Remembering Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: A Question of Media Regulation
Source：Chinese Women's Research Network | Release Date：2015-7-30-
This year sees the 20th anniversary of the basic national policy of gender equality in China, and the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women. The event, a major UN initiative on women's rights saw leaders ink a historic agreement, the famous "Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action."
"Women and the Media" was one of the 12 major concerns of the Beijing Declaration. The media not only spreads messages, but also passes on the cultural norms and values. Whether media uphold the values and ideals of gender equality has a far-reaching influence on the majority of people to recognize the value and contribution of women in family and society.
Discussions on the existing problems of media discourse in the production and dissemination of articles, and the making of recommendations from a gender perspective, are important for the whole of society to better nurture and practice the values of gender equality.
The main problems of media discourse
- Some cultural and entertainment programs disparage women's characters, values and dignity, misleading the audience to devalue women.
With strong trends in entertainment and consumerism prevailing in the market, some media brands disseminate derogatory images of women, perpetuate traditional female family roles, and excessively exploit women to improve audience ratings, leading to discrepancies from the real multifaceted image of females, and seriously disrupting the audience’s judgment of the value of women. For example, during this year's Spring Festival Evening Gala, a major TV event, there was a comparative rap performance which sought to make a distinction between "Goddess" and "Cowgirl" depending entirely on the physical characteristics of women. It was full of ridicule of larger women and older, unmarried women.
- The selection criteria of the media agenda has gender blind spots and gender bias, leading to women's issues being marginalized.
The setting of a media agenda is reflected in the media's production values. Women's issues receive less attention. Throughout 2013, a research project was carried out to monitor 70 editions of five different television news programs from east, west, south, north and central mainland China. Among the monitored 1,010 segments of TV news, only 66 pieces were on women and women-related topics, and none of them hit the headlines; just 8 pieces accounting for 0.79% were about law and policy related to women and none of these provided experiences empowering women or delivered a positive message promoting women's rights. In the figures presented, men are most commonly described as the backbone of society; women often appear as ordinary family caregivers, indicating that the media wittingly or unwittingly limits women's living space and their values to marriage and family.
- Media regulation system and checking mechanisms lack clear gender evaluation index.
Current laws and policies on media supervision and monitoring basically have no regulations of the content concerning gender equality, though the regulations of State Press and Publication Administration Regulations and Regulations on Broadcasting and Television Administration have restrictive requirements on the dissemination of content. Usually these requirements are principled and lack maneuverability; there is no assessment and monitoring indicators on gender and effective accountability mechanisms in case of violation. Though the Spring Festival Gala is a large, comprehensive show, professionals with gender equality awareness and evaluation criteria on gender equality are absent in its monitoring and evaluation work. After the clip "Goddess vs. Cowgirl" drew a lot of attention, it was only later questioned on suspicion of spreading discrimination against women.
- Media practitioners need to strengthen gender equality awareness and human rights awareness.
Media practitioners’ level of awareness on the capabilities and value of both genders, their roles and the division of labor, rights and responsibilities play a decisive role for setting up gender issues and the production and dissemination of media discourse. Currently in the training of media professionals, training on specific technical skills come first, but training on awareness of human rights and gender equality is less and relatively weak. Some cultural creators lack a healthy creative consciousness and seek quick success to meet the shallow needs of the audience in the pursuit of "cheap laughs." They are prone to discriminate against women without realizing it when they come across the topics of women, gender relations and other related issues.
Suggestions on regulating media
- Improve gender agenda-setting ability of the mainstream media, pay attention to the influence and power of media discourse.
Mainstream media should use their own platforms and strengths in communication to set an agenda which better reflects awareness of gender equality and its future trends, and prompt audiences to agree on its judgment on gender values, influence their agenda setting, leading to a positive impact on the establishment of a new order among media, and forming a resultant media force in the whole society which can better spread the values of gender equality. On the other hand, the changes can fit into the current society of popular culture and social environment, conduct targeted discourses and spread discourses conducive for gender equality, by paying more attention to gender topics, consciously steering gender awareness of the audience and other media, and expanding the operating space for media to disseminate gender equality values.
- Integrate the index of gender equality into media regulation policies and index systems, and improve the media regulatory mechanism.
The media sector should further implement the basic national policy of gender equality by establishing a sound intervention mechanism. Firstly, take gender equality indicators into the design and improvement of regulatory policies and media index systems so that the mass media have a policy to follow in reporting gender issues. Secondly, insist on gender equality in the conception, content, form and design of programs on certain sections, and establish a gender equality consultation mechanism, introduce experts into program checks, set gender advisers into the review process or include gender equality indicators into program evaluations. Thirdly, strengthen the tracking of public cultural products, encourage good work, promoting advanced gender culture, and conduct accountability for violation of the basic national policy.
- Include discriminatory buzzwords into China's national forbidden terms list, and get the mainstream media to take the lead.
Media, especially the mainstream media carrying the mission to spread socialist core values, should steer the public opinion. Xinhua News Agency issued a document on "Forbidden Terms in Xinhua News Agency Report (First)" in July 2014 to suggest that some words on specific groups of men and women with sexist labels (such as "left-over women", "cowgirl", "pussy " and others) be included in the forbidden word category for the national news media, as well as official documents, in favor of gender equality in order to purify the harmonious development of public opinion.
-Conduct gender equality awareness training to target those populations working for media; enhance their cultural consciousness in spreading the values of gender equality.
First, strengthen the training of media management staff to have a sensitivity and awareness of gender equality in the development of media communication policies and selecting staff; second, strengthen the training of media practitioners in general, to help them to establish gender equality awareness, and take this concept into the production and distribution of media works; third, increase courses on gender equality in the curriculum of college majors such as journalism, public administration and other subjects. Meanwhile educators should teach future media workers to respect the law, ethics and human rights; and also raise their awareness of gender equality, guiding them to be the defenders of justice.