Objectification and denigration of women in the media must stop

MISA-Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Women’s Day (IWD) today.

The 2011 United Nations (UN) theme for 2011 is, Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.

Guided by the SADC Gender protocols notably Articles 29-31 which relate to the media, information and communications, MISA-Zimbabwe takes opportunity of this day to challenge the continued ‘objectification’ of women by the media and certain sections of Zimbabwe’s advertising industry.

To objectify someone, is to reduce someone exclusively to the level of an object. In Zimbabwe it is women that are mostly objectified in the media. The images that appear in several adverts tend to portray women as physical objects that should simply be admired if not savoured. Such images negatively project women as having no other substantive attributes outside their physical and bodily make-up.

This portrayal of women totally ignores and seems oblivious to the fact that women are also equal subjective beings with independent thoughts, consciences and emotions.

A classical example of the objectification of women is Delta Beverages’ Redds cider advertisement placed in The Standard weekly edition of 6-12 March 2011.

The advert shows the posteriors of four women (they are definitely women as evidenced by their physique and manicured fingers) clad in tight fitting jeans. They are each holding a bottle of Redds smacked on their posteriors. The advert reads: Have great fun.

MISA-Zimbabwe condemns such portrayal of women in the media as reinforcing medieval stereotypes that objectify women. The Redds advert is denigrating as it equates women’s posteriors to objects of ‘great fun’ to be enjoyed with a Redds drink!

MISA-Zimbabwe urges Delta Beverages to drop the advert and apologise to readers and the generality of Zimbabwean women. Ironically, the advert in question is flighted in a supplement to commemorate International Women’s Day!

Although MISA-Zimbabwe cites Delta Beverages’ Redds advert, this negative portrayal of women is not unique to Zimbabwe, but is prevalent throughout the global advertising industry.

MISA-Zimbabwe also notes with great concern the violation of the right to privacy and human dignity in some of the stories carried by the two Zimpapers tabloids H-Metro and B-Metro, especially where it concerns women who are by and large the subjects and sources of the stories.

MISA-Zimbabwe therefore urges the two tabloids to mainstream gender balance in an accurate, fair and balanced manner in their reportage of socio-economic issues.