Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Gender Stereotypes and the Media in Post-Communist Romania

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Gender Stereotypes and the Media in Post-Communist Romania

Article excerpt

"But for her sex, a woman is a man..."

Jean Jacques Rousseau

1. The Context

Debates of women participation in politics and leadership positions have been in the public eye over the past few years, especially in relation to the adhesion of Romania to the European Union. The idea of equal opportunities, on the whole and equal political representation, in particular got a lot of attention from European institutions. Started at the end of 2006, but functioning since 2008, the European Institute of Gender Equality is meant "to assist European institutions and member states with promoting gender equality in all community and national politics"1 and has a budget of about 52,5 million Euros up to year 2013. Moreover, the E.U. recently initiated and financed the conference "Equality between women and men in a time of change" (15th-16th June 2009, Brussels, Belgium).2

In spite of this, the representation of women in Romanian politics is one of the lowest in Europe: 9%, just like Malta and Turkey, compared with Sweden's 46% and 22% in Bulgaria according to European Committee statistics.3 Before 1989 women were promoted in the Communist Party institutions and The Great National Assembly based on a limited quota which was reversely proportional with the decisional power of the respective organization - the higher the quota, the lower the actual power. After the Revolution in '89 the association of women in politics to the communist practice of quotas and the authority principle as requested by the E.U., instead of the one of performance and necessity has not favored female politicians.4 Although progress is obvious at least when statistics are concerned and national legislation respects specific community aequis,5 Romanian politics is mainly a masculine area, where women are in few and benefit of low levels of support, both from their own political parties and from the public or the media.

2. Mass-Media and the Symbolic Construction of Reality

It is known that communication channels contribute to the acknowledgement of values, social norms, showing people types of behavior socially accepted in the community they belong to. In this context, the American journalist Walter Lippman talks about "the images in our head."6 The American experts P. Hartman and C. Husband also highlight the importance of mass-media means in building reality:

By making available certain types of information, by presenting a variety of perspectives and by laying stress on certain facts and ignoring others, massmedia can influence public conscience, causing what will be largely known and what stays unknown, just like what is considered important.7

People are fixed for limited means to knowing the totality of debates and opinions. Because of this press is thought to express the values of majority:

mass-media constitutes the main reference element in expressing and sharing opinions. The messages from the press are conceived like some kind of witnesses that share legitimate opinions, used by people as selective guides to determine who has the right to speak in public (legitimate opinions) and who must stay silent.8

Moreover, according to recent studies, 9 out of 10 Romanians prefer staying home and watching TV over any other leisure activity.9 This statistics and other research made upon the effects of mass-media content concluded that these support and take from the society a series of stereotypes and prejudices.10 Therefore, an analysis that will reveal the link between quantity/ quality participation of women in Romanian politics and the stereotype representations in national mass-media is even more justified.

3. Sex, Gender and Gender Studies

For starters, a definition is in order for those terms to be used in further analysis. When equal opportunities are concerned, then it is inevitably that the discussion will contain notions like sex differences, sex versus gender, stereotypes, gender stereotypes etc. …

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