Theory and Practice
in Feminism and Media
Several decades have passed since feminist activists and researchers first engaged in a systematic, ongoing critique of media institutions and their output. During those years, immense technological changes have transformed media structures globally. Yet countless studies continue to document the underrepresentation of women as protagonists and participants in media systems around the world. The electronic highway systems created by satellite, cable, and the Internet may have revolutionized the communication and cultural environment in a technological sense, but in the gendered spaces of media power structures and media output, there is no sign of a radical break with the past. The relentless ingenuity of media and cultural institutions in maintaining, perpetuating, and reinventing well-known gender patterns in both organizational infrastructures and products provokes an obvious question: What—if anything—has been achieved in the course of three decades of feminist media scholarship and activism?
In terms of theory and analytical approach, of course there has been significant development. The initial framework for the study of women and media was a relatively simple one, in terms of the issues addressed and the concepts used. This is not necessarily to say that the research carried out within that framework was unsophisticated. A glance back at some of the studies from the 1970s—for instance, Tuchman's (1978) work on newsroom practices reported in her book Making News; or Mattelart's (1977) analysis