Preface: What Global Feminism Means to a Global Development Professional?

This week, our professional is Catherine Borgman-Arboleda.

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 5.01.07 PMCatherine is a co-founder of Action Evaluation Collaborative, and has nearly 20 years of experience in NGO and non-profit evaluation, planning, and training.  Catherine has led evaluations for major foundations, international organizations and NGOs, as well as smaller grantmakers, organizations and collaboratives.

Catherine also has significant experience leading and managing small NGOs and non-profit organizations, most recently serving as the Co-Executive Director of the Center for International Media Action (CIMA).  Catherine has a Masters in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service. She is fluent in Spanish and Italian and recently moved from Brooklyn, NY to Merida, México.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 5.12.25 PM.png

Examples of recent work include the design and implementation of:

  • An Action Learning strategy for the women’s empowerment organization WomenStrong International, for partners in India, Kenya, Ghana, Haiti and Washington DC.
  • A participatory monitoring and evaluation system for CARE USA’s project on eliminating child marriage in Nepal and Bangladesh.
  • A learning and evaluation strategy for Palm Healthcare Foundation’s Collective Impact initiative, Healthier Together.

This is what Catherine told us:

Global feminism to me is about connecting and contributing however I can to this surge of knowledge, action and love which is fueling women to define feminism on their own terms and in their own images. At it’s core, it is about aligning a view of the world grounded in collaboration, empathy, nurturing, strength and creativity with action.

Personally, it is about struggling to understand what feminism means for myself, my daughters, and those close to me. It is about making space for introspection and reflection, and searching for my own truth, often uncomfortable and complicated, and realizing that this is ok and part of the process of embracing a new way of knowing.

Can you, as a [future] international professional, relate to Catherine’s views?


Introduction: One More Tension

Finally. We have reached the point of the course in which we finally focus on the media and communication technologies. Our title for today is:

Global Feminism and Fields of Feminist Media Studies

We have discussed those 3 (or more) waves of feminism, that could be summarized as:

  • Equality feminism (buzzword: “equality”)
  • Radical feminism (“difference”)
  • Post-modern…. post feminism (“diversity”)

We have discussed several tensions within feminism and feminist studies:

  • global-local
  • theory-praxis
  • general- specific/individual

Let me now introduce you to one of the most basic tensions (and foundations) of feminist studies; one that has all to with why we have “feminist media studies”.

  • sex – gender

… As we know already:  Sex = biology; gender = socially constructed. This tension is not new to you, I’m sure. The idea of nature vs. nurture influencing one’s identity and social development is an ongoing debate.

The early, first wave feminists advocated the abolishment of discrimination based on one’s sex (why can’t women vote?).

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The year 2017 marks a century of women’s voting rights in New York.

The second wave of feminism (and feminist studies), in turn, got very interested in how gender is constructed in societies. The classic I’m sure you have heard about, The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir (1952), was the seminal text to outline the ways in which gender is constructed (here is the introduction of the book for those interested). In other words, gender is the cultural form of identity, not a biological one: The aspects that a culture, a society, holds as feminine and masculine have a great influence on how one develops one’s identity.

One is not born, but rather becomes a woman. – de Beauvoir

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Later, in the late 1980s, Judith Butler introduced the idea of gender as “performative”. Take a look at this 3-minute explanation:


Butler has written about the definitions and understandings of sex-gender-sexuality and notes that sometimes sexuality may have little to do with gender (she gives the examples of “butch” and “femme”; of certain transsexual identities); sometimes gender norms are used strategically to gain power positions. Her view, very much a third-wave, post-modern one, is that while gender norms are culturally forced upon us we can also resist them, choose individually. Some talk about gender as a continuum and ever shifting, as an array of diverse positions.

Enter the media.

Whatever you may think of gender as performative, feminist media studies generally recognize that mediated content (from tweets to news stories to reality shows) both reflect the society and re-construct ideas and values, for instance about gender. That’s why we need to study the media.

Different notions of womanhood, femininity, and gender have been much discussed in the (Western) public debates lately, and also portrayed in the media. Here’s what director Jill Soloway said this week about her series Transparent, in the Lenny Letter online feminist magazine by Lena Dunham (of Girls – another example of popular culture where gender and sexual identities are a central part of the plot).

I think all girls feel weird. Actually, so many people of all gender identities feel odd and weird, don’t feel natural about sex. The script became an idea for me, like an entering-into-evidence in the court of public opinion, like testimonies.

They’re saying, “This is where my shame comes from.” That’s what I wanted to film, and I wanted to obliquely treat each image as if it were a photograph dropping onto another photograph in a courtroom, maybe a courtroom of the world. I hope it feels like a ride where every time you want to stop and see more, you can’t because we’re moving so fast.

In a way, all of us are on trial for being weird. Directing the episode felt like the making of a document, with a sort of weaponizing feel, something zealous meant to raise hackles. I always wanted to be a lawyer but as a little girl felt too dumb. The bar exam seemed impossible.

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The following is a quick systematic run-through of how we can dissect feminist media studies, and consequently choose and use theories and methodologies that speak to our interests and concerns. These waves have historical starting points but still co-exist today. The below are crude generalizations but illustrate the points. I have also included examples of seminal research as well as current issues that are debated today.

Three Ways/Waves of Looking at Feminist Media Studies

One way to look at feminist media studies is to understand different research approaches related to the three waves.

1. Equality feminism and media studies

Typical concern: women’s presence/absence vs. men’s presence/absence in the media, as professionals; in terms of representations.

Typical method: quantitative content analysis: how many women, how many men? How many women reporting on “hard news” (politics, crime, international news, sports)  as men’s domain; vs. human interest, “soft” news as women’s domain.

An example: The Global Media Monitoring Project.

GMMP is the world’s largest and longest-running research and advocacy initiative for gender equality in and through the news media. Since its inception in 1995, every five years the GMMP has documented changes in relation to gender in news media content. It includes some 100 countries and analyses women and men as news subjects and newsmakers. Here’s a summary  fact sheet of the project and below a summary table of the core findings since 1995. The table shows that women comprise some one fourth of news subjects, and that their visibility in the news, globally, has not increased dramatically since 1995. It also indicates that online media are no different from legacy news media:

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An interesting example from the realm of pop culture is the study on Disney princesses and how much they get to speak in the films, vs. male characters. This is arguably a global issue given Disney’s global reach.

A more concretely alarming auto-ethnographic study, published a few days ago by the Harvard Shorenstein Center, documents the inequalities and dangers women journalists face in some Muslim countries. It begins like this:

From 2009 until 2014, I was a journalist working for media outlets with foreign audiences, first for the Islamic Republic’s state-run English media service, Press TV, and from 2011 for Bloomberg News and The National, a major regional newspaper based in Abu Dhabi. I was a member of a tiny group covering news from Iran in English.

During my time reporting there were moments when I realized that because of my job, my identity as a member of society—and indeed my life—could be threatened because of my gender.

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2. Radical/Second Wave feminist media studies

Typical concern: Interpreting media (texts) through a feminist lens. Appreciation of popular culture as “women’s culture” (e.g., soap operas, daytime talk). The idea that there is something such as the male gaze through which many films are constructed (voyerism of sorts, women are portrayed as being watched by men…)

Typical method: qualitative close reading; other qualitative analyses

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 11.17.24 AMAn example: This example is not necessarily “typical” in that it represents a multi-method analysis of media industries as well as feminist agendas (while plenty of feminist analysis has focused on content); conducted via interviews and textual analyses. But it became a classic study of the second wave, about gender construction and “negotiation”: Defining Women by Julie D’Acci.

Defining Women explores the social and cultural construction of gender and the meanings of woman, women, and femininity as they were negotiated in the pioneering television series Cagney and Lacey. Julie D’Acci illuminates the tensions between the television industry, the series production team, the mainstream and feminist press, various interest groups, and television viewers over competing notions of what women could or could not be–not only on television but in society at large. Cagney and Lacey, which aired from 1981 to 1988, was widely recognized as an innovative treatment of working women and developed a large and loyal following.

It is interesting that the “women-specific” approach is still (or again) being debated and experimented with. From the news a few days ago:

This week, The Washington Post launched The Lily, a publication that is directed at millennial women. It is named after the first American newspaper for women launched by Amelia Bloomer in 1849. The site, which is hosted on Medium, mainly consists of Post stories that editors think will appeal to young women. It also includes original content, such as a personal essay by Post columnist Margaret Sullivan on advice from her mother that helped Sullivan to break multiple glass ceilings.

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The columnist reporting of the development notes:

[P]erhaps this is the problem: The whole concept of women’s media seems to narrow, rather than expand, what is considered a millennial woman’s issue. It fails to acknowledge the fact that issues like welfare, minimum wage, foreign policy, and health care are all inextricably intertwined with gender issues.

3. Third Wave (post-modern) feminist media studies

Typical concern: gender as performative, created, resisted, a site of power struggles, fluid, with diverse meanings… Layers of power that intersect: gender, sexual orientation, class, race, age, geography… Active audiences actively constructing meanings (not just passively being manipulated by media representations).The question of the body in representations.

Typical method: Multi-method, multi-disciplinary…

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 11.41.58 AMA random example:  “Take That, Bitches!” Refiguring Lara Croft in Feminist Game Narratives.

Since Lara first “bust” onto our screens in 1996 in Tomb Raider (Edios Interactive), she has been a focal point for critical debate surrounding the representation of the female protagonist and the gendered body in games. Nearly twenty years after her first appearance, the 2013 version of Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics) remakes Lara with a new body, a new author, and has sent her out towards a new generation of fans. In line with attempts by the games industry to provide a more appealing female protagonist, Lara has been significantly altered physically and in terms of her attitude, but what is perhaps most striking is the way that her narrative has also been redefined by a female writer, and then taken even further by a more gender-savvy fanbase willing to give Lara a second chance.

I chose this example as it highlights how feminist media studies is a strand of game studies (inter-disciplinary), with the focus on a game character and the body, and with regard to audiences and their changing gender savviness.

The issue of gender and gaming has been in the news quite a bit in the past days, due to the massive E3 Entertainment Expo that just took place last week. (Remember: Gaming is an immense, global, and ever growing segment of media industries.)

It seems that since GamerGate in 2014 — a set of events that revealed horrendous online harassment targeting a female game developer and a feminist game a critic — the issue of gender and gaming has been debated and discussed in many fora. Perhaps also because women constitute a lucrative market for games. And that, in turn, has evoked research like this, proving that women are equally skilled as gamers as men:

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What Are We Missing?

You guessed it. The truly global angle. Apart from the Global Media Monitoring Project, relatively few research efforts have tried to understand women and the media, gender and the media, gender and communication technologies in a comparative global context. (There are reports about media, gender, and development, and internet use and gender, but those are often statistics rather than scholarly analyses.) Admittedly, comparative research is difficult to organize and costly to execute. And, there have been some studies on the impact of globalization of the media on the Global South, as well as feminist analyses of diasporic communities, gender, and the media. Still, the idea of global feminism is to a great deal absent in the Western-dominated feminist media studies.

In addition, there are relatively few studies on the political economy of the media and comm tech, from a feminist perspective. As Micky Lee (Chapter 11, Current Perspectives…) notes:

The ultimate goal of feminist political economy is to understand why women are poor and how a distribution of wealth is essential to women’s status. (…)

Many scholars, politicians, and non-profit organizations have hailed new ICTs as solutions to women’s poverty… There is less focus on who benefits form the consumption of technology… Why are Microsoft, Google, and Facebook mostly headed by white men?…

A case in point, right now in the news, Uber:


And, Leslie Reagan Shade continues (Chapter 17, Current Perspectives), the above is especially relevant when we think of regulation and other policies related to the media and communication technologies. Are they supporting access and perhaps promoting more fair gender portrayal in the media? She writes this as a scholar who studies media policies but also social movements (sometimes called media reform and/or media justice movements) that see the media (access to, representation in) as a social justice issue and seek to influence policies and practice from that angle. (I regularly teach a course on Media Reform so if interested, feel free to check out the blog here).

Both media policies, and political economy at large, can be considered a major issue for global feminism and the media.  They very much align with the very complex and complicated field of development  communication, or, as the newer term goes, communication for social change. Very often these fields walk on the tight rope between a tension we already know about, that of theory and praxis — they seek to gather information, and develop frameworks, that can help in changing things for better.

Here’s a great 3-minute video that I can’t stop sharing, on the media’s impact in international development. When watching it, just think of the 4 ways in which the media influences development and try to imagine an example of media, gender, and development; whether in terms of political participation; education and other information sharing; mobilizing and organizing; and understanding other cultures and experiences:


So the entire idea of Global Feminism and the Media is an idea in the works. While important, it struggles with these tensions (global-local; general-individual; theoretical-practical; sex-gender), perhaps more than any other strand of feminist research. While the West may theorize about performative gender, sexual discrimination can be a case of life and death in some cultures.


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As you have learned early on, your assignment this week is to review the very successful mediatized attempt to draw attention to gender inequality and women’s issues world-wide. There’s method to the madness: We are now bringing together everything we have learned so far.

You will review the book Half the Sky — but feel free to explore the related PBS documentary series, the game, and so on, and reference them if you wish The link to the “movement”  (Turning Oppression into Opportunity) is here — and feel free to search for more info online. As I also noted early on, the book became a New York Times bestseller but also evoked heavy criticism about issues of:

  • global-local
  • theory-praxis
  • general- specific/individual
  • even sex-gender; as well as
  • situated knowledge & who can speak for whom.

Here’s the NYT review of the book, just fyi. Make up your own mind, though. Feel free to focus on the content and/or the use of different media and publicity/PR strategies.

The review is due Thur 6/22 at midnight, on your research diary-blog, equivalent to 1-2 pages, single spaced 12 pt. Your entry can include images, videos, and links to other texts. 

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ICM836 Day 7 (6/20): Global Feminism and Fields of Feminist Media Studies

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So far, you have situated yourself and explored some common concepts. Now it is…

Time to Decide the Focus of Your Work


1.Do I Have to Do Feminist Research?

Whether you define yourself to be a feminist, or a certain kind of feminist, does not matter. We are exploring and experimenting with the principles of feminism:

What makes research feminist? A classic answer is that it is research done by, for, and about women. Another is that “feminist researchers produce feminist research”. There is no single definition of “feminist research” (or “feminism,” for that matter), but many authors point to certain key elements as defining features.


Methodologically, feminist research differs from traditional research. It actively seeks to remove the power imbalance between research and subject; it is politically motivated in that it seeks to change social inequality; and it begins with the standpoints and experiences of women. A wide range of methods, both qualitative and quantitative, are available to feminist researchers. Instead of focussing on which type of research is better, it makes more sense to allow the context and purpose of the research to guide the choice of research tools and techniques. There is no one method or strategy for feminist research. The particular situation or context should guide the methodological choices, instead of having a trust in the method as appropriate for every context and situation…

Introduction to Feminist Research

2. Can I Go Wild?

Now it’s the time. As we have learned, feminist research values your position, your passion, your experiences.  It wants to break boundaries and hierarchies. It is also very focused on dissecting and deconstructing rules that enforce hierarchies between powerless and powerful, academic and activism, and so on. Alexis, for example, wants to break down the (implicit/explicit) norms of current feminism — the ideas of structural oppression — and look at concrete, practical steps individuals take that may not align themselves with a philosophy or a movement, but are through their work de facto feminists.

Even if feminist themes and issues would not interest you beyond this course, these principles are very much tied to critical thinking, as well as to a sensibility and ability to contextualize. Imagine how important that ability is in international contexts…

So, now it’s the time to do you. That’s why the format of the final project is either a paper or a podcast, or a video essay. That doesn’t mean that you would not need to provide justified arguments, proper references, and solid conclusions. But feel free to let your voice be heard.

3. Practical Tips

  • You are allowed to document your own experiences. You can research you, as long as you link it to broader issues, other research results, theories, and concepts. Also: Remember the idea of your situated knowledge when analyzing and interpreting phenomena.
  • Conversely, remember the idea of  “authorship”, who can speak for whom and about what. Be sure to make sure you are not “taking someone else’s voice”.
  • You are allowed to poach from others. We collaborate here, so do comment everyone’s research posts and feel free to (a) ask for help; (b) use same references, ideas, etc. At the end, your final work will be you.
  • As noted, express yourself in the final paper/audio/video. Feel free to include art (doodles…), poetry, fiction, film –as long as you link it to broader issues, other research results, theories, and concepts. More detailed instructions will be given on 6/22.

4. Assignment: Pitch Your Research

Feminist research uses a variety of methodologies. So will we.

Your assignment, due on Tues 6/20 at midnight, is to pitch your final research project in one sentence. We will use a formula from branding that many of you know: An Elevator Pitch for Research.

  1. What is the topic of your research?
  2. What is the problem, issue, or question that you are asking and addressing in your research?
  3. Why is that problem interesting and important? (i.e. So what?)
  4. How does your work connect with a broader disciplinary conversation about this topic/problem in your field, and what does it add to that conversation?

You need to be able to explain your final project in one to three sentences, and include the above listed elements in those sentences. Be as specific and concrete as you can.

[Just made up this example: “I will study the representations of sex trafficking in 12 mainstream newspapers in South East Asia, the Balkans, and the U.S., to see how different cultural contexts frame the problem. This comparative case study will shed light to journalistic coverage of international gender issues, and inform policy-makers and advocacy organizations in their efforts against human trafficking.”]

Due Tues 6/20 at midnight, in your own blog.

PS: Keep on reading Half the Sky! The Book Review is due 6/22.







ICM836 Day 6 (6/13): Honing In On Your Topic: Pitch It!

“The debate is being carried on  in a theoretical framework at universities,” Ruchira Gupta of Apne Aap said, rolling her eyes, as she sat in her old family home in Bihar after a day in the red light district. “Very few of those theorists come to the grassroots and see  what’s going on. The whole debate about what we should call the problem is irrelevant. What is relevant is that children are being enslaved.”

Half The Sky, Chapter 2: Prohibition and Prostitution

Is this Global Feminism?



Or this?

Or  this?

Or this?


Note that I’m not endorsing any specific stance here. Just showing you a couple of examples.

Think about the issue that Sarah brought about in commenting to the last theory post. Who speaks for whom? Where is the agency?



We are already in the week 2 of THEORY.

For the next 7 days, our main theoretical quest is to examine the tensions between

  1. the universal and the specific;
  2. the global and the local;
  3. the theoretical and the pragmatic

… in terms of feminism as an ideology, social movement, and scholarly pursuits. This all can inform us about 1) situated knowledge (who we are and where others come from, how they see the world); and 2) for whom, and how, can we speak for?

A theory lesson

It is important to have your own definition of feminism. Basic definitions are the foundation of any theory.

Given that the field is so complex and contested, a continuum of sorts between political agendas and theoretical musings, you need to be clear where the starting points of your views and research are in that continuum.

But equally importantly, remember that the nature of much of feminist studies is to situate yourself, start your research recognizing who and where you are, and how that might influence your views and interests.Also, while you may draw from famous theorists’ work, and fully agree with them, your own voice matters perhaps more than in any other field of scholarship.

So when progressing in the course, remember to reflect on your understanding of feminism, and how it can (or cannot) be seen in theories, cases, articles, etc. addressed here.


From Definitions to Complexities

As we know from any field, theories are scaffoldings that help us to grasp complex issues. And then we run into situations described in the opening quote from Half The Sky: intellectual exercises can seem far removed from harsh realities.

A personal story

I remember taking a feminist media studies class at UW Madison in the mid 1990s (yes…) where the issue of prostitution was discussed in great length. We read a collection of articles by (Western) sex workers. Many stressed the empowering nature of their work. For instance, being a call girl enabled an artist financially to lead a creative life. I gather the version of this vein of thinking is today replicated, for example, in websites through which girls can look for “sugar daddies” to pay for their college tuition.

The theoretical argumentation was, to put it simply, that the patriarchal society has marginalized prostitution because in that profession women have power over men. (Note that we did not address any other kind of prostitution than the heterosexual construct of “women selling sex to men”. )

Then I saw the movie Lilya 4-ever, about a young Russian girl trafficked to Sweden to be a sex slave. Although fiction, it was based on a true story.

And more and more trafficking news begun to emerge. I realized that sex slaves exist in my neck of the woods, in the Nordic countries generally hailed as the equality flagships of the world. I also got a job in training journalists in the Balkans, on gender-sensitive reporting.  That is when I heard many cruel facts about UN peacekeepers in crisis zones: Troops fueled sex trafficking to the area (and after that, to many other areas: here’s just one recent case). Sex trafficking is a problem also within the US, as this news story reminds us.

I begun to realize that, for me, feminist issues often entail layers of power issues: sex work may be illegal and not protected, perhaps because of patriarchal social order; but power imbalances are also due to economic factors, and, geopolitically, they surely exist between the Global North and the Global South.

More lessons learned

But can I assess which layers are more important than others? That would be a tough call. It is also evident that the focus on the empowering nature of sex work (for some) is very much in line of the theorization and issues of “Second Wave” feminism that stresses “women’s issues”, uniqueness of women’s experiences, that have been disregarded in mainstream discourses. Seeing some effects of globalization through a gendered lens, and focusing of other contexts than Western ones, would then be more in line with the “Third Wave”. (For a crude definitions of the waves, see the last week’s theory piece.  This week’s readings refer to the “Waves” often, some texts noting that they only apply to Western scholarship.)

And then comes the divide between theory and praxis. Those girls trafficked in Bosnia or working in the red light district in India seldom get interviewed for a research project; let alone get the chance to define “their own issues” and concerns. We are privileged as Western scholars in that we get to think about definitions and their consequences.

Not to say that theory development would not be important. Feminist scholarship seeks to make new inventions and interventions to all academic fields. But the political-policy focused feminism as a movement and feminist studies as an academic exercise may seem worlds apart. Your readings for this week offer a great illustration on this:

Salam Al-Mahadin (Chapter 2 of “Current Perspectives”) discusses the challenges of Arab feminist media studies, offering some very concrete issues that call for consideration. Angela McRobbie (Chapter 14, a key figure in Western feminist studies), in contrast, analyses the French head scarf ban from a very theoretical standpoint. It is interesting,  that two such different accounts can exist under the same academic field.

A Case in Point: Half the Sky

As I wrote earlier, the book and the related products showcase the contested nature of many issues, theoretical and practical, that can be labeled under “global feminism”.

The authors are American journalists, and that has evoked quite a bit of criticism. It has been called as “veiled colonialism”: 

[E]xamining Half the Sky in an academic fashion, a disturbing trend comes to light. A common feature which runs throughout the entire program is a heavy overtone of modern-day colonialist sentiment. This brings to question: Can the women whose stories were included ever be fully included themselves with this kind of colonialist discourse?


What is perhaps the book’s most obvious example of modern-day colonialist sentiment can be seen in the interactions between Westerners and non-Western women. Throughout the entire book, there is the recurring appearance of the “white savior”, or perhaps more accurately the “Western savior”, who has come to rescue “Third World” women from a variety of oppressors, including their governments, religions, cultures, or most commonly “Third World” men. Interactions in the book constantly reflect and even highlight an unequal relationship, with Westerners on top and non-Westerners below within the power hierarchy.

So, once more: When we think of global feminism, we need to understand our own stance and also be brutally honest in disclosing our relationship to those whom we represent (activism) or analyze (scholarship). This week is about exploring not only us, but those relationships, via several readings, and the three tensions described in the beginning.

A Case in Point: A Professional’s Viewpoint


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So, I’ve urged you as scholars to define your own understanding of  feminism, whether you subscribe to it personally or not — or the kind of feminism you subscribe to (and its relationship to major strands and movements of feminist thought).

In the coming weeks, I will also introduce you to a couple of professionals so you can see how they define global feminism. Here’s what Jaana Rehnstrom, the Executive Director of the NYC-based non-profit Kota Alliance, told me earlier today:

Is there global feminism? This is a good question.

There are rights that seem self-evident rights in many countries, when they are just being fought for and achieved in others… I feel the core issues are the same  – equality, rights – but they are in different stages and take different nuances in different countries and regions.

The Kota Alliance could be called as a supporter of global feminism in that we offer programmatic and technical support and resources for non-profits working on gender issues. The actual, concrete issues may differ, the approaches may differ.

But, we all working in this field need to be very mindful of our roles.

As an example, I was recently invited to speak at an event in Washington Square Park, for the USA-Mali Charitable Association, on female genital mutilation (FGM). I hesitated: Is it my place to speak about it? But the organizers specifically wanted an expert to discuss the issue. I am gynecologist and have long experience in human rights work related to FMG. So, I felt I could contribute.

In general: There may be culturally-specific issues and topics of feminism. But when we have an issue such as FGM that women in the countries where it is practiced themselves fight against it, then that is an issue, a struggle, that women (and men) everywhere can raise awareness of and support in different ways.

(If you are interested, here’s more about Jaana’s presentation and FGM.)


More about Kota:




As noted, your theory assignment this week is to discover and discuss some of the tensions:

  1. the theoretical and the pragmatic (to what extent can scholarship inform social justice quests, and vice versa);
  2. the global and the local (are there any feminist issues/theories we could call global = important everywhere in the world, or are the issues always more layered and contextual);
  3. the universal and the specific (are there any “women’s issues” or are the issues always more layered and contextual).


You have quite a few theory chapters to read this week. Choose at least 4. Do remember that each of them is only 3-4 pages long. And each of them can teach you something new and interesting about feminist media studies, be it the impact of internet on the blurring of the boundaries of work and leisure for women (Australia), or the research foci important in Latin America.

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Readings from “Current Perspectives”:

Chapter 2: Arab Feminist Media Studies

Chapter 4: Bridging the Gaps: Feminist generation gaps in the US context

Chapter 5: African Feminist Media Studies

Chapter 6: Black feminism, black feminist media studies

Chapter 10: New media, old problems

Chapter 14: Unveiling France’s border strategies

Chapter 18: Critical reflections in Inter-Asia

Chapter 19: Negotiating the Global-Local (Latin America, India)

And take a look at this beautiful web-multimedia project for inspiration:


  • Based on your readings, identify some examples of one tension (see above).
  • Write a critical, short reflection on how you see the tension through the examples you have selected (do reference the specific chapters you are using in your commentary).
  • Feel free to use your own voice and add your own examples, if you so wish.
  • Post it below as a comment.
  • Due by Thur 6/15, midnight.

ICM836 Day 5 (6/13): What’s Global Feminism?

Today, we take another step  of research. We will start to search for resources and sources.

1.One More Self-Reflection! Simple and Telling.

Remember last week’s discussion on situated knowledge and “feminine” and “masculine” (perhaps arbitrary?) norms. You may have already seen Lauren’s self-assessment – mapping of her characteristics. Try it out yourself — and think about what the results of your mini auto-ethnography (self-analysis) might mean. Surely that the reality is more complex than stereotypes. But are stereotypes also changing? How culture-specific are they? (Might this list pertain beyond Western cultures?) Beyond gender, these attributes also have positive and negative connotations, and different ones in different contexts (what attributes would you like your teacher, your president, your doctor, your loved ones, to have?). And so on…

This is me, for better or worse (from my own perspective):

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This is an extra task the result of which you don’t need to share if you don’t feel like it. But try this as an intellectual exercise, even by just looking at the options and what they mean for you. Share your analysis or your thoughts on your blog, if you like!


2.Inspiration for Your Research: Search for Ideas, Concepts, Theories.

If you are still pondering about what to research for this course, no problem. Take a look at your colleagues’ posts and get inspired. There are clearly some common themes:

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The more focused you are, the easier the final project. So now we are going to work for a couple of days on getting more concrete by illustrating those themes with different kinds of materials.

  1. Choose 3 of the common themes.
  2. Find, for each team:
    1. A news story or (journalistic/expert) commentary
    2. An image (picture, or a video that, to you, symbolizes the theme)
    3. A scholarly-academic-professional text that would help you to theorize /analyze the specific theme. (Start with our course book Current Perspectives – the texts are short and showcase an array of global approaches; you might find a usable concept there! Also, go online. Many feminist academic journals are open access. And you can find many book chapters, and articles online as well. For example, here is a good introductory chapter on GENDER AND POPULAR CULTURE!)

Write a blog post on your own blog that briefly documents the above: the 3 general themes you chose of our common interests, and for each: one concrete empirical realization that relates to the theme (news/commentary), one visualization (image/video), and one academic inspiration (text – short description what you learned and what you can probably use in your research work). If you are interested in advocacy and campaigning (Nicole, Jehan?), you can naturally also use academic/professional PR literature.

Then, in a couple of sentences, reflect on how these three modes of knowing –(1) empirical, current issues; (2) symbolic, visual; (3) academic – conceptual —  inspired you and perhaps took you closer to your research focus and specific research questions.

So, the themes once more:

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NOTE: If you think I have missed a common theme, feel free to include that one in your chosen 3 themes!

This assignment is due 6/13 midnight in your own blog. Then check out and comment – help everyone else by Thu 6/15.

3. Optional Google Hangouts to Discuss Your Research

This is entirely optional! But if you want to brainstorm about your research work, or ask any other questions, I’ll be on Google Hangout:

Thursday 6/8  8-9pm

Friday 6/9 6-7pm

I will email you the link 10 min. before. You can join at any point during those times.

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ICM836 Day 4 (6/8): Finding Theories and Concepts for Research

What do we talk about when we talk about feminism?

Feminism is a tricky term in the title of this course, in that it’s such a multilayered and contested term. Let me try to give a couple of examples in the context of the title of this course. “Global Feminism and the Media”. . . It could refer, for example, to:

  • A general, often overtly political position, ideology, that pertains to women’s roles in the society
  • A practical agenda related to development and women’s role in it.
  • This you know already: A broad field scholarship (“feminist media studies”) that has many, many re-iterations, paradigms, and that can fall under such broader categories as women’s studies or gender studies.


Example 1: Global feminism as a principle

Please screen this talk…


Or read the transcript, or listen to the podcast.

This famous talk by  Adichie, the Nigerian-American bestselling author, discusses a need for global feminism; global in the sense of the universal need to empower women, that has to be understood by women and men.

It is ironic, as we have already learned, that Beyonce used this text, after just having been bashed by the iconic bell hooks…

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hooks and Adichie both argue that feminism is for everyone (A., too, has written a book about it;  as did hooks, link  to the full text in the  last research post). But they seem to represent somewhat different starting points and values.

In addition, Adichie has given the now-famous TED Talk about the danger of the single story  — the need of situated understandings. Check it out here, if interested!


Example 2: Global feminism and gender as a factor of global development

Half The Sky: Introduction

Your course book (literature review) Half The Sky discusses the role of women in (global) development and notes that, in very practical ways, the more women are given opportunities in a society, the better the society fares in terms of economic, political, social, and cultural development. At the same time, the introductory chapter highlights some significant challenges that are not exclusively problems of the Global South (even if the book seems to implicitly indicate that), including sex trafficking, forced and unpaid labour, and gender-based violence.

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It’s not only the authors of the book, but the United Nations and its Sustainable Development Goals, that point to the same goal (SDG5):

Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and therefore also half of its potential. But, today gender inequality persists everywhere and stagnates social progress. As of 2014, 143 countries have guaranteed equality between men and women in their Constitutions but 52 have yet to take this step.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 10.32.22 AM.pngHere’s a short policy brief about SDG #5 – Gender Equality – Why? 5_Why-it-Matters_GenderEquality_2p

Example 3: Feminism and scholarship

Current Perspectives, chapters 3 and 15 (your course book, please read).

It’s good to remember that feminism, similar to any movement, takes many forms and entails many fractions. The political strands of feminisms also influence academic scholarship, and they do so in terms of topic, as well as in terms of research methods and ethics.

Traditionally, as Liesbet van Zoonen outlines in her seminal book Feminist Media Studies (1994), the field has researched:

  • Women’s representations in the media from news to talkshows;
  • Women as producers of media products (as journalists, as film makers, and so on); and
  • Women as media audiences.

In the digital media era, these three fields are merging and becoming more and more complex.

This table is a very crude simplification, with relatively broad time frames and overlapping categories (that can and do co-exist). Note also that the categories are mine, distilled from what I have learned over the years, and do not represent a standard way of mapping feminist studies. Yet, I hope the table gives you a glimpse of the diversity of academic feminism:

Feminism as a social movement Academic research: thematic focus Academic research: methodological focus in studying the media
The First Wave of Feminism: Equality


19th century to mid 20th century (in the West)

Women in the public realm (politics, public sphere in general).

Women need to be given equal treatment, and positions, with men.

Quantification of representation of women in the media; quantification of women’s representation in media professions… (from social sciences)
The Second Wave of Feminism: Difference 1970s-80s


Women’s needs as media audiences, women’s voices as media makers Women are inherently different from men. Qualitative textual and discourse analyses (from humanities) to uncover women’s voices and experiences in media texts
The Third Wave of Feminism: Diversity



Gender is not the only defining factor; interconnections of gender, race, class, age, geography… Multi-method analyses in understanding what the media does to construct gender (what is considered “feminine” and “masculine”); the crossing of different factors; cross-cultural studies (e.g., migration, gender and the media; cases in the Global South).
Beyond Third Wave? Neo-Feminism, Post-Feminism, Post-post feminism….

Some say this is a variation of the Third Wave, not a separate era…

Big questions: Do we need feminist media studies anymore? Does the category “women” matter anymore; should we discuss the continuum of genders? New methods in studying identity and identification; brought by the blurring boundaries of mainstream media and alternative media; legacy media and online/mobile platforms; and users as content creators.

As the assigned texts in “Current Perspectives…” note, today’s “feminist media studies” faces big, existential crises that are often considered generational (1st and 2nd wave approaches vs. 3rd and post…). The proliferation of media, and the hybridization of the idea of who creates content for whom and why, has complicated feminist research agendas (see Gargi Bhattacharyya’s text, i.e., Chapter 3). Add to this the hybrid nature of feminism as a concept, and the question Andrea Press (Chapter 15) poses, is valid:

What to make of “feminist” in feminist media studies?

Another question to ask is, as Kiah does in her blog:

Is feminism elitist, Western, more academic than practical?

At the same time, some argue that perhaps we need feminist media studies more than ever; perhaps the hybridity of the field responds to the complexity of issues. As Press notes:

Our field has always been poised between the humanities and the social sciences simply by the nature of what we examine. …

The hybrid nature of feminist media studies has meant that, even as we analyze cultural phenomena humanistically, we are also interested in their demonstrated impact on women and other oppressed groups…

…[W]hat is at stake for feminist media studies … is retaining the critical perspective… Continued violence against women, inequities in unpaid and paid labor forces…and the path to “femininity” mandate that we not lose sight of these central issues as our field continues to develop.

As Bhattacharyya reiterates, old questions are new again, and the question of gender still pertains, for instance, in terms of gender and sexual imagery online; in terms of access to communication technologies and other economic factor; and in terms of the security of participation via communication forums.


Your assignment:

The above were just some crude generalizations of some approaches to feminism that we can take, and that relate to the context of our course.

Please comment below briefly what you think, from your situated perspective: Has feminism become elitist academic exercise, a kind of theoretical play? Do we need feminism? Feminist (media) studies? Yes, no, why? You can be conflicted, too…

This is the way you will respond to most of the theory sessions, here on my blog, and use yours to develop your research. You can sign up here with any screen name you’d like to use. Just use your SJU email address if asked when commenting (I’m the only one who will see it.). Sometimes WordPress singles out comments to be moderated — so if you don’t see yours immediately posted, not to worry. I will check and moderate frequently.

Due Thursday 6/8 at midnight!

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ICM836 Day 3 (6/6): What do we talk about when we talk about feminism?