Feminism and Media

Samina Najeeb

Feminism and Media

Fifth roundtable of SGGI – Working Group on ‘Women and Media’ was held with Mr. Khalid Rahman in the chair. The speaker, Ms. Samina Najeeb, threw light on “Feminism” and discussed it in detail.

SGGI Working Group on ‘Women & Media’ holds its 5th Roundtable


Fifth roundtable of SGGI – Working Group on ‘Women and Media’ was held with Mr. Khalid Rahman in the chair. The speaker, Ms. Samina Najeeb, threw light on “Feminism” and discussed it in detail.

She explained how the feminist movement started, how its different waves spread, and how it influenced not only the USA, but the whole world in general. The first wave feminists were those, who fought for women suffrage in the United States and beyond, beginning with the meeting in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848, and culminating in the right to vote in 1920. These were the women, who broke the barriers of the day to speak in public, to demand the property rights, and to claim a political voice.
The second wave is usually considered to have begun in about 1963, and it ran until the backlash of the 1980s. It focused on the recognition of women, their access to jobs and education, winning pay equity for them, their unpaid labor in the home, and rebalancing of the women’s double workload of family and outside, with the paid labor force.

The next wave of feminism brought global awareness of the feminist causes. Beginning with the struggle by white women in 1848, feminism acquired the contour of a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-racial movement in this phase, engaging women and even men from all over the world. The third wave feminists demanded sexual and reproductive freedom, advocated the rights of lesbians and gays and the women’s right to abort.

Burhan AliDiscussing different kinds of feminists, and their approaches, Ms. Najeeb highlighted that the Liberal feminists were individuals, who stressed that similarities between men and women are more than the differences between them; hence, equal opportunities, in home, at workplace, etc, should be provided to them. Moreover, they ignored the biological differences between both sexes, stressing that these stereotype images are basically culturally imposed.
Emerging in the 1970s, and becoming a strong voice by the 1980s, the Cultural feminism attempted to revalue the feminine aspects that had been devalued by society.

Radical feminism, stressing the differences between females and males, values women greatly, and likens male to a separate species. According to the radical feminist ideology, the violence of the heterosexual male has led to the patriarchal and hierarchal cultures of today. The males oppress and victimize the females through pornography, which is also a kind of suppression; besides, the militarization of the world also has more abusive effects on women.

Marxist and socialist feminists believe that women are exploited both as a sex and a class; their duty is considered just to reproduce, and in this way, their roles are twisted, and their nature is misrepresented. To change this situation, they seek an end to the gendered socialization and alliance of oppression groups, and urge a beginning of a sharing of the wealth.
Eco feminists may also subscribe to liberal, radical, or Marxist/socialist thought, but they focus on ecology, both of nature and human system.

Black feminism, basically, refers to the issues related to the black women. This group of feminists said that black women were behind the white women, with regards to contribution in economic and political fields. Gradually, the black men also started joining these black women in this pursuit.

Dr. Kouser FirdausThe presenter threw light on the feminism and media, saying that they both are closely related to each other. This relationship was formally established, when in 2002, United Nations established the Media Watch Group, comprising members (112 female and only 1 male), representing 42 countries. The purpose behind establishing this group was to monitor the performance of media, with special reference to its approach towards women. Thus, in light of the Article ‘J’ of Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), the Media Watch Group encouraged the participation of women in media, and discouraged their negative and stereotypical portrayal.

Some other major concerns highlighted in this regard were that women were not being appropriately presented in media; this negative portrayal of women must be stopped. In order to do so, such strategies should be adopted as can endorse the empowerment of women.


Moreover, women should be given importance by providing them the role of media decision-maker. There should not be any discrimination in employment or at workplace owing to the gender. The Media Watch group also highlighted that in media, men were in control; they either do not highlight the issues of women, or present them with their own perception. Also, the programs on media, generally, paint a gloomy picture of women, sometimes, in form of a dull mother, sometimes as a prostitute, or as a glamorous model; usually, a superficial image of women is presented; a woman, who is without brains and is obsessed with horoscope or beauty. Rarely, anything positive about women’s contribution is shared, or is made the news. Hence, the injustices which they suffer, either in form of absence from the news, or by negative portrayal, must be discouraged. The need is to give more space to women.

Maryam ZamanBy raising some thought-provoking and critical questions, the presenter further commented on the role and responsibility of media. She opined that the denigration of women in advertising and commercials leave them with no sense of worth at all, resulting in their inability to realize their own potential. Hence, such representation of women should be utterly shunned in media all over the world including Pakistan. Keeping in view the Islamic values and the ethical and moral foundation of the society, Pakistani media should avoid the portrayal of women in any undesirable manner that may hurt their dignity. Though, media is raising its voice against the injustice with women, yet, need is there, for it, to be true to its word, and do more constructive work by bringing improvement in its approach and practice.

The speaker concluded her presentation by raising many questions like ‘Can the increasing number of women, working in media, bring change for women? ‘Is there a need to give directions to the media?’ ‘Is there a need to understand feminism within the religious, cultural and social context, or the western ideology should be imported, as it is?’

Khalid RahmanDuring the discussion it was generally agreed that though the term ‘feminism’ was western, yet it must be understood in keeping with religious, cultural, and social context. Efforts should be made to influence media to portray the positive image of women that is compatible to indigenous value framework and norms. A lot of work has been done in West on this issue, but the family system is still very weak there. In fact, the movement of feminism has the western origin and vision of life, based on material benefits, which ultimately leads to the grasping of economic power without caring the family values.

Concluding the discussion, Mr. Rahman pointed towards the fact that West was presently a dominant civilization and that has to be accepted as a fact. It has the political and financial power, has dominance over communication means in addition to leading the intellectual and academic power, and the power of knowledge. Stressing that media was a powerful tool of globalization which becomes even more powerful for the West as it supports its cause by research and knowledge in which countries like Pakistan lag behind. Hence, the need of time must be fulfilled by gaining knowledge and enhancing research. It is the era of information technology and attention must be seriously paid to it so as to deal with the present situation of misconceptions about the tradition, family system, and culture. If the culture of research and use of technology is promoted in countries like Pakistan, a better and a balanced society can be achieved which may prove to be a role model for the West as well, he concluded.


13th October, 2009

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