Media In Breaking Down Gender-Based Violence and Misogyny

The Role of Media In Breaking Down Gender-Based Violence and Misogyny

Media is one of the most powerful advocacy tools as it has great impact on its followers. Media, both mainstream and onlinehas the capacity to change mindsets and influence opinions within a community, essentially moulding social norms and culture. For this reason, it is extremely important that media houses and personnel be intentional about the message they put out for consumption. While there could be a delicate balance between trying to attract a following and readership and passing the correct message, it should be obvious which should supersede the other.

A few weeks ago, Janet Mbugua, a media personality, made headlines in several of Kenya’s blogs and was trending on Twitter. This was because of her ex-husband’s actions and had nothing to do with her. Paul and Eddie Ndichu had been accused of assaulting two ladies at a renown hotel in Nairobi. Instead of using the two men’s names, an alarmingly great number of people referred to the men as Janet Mbugua’s ex-husband and his brother, as if they did not have names of their own. This deflected the story and put the focus on Janet instead of focusing on the main issue- gender-based violence (GBV) and the principle of consent.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case of the media, both mainstream and otherwise parrying the narrative of a story. The choice of words used deviated the attention from the main issue that should have been discussed, i.e., the GBV which had been occasioned on the two ladies.

Several times, where GBV has been meted out to women, they become the subject of discussion instead of the act and or the perpetrators being the focus. This diversion of focus is problematic because it cultivates misogyny and victim-blaming which are core to the perpetuation of rape culture.

Misogyny, loosely defined, refers to the hatred of women. It is based on the belief that a woman must behave in a certain way and must be punished if she doesn’t. Misogyny devalues women; normalizes or minimizes abuse; claims GBV is accidental; promotes aggressive or even toxic masculinity; and uses men’s achievements to exonerate, excuse, and/or deny the impact of their behaviour.

To ensure that we prevent GBV, we must address the culture of misogyny within societies. The media is strategically placed to be a tool that can breakdown negative cultures and encourage positive cultures such as gender equality and respect for women. The headlines used for a GBV stories can either encourage the trend or dissuade and cause a decline in the same.

Media houses and personnel should be keen to encourage positive cultures in their reporting rather than perpetuate a social ill. Sensitization and capacity building for media personnel in GBV issues would be a great place to start. This would ensure that the reporting is from a point of knowledge and that the reporters and/or writers are sensitive and keen to the nuances that are present in GBV. Wouldn’t it be more satisfying to stir social change rather than tear apart the society and perpetuate negative cultures?

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