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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the Study

Gender matters have been topical issues in recent times all over the world. Gender ordinarily constitutes no social menace. It is, however, the stereotypes which are attached to it that have succeeded in introducing and generating controversies within our society.

Studies on these spheres have brought to the limelight the fact that there exists a certain degree of discrimination and inequality as a result of this social construct. This situation is better clarified when one x-rays gender issues in politics, reproductive health, education, amongst others; and media matters are not left out. This is also the Nigerian experience.

It has been said that gender reporting in Nigerian newspapers is tilted to one side, thereby, favouring the male population. The result is a misrepresentation and underrepresentation of women in our society. However, despite the fact that women make up at least one half of the country’s population, “the Nigerian society is traditionally a maledominated society,” (Andrew Udiugwomen, 2004p.2). This has resulted in marginalization of women traditionally and socially in our country. Udiugwomen, A. (2004:2) further asserts that the nature of our society has resulted “in a good deal of social distance between men and women and that avenues for self-expression and self-realization by women are drastically limited by traditional and cultural practices.”

The implication of the foregoing in the Nigerian society is that women, in contrast to men will not enjoy the same degree of representation in Nigerian newspapers as a result of the fact that they assume a subordinate stance in the affairs of life in our country; and this situation is caused and perpetuated by the Nigerian culture.

Omololu, A.A. (1972:2) further buttresses this notion when he states that “… throughout the ages, women have been assigned different roles in the society. These roles usually put them in subservient positions to men… in fact, women enjoyed fewer rights than men.” The preceding statement translates to a rather strong social orientation which is held by the society and reflected in Nigerian newspapers. At present, the result is a situation in which Nigerian women are still a long way away from achieving equality with their male counterpart in societal activities.

It is of paramount importance to recognize the role of the Nigerian culture in entrenching balance or imbalance in news reporting with regards to gender. Our culture plays a vital part in the daily lives of the people and it is one in which “the idea of superiority of the males is deeply ingrained… and it is within this cultural context that gender roles are defined and women’s participation delimited or precluded in certain key spheres reserved for men,” (Omenugha, K. ,2006 p.2). Going by this statement, it implies that there seems no way a balance would ever be maintained in roles performed by men and women in our society since there will always be a greater number of men involved in a given societal activity than women. This is a “scenario which continues to widen the gap between men and women in access and participation in all facets of life, and the Nigerian media seem to be caught in this web of discordant culture,” (Omenugha, K., 2002p. 2) further stated.

According to Christine Anyanwu (2001:69), “news making itself is gender – biased.”

This is as a result of the make-up of the prominent positions in our society which is largely constituted by men. This yet boils down to the influence of the Nigerian culture, which has succeeded in placing women second to their male counterpart. To this end,

ChristineAnyanwu (2001:68) notes that “… at the heart of this practice is tradition…”

It is, thus, alleged that what is largely observed in Nigerian newspapers, as result of the foregoing trend, is a minimal coverage of issues concerning women. According to

Nwagbara, G. (2005:35), “stories read about women concern mainly the wives of political office holders, the few women who occupy political offices, and the images of those portrayed as sex objects or even the fashion crazy.” The result of which is a minimized focus on the involvement of women in the political and economic arena, which serves to increase the vulnerability of women and gives them little voice in our society. Another trend that will be seen is the looming image of men which has dominated the news media (a situation reinforced by the Nigerian culture) and the dominance of their views in what constitutes news and reporting of news itself.

Christine Anyanwu (2001:68) aptly captures the disheartening situation of newspaper reporting of women (which are also a typical assessment of gender reporting in

Nigerian dailies) in the following words:

The Punch, the widest circulating daily in Nigeria, did something savvy October 20. On the cover, Stella, the gorgeous wife of

President Obasanjo, was stepping out for an occasion with two equally gorgeously dressed women. There was no detail on where they went; no words heard from them. No stories. Just big colour pictures. In this edition, women made the cover, back page, and seven other pages… A content analysis of mainstream media in Nigeria reveals one dominant orientation: women are largely seen and not heard. Their faces adorn newspapers. However, on important national and international issues, they fade out. Even when the news is about them, the story only gains real prominence if there is a male authority figure or newsmaker on the scene.

The amazing influence of the mass media can never be over-emphasized in determining what constitutes gender reporting. The Nigerian newspapers have a great task to perform in order to ensure that news stories will not just depict an equal representation of the two gender groups, but reflect a positive portrayal of the image of both men and women. Rather than bombarding the minds of the people with innumerable advertising images of women and publishing stories about women who cannot support themselves, or even the women who are either forgotten, being exploited, used for cheap labour or fund raising purposes, Nigerian newspapers should focus more on how to restore the dignity of women in this male–dominated society.

In as much as there is largely an obvious alienation of women from politics and decision-making processes in Nigeria, it does not imply that the media should disregard the situation. That is not to say that newspapers do not report stories about the few women political office holders in the country, but then the newspapers should strive at creating a balance in reporting gender issues. The mass media still need to recognize the equal value and dignity of men and women in our society.

Ogundipe–Leslie (2003) argues that “the stance taken by the media, specifically the

Nigerian press should focus on improving the lot of the portion of the population who have traditionally been relegated to second place as the weaker sex and report stories about how their activities contribute to the national development.” The Nigerian press is charged to regard stories concerning women seriously just as they do that of men. They should conscientize women of their potentialities and the importance of their contributions to the task of nation building rather than presenting them only in the context of love and marriage.

The Nigerian press, therefore, faces a great challenge in ensuring that there is a transformation in not only the cultural practices of the Nigerian society, but also in the institutional structures of our society which have excluded women from enjoying equal  opportunities and rights with the men. Reported stories should not be inclined to favour a given gender group simply because our traditional practices permit such. For proper development to take place, there is need for gender roles in the Nigerian society to be balanced and scholars in gender issues advocate that the onus basically lies in the hands of the press to ensure that this fundamental transformation occurs because of the indispensable position they occupy as agents of change.

In view of the fact that information is power, the Nigerian press has a prime task to perform in influencing public opinion and creating public consciousness in order to detach women from the clearly inimical position our culture has placed them in as a result of gender inequality. Gender is merely a social construct and should be addressed as such. It should not be allowed to generate the degree of disparity it does in our society despite the influence of the Nigerian culture in preserving the stereotypes associated with it, neither should it be permitted to filter into news making or news reporting in the mass media operations.

1.2 Statement of Problem

In as much as Nigerian women are no longer regarded as commodities bought by men with bride price or slaves for purposes of more productive farmland operations as was the common experience in the yester years, they still seem to be a long way away from attaining equality with their male counterpart in today’s world. Even in ordinary everyday life, there is generally a great deal of distance in relationships between spouses – a situation initiated and strengthened by tradition and cultural practices which firmly define and restrict women’s roles to “welfare activities,” (Mwendamseke, N. 1990 p.66).

The mass media seem to play an active role in the reinforcing the existence of stereotypes which serve to infringe on women’s right to equal representation in the Nigerian society. Affirming the foregoing claim, Trusha Reddy (2003: 2) notes that:

Traditional laws and religion are both elements of gender formation in society and methods by which oppression and subjugation of women are expressed and perpetuated … the traditional roles of women as mothers and producers were fostered through the society and perpetuated through the media.

The implication of this view is that, firstly, the dominant images of women portrayed by the Nigerian media are that of dependency on men and “domesticity,” (Omenugha, K.,

2006 p.4). Secondly, as a result of the fact that there are few female participants involved in government activities, there seems to be a minimal representation of women than men in events covered by the media.

This study sought to examine the claim that the Nigerian newspapers which were used for this research covered stories which concern men more than women with the result of an under-representation(or inadequate representation) of women in the Nigerian dailies. Secondly, the research had the obvious task of examining the claim that stories carried by the Nigerian newspapers misrepresent women more than men (thus the higher reporting of stories that portray women in negative light).

Thirdly, bearing in mind the role of the mass media as the fourth estate of the realm because of their influence on public opinion and public consciousness, this study examined how well the Nigerian newspapers- The Guardian, Vanguard, Daily Sun and Daily

Champion- which were used for this research showcased equally the different points of view of men and women in news reporting; thus recognizing and maintaining the equal rights of both gender categories in contributing to national development.

It is alleged that the communication rights of women are infringed upon by the mass media, of which the Nigerian press are a part of, as “issues of representations are inextricably tied with communication rights: the right to be heard, the right to participate, the right not to be misrepresented,” (Omenugha, K. ,2006 p.4).

One of the tenets of development communication is participation. NkereuwemUdoakah (1998:18) emphasizes this when he writes that: “To get citizens to participate in development, those to benefit should be given the opportunity to contribute to the decision on the project.” How then can development programmes succeed or meaningful development take place when an important part of the country’s population is not heard and not even given the opportunity to contribute to matters affecting their wellbeing since very few of them are privileged to be government officials unlike the males?

The foregoing calls to mind the more the disparity that exists in reporting stories about women and men in Nigerian newspapers. Women are alienated from the media since they are represented less in societal activities. The research, therefore, looked into the alleged under representation of women in the mass media by examining gender representations in the following four Nigerian dailies – The Guardian, Vanguard, Daily Sun and Daily Champion.

1.3 Research Questions

The essence of this research was to determine whether there was balance in reporting news stories on the male and female gender groups in Nigerian newspapers and also to validate whether any form of misrepresentation existed in reporting issues concerning either men or women.

This study, therefore, addressed the following research questions:

  1. Are men and women equally represented in news stories published in the Nigerian newspapers?
  2. What is the nature of stories reported about men and women in Nigerian newspapers?
  3. Are men or women misrepresented in any way in news stories contained in Nigerian newspapers?

1.4 Purpose of Study

Gender stereotypes have not merely created a huge distance between men and women, but have succeeded in perfectly placing women in an inferior status- a position that has deprived them the opportunity to enjoy equal rights with men. Florence Igbinigie–

Erhabor (2002:28) aptly captures this situation when she wrotethat “…these factors (gender stereotypes)… put women’s place firmly in the home (enslavement)…” The result is the near absence of women in politics and decision-making process that constitute the bulk of the serious affairs of life carried by newspapers. This status quo has filtered into the

Nigerian newspapers and has resulted in what could be referred to as an alienation from the media scene or under representation of women in published news stories.

One of the primary objectives of this study was to critically appraise how much this social construct has affected news reporting in the Nigerian newspapers that were used in this research. This was examined in the light of the quantity of news carried by the newspapers about men and women. Stories about women make headlines when they are portrayed in a negative light – the suffering, helpless and deprived women, the criminally minded women or women of easy virtue. The few women who attract some measure of positive attention from the media are the wives of the rich and powerful or political office holders.

Against the preceding backdrop, and based on the fact that unlike women, men are always involved in and “comment on issues of national importance,” (Christine Anyanwu,

2001 p.68) as a result of the number one status tradition has endowed on them, this research assessed the quality of news covered by these Nigerian newspapers about men and women – whether the news were such that promoted the dominance of men over women, thus, increasing gender inequality and reducing women’s empowerment and emancipation from the vicious shackles of dependency and domesticity.

This study also examined the extent to which the Nigerian newspapers have aided the perpetuation of women’s subjugation by the men in the Nigerian environment.

1.5 Scope of Study

The focus of this study was to examine the following four Nigerian newspapers –

The Guardian, Vanguard, Daily Champion and Daily Sun.

The study was delimited to only news stories contained in these newspapers and looked at editions of the newspapers published in the months of January to December

2004 and 2005.

It appraised the representation of men and women in the news contents of the newspapers in order to further explore the concept of cultural hegemony.

1.6 Significance of Study

Observations made in past and recent times indicate that development – be it social, economic or political comes as a result of communication, and communication is “a process through which needs, emotions, desires, goals and sentiments are expressed among human beings… it is a process in which survival relations and development is rooted,”

(NkereuwemUdoakah, 1998 p.1).

If communication is perceived to satisfy the foregoing process, then it is expected that the Nigerian mass media, since they are communication channels, should aid the equal expression of interests of both males and females in our society.

Development is a process which involves participation and this can be achieved only through communication, which in turn includes an adequate representation of the interests of those involved. And going by what is obtainable in the Nigerian environment, it has been purported that the Nigerian mass media have not been efficient in fulfilling the prescribed functions of communication with regard to gender representation in the media. What we have is a minimal representation of women compared to that of the men.

It is, therefore, necessary to note that meaningful development in our society includes carrying along both men and women equally and an equal expression of the needs, interests, desires, goals of both gender; and the responsibility lies with the Nigerian mass media to ensure the satisfactory fulfillment of this goal. In the light of the disparity that exists in representing the male and female gender groups – a situation that depicts the subservient role of women in this male dominated society, this study hopes to point out the need for the mass media to work towards changing the status of women in Nigeria.

The culture of the Nigerian society is one that has, from time immemorial, preserved and upheld the preponderance of males over females. This has affected the way women are perceived in our society – as an opinionless, subordinate and defenseless part of the society. The result is the perpetuation of women’s exclusion from matters which obviously affect them as much as they affect the men.

To the society, the research hoped to point out the fact that for true development to take place, there is need to carry along the women- who are that part of the nation which make up half of the population, empower them and get them involved in economic, political, social and other developmental issues.

To the males who hold power and are capable of causing change in issues that perpetuate gender disparity, this study will conscientize them and make them uphold the right of women to participate in developmental matters; and to the mass media, the study will reveal to them the need to present to women avenues for self expression, thereby, upholding their right to equal representation in the media.

1.7 Theoretical Framework

This study was based on the theory of cultural hegemony. Hegemony is the domination of one state, country or class within a group of others. Cultural hegemony facilitates the predominance of one class within a group; and regarding gender, Femia, J.

  1. (1981:24) argues that this “predominance is obtained by consent rather than force of one class over the other class.” Thus, in the traditional Nigerian society, the females willingly consent to their dominance by the males.

Also, Maria Len-Rois, Shelly Rodgers, Esther Thorson and Doyle Yoon (2005:153) argues that in culture, “hegemony is sustained through socialization (for example learning stereotypes) and also by societal structures (for example work hours, child care duties) which both work to preserve the class or group in power.” In other words, these stereotypes define women as the weaker sex; confer on them the role of domesticity and aid in perpetuation of women as being more communal while men are more instrumental.

Therefore, men are viewed as more assertive, dominant, aggressive and have higher status in power position while women are sensitive, giving, caring and with a lower status.

Cultural hegemony has also defined the roles assigned to women within the society, especially with regards to their placement in public offices. The theory reinforces gender stereotypes- confers more power on men as masters of the mind and keeps women in subordinate roles which are largely tied to the womb.

In the light of the foregoing, men are represented more in societal issues in life than women; and so when journalists cover political and societal news stories, they tend to reproduce societal norms privileging men. Therefore, news may often reflect and reinforce symbols of gender disparity.

This research, therefore, appraised how the theory of cultural hegemony influenced gender reporting and sustained gender disparity, if any, in the Nigerian newspapers under study.

1.8 Definition of Terms

  1. Gender: this is the state of being male or female. It is a social construct which defines roles in terms of masculinity and feminity in a given culture. Gender enables differences between men and women.
  2. Culture: this is the ideas, customs and art of a particular society. It is the learned behaviour of members of a given social group. “Culture is the learned socially acquired traditions and lifestyles of the members of a society including their patterned and repetitive ways of thinking, feeling and acting,” Harris (1983:5) in

Baran, S. J. (2004:9). Culture is historically transmitted pattern of meanings by which people within a given society communicate, perpetuate and develop their knowledge about issues and attitudes towards life.

  1. Hegemony: this is the domination of one class within a group over others.

Hegemony here refers to the domination of the female group by the male group. It is obtained by consent of the female group in the society for the male group to dominate them.

  1. Masculine Cultural Hegemony: this is hegemony that is initiated and sustained by culture which supports the domination of the feminine by the masculine.
  2. Gender stereotypes: they are standardized mental pictures which provide sexist judgments about women such that their subordinate status within a patriarchal society is symbolically reinforced.
  3. Gender roles: these are stereotyped roles assigned to males and females as a result of gender. Gender roles define the way men and women are perceived within the society and serve to keep women in subordinate roles while men hold most of the power.
  4. Gender reporting: this is the representation, misrepresentation or under representation of men and women in news contents.
  5. Gender inequality/ disparity: it refers to non- uniformity in quantity, value and intensity of provisions made for men and women.
  6. Gender group: this refers to a specific gender category, type or unit; that is the male gender group or the female gender group.

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1.9 Limitations of Study

This study had some limitations especially with regards to paucity of literature. The content analysis method adopted in this study has great relevance in media studies. It is an appropriate method for this study as it explored the points of view of a wide range of interests (media practitioners, scholars in gender studies and the general public) on the subject matter within the Nigerian socio-cultural environment.

In terms of sample population, this study sampled four national newspapers. Some editions of the sampled newspapers were unavailable and this reduced the number of editions that the researcher studied. Any other research should increase the scope to be studied.

The researcher experienced some difficulties in the search of literature for this work because not much has been written on gender and media studies in Nigeria. However, it is instructive to note that though this study faced the foregoing limitations, the quality of the work is not affected in any way.

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