Dr. Marko Milosavljević: “The danger of media capture is that it consists of subtle practices”

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Institute for International Communication

22404007_1022532311223108_1269317833_oDo we know who owns the media we consume and use? What are the algorithms guiding our consumption? Who can curb hate speech? The phenomenon of “media capture” takes place when both governments and commercial interests align against public interest media and transparency in governance of media organizations and platforms.

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ICM836 Last Day (6/29): Synthesis on Global Feminism and Research

Research, Teaching

The Last Session!

I had to redo this session as I received only one research outline and could thus not reflect on them collectively. I understand many of us are traveling, with not-so-ideal internet access.

First, greetings

Greetings from the UN ECOSOC event on SDG4: Education. I attended the meeting yesterday instead of Dr. Monteiro. Here are some take-aways for global feminism and the media:

  1. Globally, the funding for education is decreasing.
  2. There are 100 million potential students in the world without access to higher education.
  3. Girls and women are still disadvantaged, especially regarding higher ed, for economic and cultural reasons. Still, educating girls and women is the most “secure” investment in development, with the most far-reaching results.
  4. Technology will revolutionarize access to education. But…
  5. Tech is neutral. Content matters. Our edu systems are still responding to the needs of the industrialization era. We will see more innovation in educating values, responsibility, compassion, and collaboration; rather than facts and figures. This, clearly, will related to teaching norms and values regarding gender equality.

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Second, the course in a nutshell

Please screen this 2-minute summary of the core take-aways from the course:

Third, thank you!

Thank you all for your frank, courageous, and often witty commentary for the course. But it’s not quite over yet. With your permission, let’s share the final projects via Google Drive (not public, I’ll upload them and share the link with you). You will also receive feedback from me. Final projects and the exam due 7/6 at midnight. Please try to make the deadline: I will travel abroad for work soon thereafter and would like to get you your grades and comments before that.

ICM836 Day 9 (6/27): Synthesis on Global Feminism and the Media, Theory & HTS

Research, Teaching


Who can speak and act for whom?

Let’s start with this short video:

“Like It’s Nobody’s Business.”

The United State of Women is a Summit that was originally convened by the previous White House to rally all of us together to achieve gender equality.

The following women joined the United State of Women in this film (in order of appearance): Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, Dr. Jen Welter, Leah Katz-Hernandez, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, First Lady Michelle Obama, Katie Lowes, Tina Fey, Oprah Winfrey, Connie Britton, Jessica Williams, Laverne Cox, Indra Nooyi, Dina Powell, Tory Burch, Adepero Oduye, Bellamy Young, Cecilia Munoz, Cecile Richards, Aidy Bryant, Christy Turlington, Cynthia Erivo, Valerie Jarrett, Tina Tchen, Megan Smith, Shonda Rhimes and Tracee Ellis Ross.

While the video is clearly meant for American audiences,I believe we can all think about whether this video depicts a united state of women. Who, in fact, are representing “women” in the video — and does it matter?

Bring in the global angle, “global feminism” in all its forms and complexities. Who can be an expert to voice others’ suffering? Who can understand and generalize “women’s experiences” in different cultures and conditions? When is sex a factor, when gender? Who can offer solutions and rally problem-solvers to help? Where is the agency?

From African Feminism (AF):

Several explanations are used to define agency:

“an individual’s (or group’s) ability to make effective choices and to transform those choices into desired outcomes”

“a dialectic of freedom and constraint”

“how women even within oppressive structures undertake little acts that help in subverting or changing the terms of the debate, or lead to transformative change in their lives or their children’s lives”

“women’s experiences of making the most of their situation, in the following ways: her ability to rise above the situations she is pressed with; participation in the community; assertion of identity; and how she continues to survive and make changes for herself and her immediate environment and community”

These are all very real questions when we talk about bringing theory to practice in development work, in eliciting social change.

A Case of Communication for Social Change: HTS

Now we will approach the question of “who can/should speak”. Our case is your book review text plus a set of related media products, and related discussions, that form so called Half the Sky Movement.

The book became a major bestseller that, consequently,  has been turned turned into an effective family of communication-PR spin-offs, ranging from a PBS documentary/film series to its own multi-media website with educational materials, to a Facebook game (with plenty of  donors behind it and a donation function embedded in it).

In many ways, the book is very engaging and eye-opening (all of you mentioned that in your reviews). It depicts horrid cases of forced labour, sex work/trafficking, and female genital mutilation. We know about these things from the news, but the book is a more in-depth reportage that helps us understand some terrible realities of gender/sex-based discrimination and violence through powerful stories. (Indeed, it is a book of stories rather than statistics.) If we talk about global feminism and the role of the media / communication, isn’t this exactly the kind of communication for awareness and social justice we need? Your praise of the book, in my words (so apologies if I misinterpret something):

  • Courageous investigative journalism
  • Call for action, for global responsibility
  • Represents issues that feminism should address, and we all should acknowledge
  • From victimhood to empowerment, from problems to global solutions
  • My addition: And, in multimedia form, in different platforms? With calls for actions and possibilities for all of us to contribute?

And yet… I was first hesitant to ask you to purchase the book; to contribute to the bestseller royalties… 😉

Then, I thought, this is a perfect example of the complexities of global feminism, feminist movements and theories, and the role of the media. Why? Because we can get glimpses to other realities through the book, an because, at the same time, the book and its popularity has made many, many people very uneasy. (Interestingly, only Kiah mentioned criticism in her review.)

Some criticism

  • Veiled Colonialism: A Feminist Criticism of the Half the Sky Movement: “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?”
  • How the other half suffers: “Misogyny is as real in the US as anywhere else on earth. People who think charity begins at home will be driven to apoplexy by the authors’ certainty that the US has the answers. Global figures for domestic violence are cited, but examples of women whose sexual experience began with a rape “or attempted rape” are drawn from Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.”
  • Half humanitarian heroics, half celebrity ego trip: “And you haven’t seen bizarre until you’ve seen Eva Mendes offer a raped 14-year-old her choice of a necklace from around the star’s neck. Mendes tells the girl to wear the necklace and pray for Mendes, and that she’ll do the same for the girl.” [about the documentary].
  • Nicholas Kristof and the Politics of Writing About Women’s Oppression in Darker Nations: “What many of Kristof’s critics are simply asking him to do is this:

  • 1) Acknowledge his racial and social location and how his positionality allows him to intervene in the lives of the oppressed;

    2) Become aware that the oppressed women he writes about have agency and voice and he should stop depicting entire non-European cultures in Orientalist terms;

    3) Start situating women’s oppression within a series of intersecting problems that are created by structures of colonialism, corruption, patriarchy, casteism, imperialism, capitalism, lack of education and civil transparency, and absence of law and order;

    4) Acknowledge, study, and give credit to the many small and big historical and contemporary social movements related to anticolonial struggles, upliftment of Dalits, women’s equality, empowerment and human rights, and anti-poverty movements that Africans and Asians have created and sustained;

    5) Articulate America’s roles as current Empire and Europe’s role as an old empire in contributing to the problems that exist in postcolonial developing countries.”

  • Just google for some more… The list of critical commentary is long. These tensions, these situated VIEWS, are what global feminism is about.

Assignment – Final Review Quiz Due 7/6 at Midnight

This week, no more new assignments.

Here is the Final Exam.


ICM836 Day 8 (6/22): Last concepts and steps of research

Research, Teaching

I. Some Concepts for Researching Media and Gender from a Global Perspective

The course has perhaps addressed more tensions than agreements, more conflicting ideas and interests than grand theories and solutions.

We have talked about gender disparities (hence, inherently agreeing on the idea of socially constructed gender), less about sexism (discrimination based on biological sex). But, honestly, even these categories are blurry at times, aren’t they? Even if we don’t analyze the way in which the media create gender stereotypes, discrimination based on sex still happens in a society; is arbitrary and hence constructed in a society, in a culture.

And, we have not discussed the advantages of different sexes, different genders. The main narrative of feminism is that of social justice for the disadvantaged, in this case women. But is that the only narrative to have?

Most importantly, we have discovered the contextual nature of gender portrayals and the importance of situated knowledge, especially in thinking about what global feminism might be.

I want to add a couple of concepts that are related to gender, media, and global development: Gender Mainstreaming, Individualization, and Sustainable Development.

Gender mainstreaming

Perhaps the most relevant concept, if we wish to address global feminism and development, is the idea of gender mainstreaming. The term is now a few decades old:

Gender mainstreaming was adopted as a major strategy for promoting gender equality at the [United Nations] Fourth World Conference of Women in 1995. It called for mainstreaming in all Critical Areas of Concern at the conference which included poverty, human rights, economy, violence against women and armed conflict.

…Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.

The concept has also  received plenty criticism. One of the main worries is that mainstreaming is overshadowing the special vitality of feminism; the ability of feminist movement to truly intervene and suggest alternatives.

Individualization, division

A debate, relevant to your research topics, is “pop feminism”, promoted by  celebrities and Dove marketing campaigns. As the recent book “We Were Feminists Once” attests:

Feminism has hit the big time. It drives advertising and marketing campaigns for everything from wireless plans to underwear to perfume, presenting what’s long been a movement for social justice as just another consumer choice in a vast market. Individual self-actualization is the goal, shopping more often than not the means, and celebrities the mouthpieces.

But what does it mean when social change becomes a brand identity? Feminism’s splashy arrival at the center of today’s media and pop-culture marketplace, after all, hasn’t offered solutions to the movement’s unfinished business. Planned Parenthood is under sustained attack, women are still paid 77 percent—or less—of the man’s dollar, and vicious attacks on women, both on- and offline, are utterly routine.


The same sentiment was recently expressed in a global scale with regards to Brexit. In the article We Need a Unified Voice the feminist Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini wrote:

We are living in the most pluralistic societies ever in the history of humanity. Each of us has a racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, geographic and gender identity and so forth.

At its best this pluralism is beautiful, like a Persian carpet, with colourful threads woven together to make a coherent whole. But we are at risk of losing the best and getting the worst when each of our identities is being pulled in different directions. Here’s an example: When someone insults Iran, I have a visceral reaction to defend my Persian heritage, even though I’m also British, de facto Italian, and deeply rooted in Americana since I went to the American Community School as a child in Iran. Similarly I uphold my Muslim identity in the face of Islamophobia, but I would much prefer to recognise what unites us, not what divides so. It isn’t difficult. Talk to a Taliban leader about what he wants for his children, and immediately the human connection is made. I’ve no doubt we could find the common ground with the ardent Brexit voters, if only there was an opportunity and a platform for us to listen and talk.

We need to work on social cohesion – not just tolerance or parallel coexistence – but on bringing us together, to acknowledge the good and bad in each of our cultures and traditions. Otherwise our pluralism is going to be fodder for forces that seek to polarize us which includes our increasingly insidious media. No society on earth today can withstand that sort of divisiveness. Yet little is being done to proactively and creatively resist these divisions.

Sustainable Development

Let’s move to the most global of  contexts. Sustainable Development Goals, or, in other words, Agenda 2030, are the new goals of the United Nations, accepted by the member states in September 2015. The idea is that these 17 goals are not specific to “less developed countries” but equally applicable to the Global North and Global South. While the media are not really discussed in these goals (basically apart from access to the internet), as we discussed before, Gender Equality has been in the UN agenda for decades. Here are the specific targets of the current Goal number 5:


End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere


Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation


Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation


Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate


Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life


Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences


Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws


Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women


Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels

Sounds good, doesn’t it? But a feminist reading of the Agenda 2030 points out many failures, as depicted in this critique: power-and-the-sustainable-development-goals-a-feminist-analysis. As you will see, this feminist analysis is not only about women, it is about who has the power (be it economic, political, cultural, social). This is what the author notes, for instance, about the above Target 5.5:

Political participation is notorious for the obstacles presented to women from non-elite groups; and class inequality forms a very significant barrier for women in poverty and favours women politicians rather than women’s movements.

In contrast, women’s participation in the economic and public realms does provide a broader focus on the participation of women from ‘civil society’. Though the reasons for Target 5.5’s wording might well be understood as deriving from the difficulties of measuring women’s mobilisation, there is a clear problem with this target which may mean it will prove to be empty rhetoric.

Women’s full and effective participation and leadership is not only dependent on women’s own effort and interest in coming to the national and international negotiating tables and having equal opportunities to men to participate … but also on access to the resources that act as preconditions for participation (money, time, confidence, and education among them), and on the existence of concrete mechanisms for promoting women’s participation…

In Sum: Global Scholarly Agenda for Gender and the Media

So, what can Feminist Media Studies do for Global Feminism, and global development? The media do have a key role in many issues, as a reinforcer of values, or as a change agent.

That is why UNESCO, together with the International Association of Mass Communication Research,  got together a group of some of the most prominent scholars in the field to produce this report: global-media_and_gender_unesco

The report highlights four areas in need to research and discovery:

I. Violence of gender, media and information

II. Women’s access to media and information

III. Gender media policy and strategies

IV. Gender, education and media and information literacy

The introduction, by one of the powerhouses in gender and global development, Margaret Gallagher, states the issues we have grappled with throughout the course:

The push and pull between theorising, research and activism has always been a feature of feminist approaches to the media.

Since its beginnings, a good deal of feminist scholarship has been motivated two questions: ‘How can the media be changed? How can we free women from the tyranny of media messages limiting their lives to hearth and home?’ If today these questions seem naïve, they are an embryonic formulation of the concerns that drive much feminist media analysis almost four decades later.

But the work of global feminist media studies, in all of its strands is just expanding:

Certainly, the advent of new media – blogs, videoblogs, podcasting, social media applications – has begun to change feminist activism in ways that are neither better nor worse than in the past, but activism as we struggle to analyse and change media structures, institutions and practices.

Due Tonight: An Example of Complex Relationship Between the Media and Global Feminism

Aka: Your Book Reviews, on your own blogs. The instructions can be found at the end of this blog post.

Final Research Assignment, due 6/27

Your very last assignment prompt:

Write your final project outline and an introductory paragraph, post them on your blog, and comment on everyone else’s outlines.

When commenting, please, do NOT refrain in the level of “interesting” and “great job”.  Be specific, ask questions, make suggestions. That’s the way you can help your colleagues.

Just as a reminder. Your Final Project is a 10-15 min. video or audio (podcast), with a separate document on your references, or a 10-15-page written reflection (1.5 space, 12 pt Times New Roman or equivalent + references). Tips:

  • STRUCTURE: Note that whatever format you choose, your core, the skeleton of your final project, needs to be well researched, argued and academically referenced. Then you can build it up to an interesting, “different”, presentation, whether in text, audio, or video. In every case, you will need to include a written list of  references (proper academic referencing).
  • FORMAT: Think of the assignment as a audio/video or online blog lecture — you would be scholarly, yet you would enrich that with images (you can add them to your text, too), sound, video, different kinds of examples and mini-stories…

Outline and intro paragraphs are due Tue 6/27 midnight. Then check out everyone else’s outlines and comment by Thu 6/29.

Remember also to comment Jehan’s and Kia’s guest lectures by Wed 6/28!

Next Week

Tuesday: Lessons from your book reviews – summary of the theory sessions – Online Final Theory Quiz posted online (due 7/6).

Thursday: Lessons from your research  outlines – final tips for final papers/videos/podcasts (final project due 7/6).

And that’s it!

Hangout Schedule – 2 added times

You need to join one to discuss your final project. Feel free to join any of these — the link will be shared with you 10  min. prior:

  • Thur 6/22 5-545pm
  • Thur 6/22 8-845pm
  • Mon 6/26 7-745pm
  • Fri 6/23 12-1245pm
  • Thur 6/29 8-845pm
  • Fri 6/30 12-1245pm



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

Research, Teaching

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. http://www.desertsun.com/insider/extras/2017/06/07/meet-women-who-fought-vote/102582054/

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.

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.28.56 AM.png

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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