner. • 79% agreed totally or partially with the idea that “every women dreams of getting married.” • 63% agreed that cases of violence against women should be discussed among family members. • However, 78% agreed that men should go to prison for hitting their wives. • Of 500.000 cases of rape in the country, the estimate is that only 10% of them reach the local authorities. In 2012, there were still 106.000 reported cases of violence against women.
  28. 28. Feminist blogging and the 2010 elections • Dilma explored widely the women’s vote, with her website ( containing links to various other women’s blogs (Hip Hop Mulher, Galera da Dilma, PcdoB Mulheres and Viva Mulher) • The candidate Marina Silva ( was pointed out as being the most popular candidate on social network sites due to her influence on the youth vote, according to experts. • Despite the presence of female candidates in the 2010 elections, according to the Supreme Electoral Court of Justice (TSE), a total of 79% of men (15.780) ran for various political positions against only 20% of women candidates, or 4.058.
  29. 29. Conclusions and questions for thought • Gender inequalities in an age of globalization need to be understood through a complex examination of historical factors, socio-economic conditions, impact of political parties and policies, as well as attitudes towards women’s advancement and role in society • Women’s representation in the media: a space for the reinforcement of the status quo or an opportunity for the construction of diverse discourses and representations? • Advancements in Latin America and Brazil have been slow, mainly in the entry to the labour market and higher levels of education, but pay inequality is still high and there are significant barriers to progression and wider equal political, social and economic participation in society.
  30. 30. Selected bibliography • Acosta-Belem, E. and Bose, C. (1993) Researching women in Latin America and the Caribbean, Boulder: Westview Press • Buvinic, Mayra and Roza, Vivian (2004) “Women, Politics and Democratic Prospects in Latin America” for Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, DC: Sustainable Development Department Technical Paper Series • Gill, Rosalind (2007) Gender and the media, London: Polity Press • Matos, Carolina (2012) Media and politics in Latin America: globalization, democracy and identity, London: IB Tauris • Mohanty, Chandra Talpade (2005) “Under Western Eyes…” in Feminist theory: a reader, Kolmer, Wendy K. and Kouski, F. Bart, N York: McGraw Hill, 372-379 • Norris, P. et al (1993) Gender and Party Politics, London: Sage Publications • Phillips, A. (1999) Which Equalities Matter? and Gender and Culture (2010) • Ramazanoglu, C. (1989) Feminism and the contradictions of oppression • Weedon, C. (1999) Feminism, Theory and the Politics of Difference • Van Zoonen, L. (2000) Feminist Media Studies, London: Sage Publications
  31. 31. Thank you! • Dr. Carolina Matos • Department of Sociology • City University London