The mass media deserve to be called the fourth branch of power because of their influence on public opinion and public consciousness. The media in any society have at least two roles: as a chronicler or storyteller of current events, and as an informer of public opinion thereby fostering different point of views.
But unfortunately, often, the mass media tend to minimize coverage of events and organizations of interest to women as compare to their male counterparts. Women’s issues are given less attention by many media institutions thus, limiting their rights in the larger society.
The media do not adequately inform the public about the rights and roles of women in society; nor do they usually engage in measures to promote or improve women’s position.
Most of the world’s media have yet to deal with that fact that women, as usual, are the first to be affected by political, social and economic changes and reforms taking place in a country-for example, they are among the first to lose their jobs. The media also ignores the fact that women are largely alienated from the political decision-making process.
The media can be used to cultivate gender biases and promote a stereotype about a woman’s place, helping conservative governments and societies to put the blame on women for the failure in family policy, and to reinforce the idea that women are responsible for social problems, such as divorce and the growth of minor crime getting worse.
Another widespread trend in the mainstream media is to depict women as beautiful objects; women are identified and objectified according to their sex, and are made to internalize certain notions of beauty and attractiveness which relate more to women’s physical capacities than to her mental faculties. Such an approach encourages the long-standing patriarchal stereotype of the weaker sex, where women are sexual objects and second-class citizens.
Admittedly, the mass media also tell stories about women politicians and about businesswomen and their successes, but this kind of coverage is rare and infrequent. The presentation of topics such as fashion competitions, miss beauty, movie stars, art and the secrets of eternal youth is more typical.
Not surprisingly, such views hardly promote women’s sense of self-worth and self -respect or encourage them to take on positions of public responsibility.
If there is a lack of proper coverage of women’s issues and the activities of women lawmakers, this contributes to a lack of public awareness about them, which in turn translates into lack of constituency of women lawmakers.
The mass media and journalists need to recognize the equal value and dignity of men and women. The media must not be used to cultivate gender biases; the mass media has the responsibility to ensure that the voices of women are adequately heard because they are part of the changes taking place around the world.