#GenderIDTalks Panel 3 Media and Advertising

Beata Siewierska-Uluad

The GenderIDTalks is a project organized by GEYC in partnership with Association la Voix de l’Enfant Rural AVER and ANKA Youth Association in the frame of the Anna Lindh Foundation Virtual Marathon for Dialogue. GenderIDTalks aims to promote gender equality, in the sense of raising awareness on the topic of women and gender stereotypes in a cross-cultural and cross-sectorial way. The topic of 3rd panel, that took place on 15th of June 2021, was about media and advertising. The moderator of the talk was Begum Merve Demirsoy, the founder of ANKA Youth Association. 6 speakers from different countries and backgrounds joined the meeting: Khadija Maalej, Kassem Istanbouli, Bilge Narin, Alina Coman, Anila Noor and Alessia De Iulis.

It is very difficult nowadays to run away from internet, media and commercials – they siege, influence, sometimes attack us with their content. Sometimes we watch videos, see pictures and do not get aware of their influence on our subconscious. Kids raised with them may follow some of the schemes they saw in their childhood in the future. People also follow some trendy needs and actions created by media. This is why it is so important to influence people creating the content that we see and watch, because usually it is full of stereotypes and materials that make gender equality more difficult to reach. During the third panel of GenderIDTalks this topic was mostly mentioned: how people from different background and countries try to change it, how advertisements work and influence our “now” and “future”. In this article brief speeches will be shown.

The first panelist was Khadija Maalej who is a 29 years old Tunisian activist and manager for BBC Media Action North Africa. She became more active after Tunisian revolution in 2015. She works with local communities, families and kids, and the main purpose of her activity is to change or influence their behaviors and develop them in a better way. The project “I am a President” that Khadija has started is very interesting. It is the first Tunisian reality TV show that tries to empower the next Tunisian generation of the democratic leaders. The project is very important, because in the society males are always in the foreground and females are behind. The purpose is to change this and make women more visible, as they have the same position and voice as men. It is very important to mention that now women can join the Tunisian parliament. Nowadays they try to do some projects not only in Tunisia, but also Nigeria that will talk about gender issues. The project will cover needs of both genders: men and women, research the community and understand how to change it. To reach it, they influence media and people working with media in the topic. They push them to make women more visible and active in media, because they mostly shape and influence people’s minds.

The second guest was Kassem Istanbouli, the only man during the meeting, who is a Lebanese street theater performer, actor, comedian, and theater director, project manager at Tiro Association for Arts. As in Lebanon the only place people have access to art and performances is its capital, Beirut, Kassem decided to create a theater in the Southern part of the country, recently there is  also a new project in the Northern part of Lebanon as well. With a group of volunteers he started cinemas, theaters, workshops for kids, dances, photography; a lot of festivals were founded. To name a few;: International Short Film Festival (from 2014), Lebanon International Theater Festival (from 2014), Tyre Intentional Music Festival (form 2015). The association has a bus which is used to bring art to villages As he mentioned during the meeting, his projects focused on gender equality and freedom by using art, beauty, sport and bringing people together. This is why they try to create cultural areas in different parts of the country and for people from different social status.

The third speaker was Bilge Narin who studied journalism at Ankara University and Middle-Eastern Technical University, she is an associate Prof. Dr. at Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University, Faculty of Communication and the Department of Journalism. Nowadays her work is mostly about media, ethics and gender. She organizes workshops for journalists and cooperates with some NGOs. For her speech she prepared a presentation divided into three parts: Being a female employee in the media, Media portrayal of women and queer identities and Stop gender stereotypes. As Bilge Narin mentioned, Turkish media covered mostly “white man’s” preferences which meant that women showed on screen were the symbol of beauty and youth – their career passed with these values. About newspapers, women’s sexuality is everywhere, their bodies are in the center, and as before, they are identified only with their beauty and youth. In political news women are showed as “good mothers” and “good housewives”. If men are showed, then their achievements and business lives are in the center. The other problems appears when we talk about language towards women who are victims of rape and violence, because then in conservative societies criminals are protected and their identity is hidden. Sport news are connected mostly with young men, insulting with words like “play as a girl” also appears. Advertisements are sexist, because they show  the social roles in society: domestic roles for women. Queers are showed as sinful perverts , sex workers fighting with police. For all these reasons women and queers fight together for equality and rights.

The fourth panelist was Alina Coman who is an Associate Professor in the field of Social Sciences and Communication at Transylvania University of Brasov in Romania. She has 23 years of experience in academic education system and wrote a lot of articles in fields of advertisement and communication. In her opinion, people know a lot about the problem about gender stereotypes, so we do not have to identify it, but detect solutions. We should concentrate on finding people working in advertising industry to make some changes. In Romania there are still commercials connected to stereotypes related to products like cleaning, fashion etc, but very often these stereotypes are used without any reason – fun is a general excuse. For Alina it is more important to talk about advertising rather than media in general, because the first one is shaped by experts. Commercials determine people to do something, it is like a learning process. Putting some gender stereotypes into advertising of some products influences the way we think not only about the product that is showed, but also about the stereotypes. Sometimes they stay in our minds as a nostalgia, the thing we even want to come back into. The main problem in this topic are people creating the content, because they do not think about consequences of their job in terms of commercial.

The fifth speaker was Anila Noor from Netherlands – feminist ecosystem builder, activist, European Commission Experts Group, evaluator for AMIF calls, actress, TEDx Speaker and researcher working also with female refugees. To her, gender issues are very deep problems, because women are usually showed as vulnerable and are put into a role they are expected to play in society, the same as men and sexual minorities as well. All these groups have unwritten challenges they should face, just because society expect them to. In our culture: novels, movies, media and commercials; women are usually settled in a stereotypical role (sex appeal, dependence on men, princess to be rescued etc.). These pictures have a long influence on policies and society. In her job they are facing problems with vulnerable women from migration background, who are not weak, but strong, can be leaders. As the summary of her speech she said: „We love to cook, but we don’t only cook.”.

And the last guest was Alessia de Iulis from Italy – the board member of Associazione Internazionale per la Cooperazione e l’Educazione nel Mondo. She is an equality enthusiast, social communication explorer, passionate about multicultural environments. The organization she is part of is an idea of empowering youth and making them aware of their potential – so young people are in the center of their projects. In her opinion media and commercials have huge impact on shaping our minds, the way we think about ourselves. For some people advertising is far away from us and out of our power, but in reality we have ability to influence them and in the end change the big players in the field. Many of us are not aware of our little behaviors we do everyday, but in reality our little actions may inspire someone. This is why her organization just shapes the process, gives tools how to use power, and at the center are young people. For Alessia today is the moment to impact youths who will shape tomorrow – our common future. She co-organized a project at schools about sport, but it was a starting point for conversation with youths, because topic of gender equality also appeared. Kids were happy to support the project and they created also some videos, tools, T-shirts. The project was a success, not only because students supported it, but also it was published in several magazines.

In the end of the meeting there was time for Q&A. Let’s take a look into question which appeared and answers.

  1. I have some questions for first two speakers. Your activity is amazing, but your job probably isn’t easy. What kind of problems did you and do you still face during your activities? How did/do you solve them? What local communities you work with think about your projects? How do they support you?

Khadija Maalej said that she did not face so many challenges about her projects as much as with media which choose the content that is showed. In the Northern Africa they sometimes face issues in showing gap between genders. They work to eliminate gender stereotypes in media and change some pictures, for example in Nigeria it is difficult to show women in media. Local communities are happy and support these projects. The challenge that appears is to change the mentality of people and make them accept the changes.

Kassem Istanbouli built his project form zero. As he stressed social, economic, cultural and touristic changes could influence political transformations. For him everyone has right to experience and watch. What may be a little bit shocking, the impact of COVID-19 was positive as it improved the connection between people. They started joining online groups and supporting each other.

  • How can we recognize gender manipulation in advertising?

For Bilge Narin the most important is to rise awareness in the topic that we can influence society form childhood till university.

Alina Coman mentioned about different levels of manipulations in advertisements. Some of them are open and some of them are hidden. She stressed that some commercials showed women’s body as impure. So some messages we see clearly, but some we cannot. Ability to read and understand these things by young people is also very important.

  • Is it good to make fun of gender stereotypes in social media?

Anila Noor does not think that making fun of any social is not good. For her jokes about any groups are crimes, because they are against human rights. This is why we should be very careful about creating these kind of contents.

Alina Coman added that people did not understand that sharing any content in public is also part of social learning. Every content in social media can influence people’s opinions – in this way they can also accept making fun of gender stereotypes.

  • Media and arts are powerful tools. From your experience with your organisations, how can this support in tackling youth radicalisation?

Anila Noor thinks that we should learn how to use tools. Nowadays media is full of youtubers, bloggers sharing their opinions, experiences – actually they also take part in educating society on what good and bad is.

  • How do you think we can integrate gender equality principles within youth organizations?

Bilge Narin stressed that universities were closed to public, they did not share their researches outside with public. Their functions took Internet and online events open for everyone, where we can exchange our opinions.

Alessia de Iulis agreed with the previous answer and added that it was not about teaching youth but about hearing their opinions and finding solutions together with them. But first we should learn how to really communicate.

Anila Noor said that we were supposed to talk about these issues, organize platforms. We are creating the new role model that can be found with stereotypes. We should also understand the meaning of equality, human rights and simply understand each other.

Alina Coman answered as the last one, but, in my opinion, her answer can be the best conclusion of the meeting. She really hit the nail of the head by saying that we are not equal, we are different. Difference and inequality are not identical. When the difference is about bringing one gender above other – then there is a problem. Understanding that the difference is that a right and women rights are at the same time human rights – these are the most important to understand, because we know the problem, but in reality we have problems with understanding it.

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