To understand how patriarchy influences media and pop culture, we have to first acknowledge the role of media in shaping societal perceptions. In an ideal world, we could confidently assert that media content and gender representations do not predominantly cater to what Mulvey (1975) famously termed “the male gaze.” However, our reality does not align with this ideal world.
For today’s discussion, let’s spotlight Film and TV. Commercial products, films, music videos, and various facets of our entertainment landscape continue to shape and strengthen perceptions stemming from the masculine lens. While such tendencies are expected in a heavily patriarchal society, they persist even in content produced by seemingly ‘progressive’ groups or brands.
It’s worth acknowledging that many of us appreciate a good time and vibrant visuals. However, it’s essential to question why a large percentage of film and TV content, such as music videos, revolves around presenting women as ‘objects of desire’ or reinforcing the worn-out ‘male-dominant, female submissive/passive’ roles. One would naturally wonder if filmmakers or brand managers ever pause to reflect, thinking, “Isn’t this becoming trite?”
According to the PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook for 2022-2026, Nigeria’s media and entertainment industry stands as one of the world’s fastest-growing creative sectors. So, shouldn’t we endeavor to infuse more creativity?
In an industry where storytelling holds paramount importance, one must inquire: Where lies the authentic narrative? The genuineness?
While hyper-realism can be captivating, and the media often acts as a form of escapism, crafting realities that appear ‘more real’ than the purported realities continues to exert harmful and detrimental effects on society.
But what are these effects?
Going by the words of Ojomo Ph.D. & Adekusibe (2020), “Television contents reinforce gender stereotypes, which more or less contribute to gender inequality in the Nigerian society, with women being the most brunt.”
These influences are potent enough to affect thinking and behavioral patterns, opportunities, societal expectations, and roles, among other aspects. This conversation also extends to the type of content that showcases performative allyship messages, capitalizing on social justice trends, while the associated brands or organizations overlook implementing meaningful changes within their own structures.
Similarly, characters in films often engage in superficial dialogues, lacking the depth necessary for introspection. Sometimes, it’s wiser to do nothing than to feign inclusivity, as such actions can prove counterproductive.
When you truly ponder it, this becomes a cycle: the consumption of these contents reinforces behavioral norms; individuals consciously or subconsciously adopt these norms; and consequently, more content is produced to bolster these perspectives as reality.
The influence of this cycle goes beyond gender roles and norms. It permeates career choices, contributes to the gender pay gap, shapes general attitudes at work and more. Let’s review.
The findings of the World Gender Report 2022 indicate that disparities in wealth accumulation between genders can be traced back to the existing gender gap within the workforce. While the disparity between male and female participation in the Nigerian labour force has shown improvement due to increased female labour engagement over the years, a significant compensation gap persists between men and women across all occupations. The 2022 gender gap stands at 63.9%.
To all the career women and marginalized groups, you may have experienced being labeled as ‘difficult’ for asserting yourself, your ideas disregarded, or the discomfort of expressing your aspirations at work due to the fear of being perceived as demanding.
These ingrained values can manifest as subtly as ignoring a woman’s contribution in a work meeting while acknowledging a man’s, or as overtly as attaching negativity to feminism.
…And, inevitably, each year, we meticulously plan campaigns and social media strategies to celebrate International Women’s Day, only to revert to the status quo for the remaining 364 days.
Clearly, there’s an urgent need for reorientation.