Dr. Meena Acharya
Gender sensitivity of media may be viewed in a three dimensional perspective-the first issue does the media relate to gender issues positively, is the language, cartoons and general ideology used in presentations gender sensitive and finally are women given opportunity in media activities with sympathy. There has been much progress in women's participation in media channels, particularlynen electronic media, with the democratic changes of 1990 and since opening up of the sector to the private sector. Women constituted 12.3 percent in 1991 and 12.9 percent of media personnel in 1991. At that time sole electronic media were Nepal Radio and Nepal TV. With the proliferation of FM radios and private TV channels, women's participation as media workers has increased significantly in 2002.
Similarly, there has been a substantial progress in media coverage of women's issues.
This positive development, nevertheless, has not been accompanied by a changed attitude towards a need for inducting women in this sector by social consciousness for promoting women, but for commercial gains only as accepted by the management in interviews (Asmita, 2003). Most of them use women for promoting consumer products, thus propagating the capitalist image of women merely as consumers. This promotes commoditifiication of human body. The print media may be considered some what better than electronic media in this context. Nevertheless, most of them are guided by particular political and patriarchal ideology and perceptions. Otherwise, one would not have seen irrelevant naked females even in government paper like the Rising Nepal or the private sector Samachar Patra daily, as a perceived marketing ploy.
The next most important issue is how do media relate to gender issues? Most of the time this issue seems to be perceived in a limited perspective of whether the media covers so called women's or women related issues. This is important but the more crucial gender issue in this context is how do they picture male and female in their all presentations? Media is the most important channel which plays crucial role in forming consciousness, attitudes and in behavior in the society. Do they idealize and perpetuate the traditional image of women or try to grasp the changing positive images of women?
Most often, the articles and arguments made through media against change in favor of women dwell on the personalities who are raising this issue rather than the merit or demerit of the issue par se. For example women who are fighting for equal gender rights are pictured as greedy, foreign instigated and with no knowledge of rural or ordinary women's lives. Even those people who are struggling for democratic and human rights consider women's struggle for legal equality irrelevant. When arguments are made on the issue par se, then it is possible to present counter arguments and media should give equal chance to both view point. But when the attack is made on personal grounds, such writings must be rejected, unless specific and verified.
Finally the language, cartoons, idioms, fables, stories used to make their point in all presentations are mostly gender biased. The mode of news presentation itself is another issue. For example how is a rape case presented as a social crime for which the society must be ashamed or a sensation to sell the paper, blaming the victim for the crime?
Both male and female are cultural products, with their ideas and behavior shaped by the prevailing ideology, social mores and behavioral standards of patriarchy. The ideology of male and female is ingrained in our subconscious by our upbringing. We use language and figures degrading women subconsciously. A very revealing example of this was the "Chura and Pote" sent by the women demonstrations during the 1990 democratic movement to their male collogues. Similarly, writings of most respected proponents of change also still clearly reflect their gender bias. For example take the following passage "Ahile RAPRAPA bhaneko Kangress ka lagi gharania paribar bata bhitriaeki sahrai mukhale dulahi jasti bhai raheki cha…………………..daijo samet laieki dulahi……randi RAPRAPA……..kada bachan bolda budheshkal ki kanchi ratarat poila jane khatara cha" (Khagendra Sangraula, Sapatahik Jana Astha, Kartik 15, 2052 as recited by Asmita, 2002 ). This Asmita publication cites enumerable example of use of such idioms and language by our so called progressive and not so progressive writers. The writers and media presenters must be aware of their own language and ideology.
Thus, increasing gender consciousness among the reporters, writers and news handlers about the content, language and modality of presentation is identified as the major challenge in this sector.