Gender Equality Through Women’s Magazines?

Published: 19 October 2015

Region: Worldwide

Women_Kenya_Village_2The term “women’s magazines” in many cases prompts us to think of fashion and beauty tips, as well as the women’s objectification that has been often observed on publications dedicated to female readership.

Still, as the Columbia Journalism Review reported, there have been interesting developments within the women-oriented websites. Fashion tips are not the only trending topics, as more serious issues have started dominating in these women’s dedicated websites. Platforms such as Refinery 29 or Cosmopolitan have published articles on acts of resistance to ethnic oppression, women’s stigmatization, and politics, and the media outlet Vice News has recently launched Broadly, a website and digital video channel devoted to representing the multiplicity of women’s experiences.

According to a Global Media Monitoring Project 2015 report, there is still a long way to go before reaching a satisfactory women’s visibility in the media. In 2015 only 25% of the people “heard, spoken of or read about in the news” were women, with an increase of 1% since 2010. This percentage further drops if we consider conflict reporting.  Women constitute only 13% of people interviewed or spoken about, according to a seminal research carried out by The World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) in 15 transitional and conflict countries.

By opposing gender stereotypes and sexism in media, the women’s media outlets promote women-based reporting and give a women’s perspective on current affairs. The recurrence of the word “woman” and the emphasis on women-related issues, however, seems not to be welcoming towards people who do not identify as women. Could this be a beneficial aspect, or is it just an additional gap-creator? If it could appear as a mere statement of targeted audience, these outlets keep offering the same old polarity of women and man, resulting in the exclusion of women from the current affairs. Wouldn’t it be better to find a different approach that breaks this repetitive systemisation of power play and oppression?

An example listed by the Columbia Journalism Review is The Skimm, a daily news brief produced by two women and is designed to “anyone who is short on time”. There is no clear emphasis on the division between genders or exclusion, though hinting at a women target. The above mentioned Broadly, launched in August 2015, aims at attracting in the Vice network those women who do not find he content of Vice appealing (in 2014 two thirds of Vice news readers were male). As the editor likes to put it quoting a YouTube commentator, Broadly is “Vice but excluding anything of relevance that includes men.”

One of the first video pieces published by Broadly is the story of Umoja, a Kenyan women-only village founded to escape the men’s abuses of their patriarchal tribe made up. This exclusion seems to be suggested as a way to empower women. But does it really? Similarly, is the proposed separation of content the best way of boosting diversity and gender equality in the media? Do we really attain better women’s representation in the media by separating women reader and women’s issues from the rest of the content?